Bariatric surgery, also known as weight loss surgery, can cause dramatic weight loss in patients who are obese. However, the sudden change in body mass that occurs after bariatric surgery can sometimes trigger temporary hair loss or shedding.
How Long Does Hair Loss Continue After Bariatric Surgery?
Hair loss typically begins 2-3 months after bariatric surgery and continues for 6-9 months post-op as the body rapidly loses weight. However, the timeline varies based on the individual and surgery factors.
Here’s why hair loss follows this timeline after bariatric surgery:
- 2-3 months - This is when sudden weight loss starts after surgery. Rapid weight loss is the trigger for hair shedding.
- 6-9 months - It takes time for the hair growth cycle to catch up and regenerate new hairs to replace those shed. Hair loss is most noticeable at around 6 months.
- 9-12 months - Shedding starts to subside as hair regrowth kicks in. Full recovery takes 9 to 12 months for most patients.
Factors that Influence Duration
How long someone experiences hair shedding after bariatric surgery depends on:
- Rate of weight loss - Faster loss causes more stress to follicles.
- Nutritional status - Deficiencies prolong or worsen hair loss.
- Surgery type - Bypass procedures typically cause more hair loss than gastric banding.
- Pre-existing conditions - Thyroid disorders, medications, or genetics can influence hair loss duration.
Why Does Bariatric Surgery Cause Hair Loss?
There are a few reasons why bariatric surgery spurs temporary hair shedding:
Sudden Calorie Restriction
The change to a very low-calorie diet immediately after surgery is a dramatic shock to the body. This triggers more hairs than normal to enter the shedding phase.
Rapid Weight Loss
Losing a large amount of weight very quickly after bariatric surgery essentially mimics the effects of a crash diet. This metabolic stress causes hair follicles to go into a resting phase.
Reduced food intake and malabsorption after surgery can cause nutritional deficiencies. Lack of protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins negatively affects hair health.
Weight loss elicits hormonal changes that can disrupt the hair growth cycle. Stress hormones may rise while reproductive hormones drop.
Tips to Minimize Hair Loss from Bariatric Surgery
While some shedding is expected, patients can take proactive steps to minimize post-op hair loss:
- Take supplements as directed by your doctor to prevent deficiencies.
- Eat recommended amounts of protein at each meal.
- Introduce foods slowly and chew thoroughly after surgery.
- Avoid crash dieting or very low calories beyond doctor’s advice.
- Get lab work done to check for deficiencies.
- Use volumizing shampoos and gentle hair care routines.
Does Hair Grow Back After Bariatric Surgery?
In most cases, hair regrows normally after the initial post-surgery shedding phase passes. It’s rare for the hair loss to be permanent after bariatric surgery. Hair typically recovers fully 9-12 months after surgery provided any nutritional deficiencies are addressed.
To encourage hair regrowth post-bariatric surgery:
- Take a multi-vitamin with iron, zinc, biotin, and vitamin D.
- Eat more foods with protein, omega-3s, iron, and vitamin C.
- Massage scalp with essential oils to improve circulation.
- Use volumizing or thickening shampoos and products.
- Get scalp treatments like LED light therapy.
- Consider taking finasteride or minoxidil temporarily.
When to Seek Help
Consult a doctor if hair loss after bariatric surgery:
- Does not improve after 12 months.
- Is patchy or only affects certain areas.
- Occurs alongside other symptoms like fatigue or dizziness.
- Is accompanied by a rash, flakes or changes in scalp texture.
- Causes emotional distress about hair appearance.
This can signal an underlying issue needing medical attention. Blood work, medications, or specialists like a dermatologist may help.
The Bottom Line
Mild to moderate hair shedding typically starts 2-3 months after bariatric surgery and can last 6-9 months. It’s the body’s response to rapid weight loss and nutritional changes after surgery. While distressing, hair usually recovers fully by 12 months post-op. Staying nourished, patient, and using volumizing products can aid the regrowth process.
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