Question: Does Bariatric Surgery Cause Hair Loss and Thinning Hair?
Yes, hair loss is relatively common in WLS patients. It doesn’t happen to everyone. For some people it is a frustrating and visible change. For other people it can be stressful to see a big pile of hair in the drain, even if it never gets to the point where the scalp is visible.
The good news is that it is NOT permanent.
What’s Going On?
The hair loss associated with bariatric surgery is called Telogen Effluvium. Normal hair is usually growing except for about a 10-15% of the growth cycle when a given follicle is resting. Follicles rest at different times so we don’t lose our hair all at once. Trauma, nutritional imbalances, stress and hormonal changes can affect that growth cycle.
Why does it happen?
Surgery is a big stress on the body and bariatric surgery in particular can affect hormones in any number of ways. For many people that stress and the following low calorie diet can throw hair follicles off of their normal cycles and cause more of them to be in the resting phase than normal.
How long after surgery does hair loss start and how long will it last?
It usually starts abruptly not long after bariatric surgery, and but rarely lasts longer than 6 months.
What can prevent it from happening?
There is no supplement or practice that has been shown to prevent or minimize hair loss or thinning after bariatric surgery. It seems to be the trauma of surgery, sudden extreme change in diet and caloric intake, genes and unknown factors which determine which patients will lose their hair.
Will it grow back?
Yes. Hair loss following bariatric surgery is temporary. It usually stops at about 6 months post op. After the hair loss stops it will take a while for new hair to grow in. It will take much longer for someone who has lost a lot of hair to fully recover. Hair takes awhile to grow.
What can I do to help my hair grow back faster?
Many medical practitioners speculate that a high protein, balanced, nutritional diet and exercise can all help hair to regrow. Biotin has been shown to improve the quality of the proteins in hair, but it is not clear to what extent if any Biotin helps with the rate of hair growth.
In my experience:
Like most people, I was worried about losing more of my already thin hair. I lost a good amount, but it never got so bad that my scalp was completely visible. I cut my hair a little shorter and with a few more layers than normal. That helped.
I know that a lack of protein and certain nutrients can make the thinning hair problem worse. That was even more incentive for me to consistently meet my daily protein goals and to take my multivitamins and supplements recommended by my program.
I took Biotin supplements from about a month before surgery until about a year out. I took these Biotin gummies which I purchased on Amazon, but there are all different kinds of Biotin supplements so you can buy them in just about any form you prefer.
I have no way of knowing if my hair regrowth would have been worse without using Nioxin. People will swear by it or against it but we honestly don’t know the answer. I was so worried about losing my already thin hair that I spent the money without knowing if it was helpful or a total waste. My hair felt particularly clean and nicely manageable when I used it, so I kept it up.