Some people are surprised to learn that hair loss is a common problem after weight loss surgery. I have had many a distressed patient in my office expressing their concern over hair loss. I had one person bring a quart Ziplock bag full of hair into my office to show me how much she was losing.
The medical reasons for this are many, but normal, in the post-surgical patient. In a nutshell, the body has undergone major surgery and is experiencing extreme weight loss, especially in the initial months following surgery. The body responds to these stresses by shunting the nutrition to more vital body components. Hair doesn’t make the cut in the body’s opinion. This causes the hair to enter into a quiescent phase prematurely and in greater numbers.
Hair loss starts a few weeks to months after the procedure and continues for about 6 months. After that time frame, the body will begin to produce more hair. The follicles themselves are not damaged, so the hair should return to its normal state given enough time.
The hardest part about my job is to convince the person that they need to be patient, and they will not go bald. I know thousands of post-operative patients, and none of them have gone bald unless there was a significant underlying medical or nutritional issue.
How can you prevent the hair loss? You can’t totally prevent hair loss, but the good news is that there are some things you can do to minimize it and maximize your regrowth potential. First, take in enough protein. 60 grams a day is the minimum. Hair is built from protein, so give the body plenty of protein with which to build. Second, take biotin. A good daily dose is around 1000 micrograms per day, although it is safe at higher doses. Third, take you daily multivitamin. This is good for your overall health, which is good for your hair. These things are the foundational principles for hair health after bariatric surgery.
There are other things that I know of that people have tried with varying success. Some people swear by silica. A cosmetologist patient of mine also recommends to not damage your hair with perms and colorings. Some have also suggested scalp massages in order to increase blood flow to the scalp. Even though I don’t know of any studies that support those things, it can’t hurt to take silica and skip your next perm. Even if the scalp massage doesn’t work, it sure feels good. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes.
I would like to close with a warning. Hair loss that continues for more than 6 months or starts more than a year out or is accompanied by extreme weight loss can be a sign of nutritional problems. Be sure your physician checks your iron, zinc and protein levels. These are the most common deficiencies that contribute to hair loss.
Our hair is very important to us. Waking up with a pile of hair on your pillow can be very upsetting. I hope that the possibility of hair loss doesn’t discourage anyone from experiencing the significant health benefits of weight loss surgery. While many people do experience the hair loss, most of the time it’s only enough to where you and your hairdresser will know.