“Doc, I’m losing my hair?!” – I hear this often, and while hair loss after bariatric surgery can be very distressing, luckily it is only temporary. It can come as a surprise to patients that after going through this life changing surgery and starting to see the results of their work and lifestyle changes at around the two month mark, their success story is interrupted as they then start to lose clumps of hair in the shower, while brushing and on their pillow. Distressing probably doesn’t even begin to describe it -as we begin to wonder how much hair we will lose, whether it will all grow back and the deluge of doubt comes pouring in. While, it is often unavoidable, it can be mitigated – and remember, it is only temporary.
Hair grows and is then shed and replaced in a normal cycle. There is a growth cycle, where new hair grows and replaces lost hair. This is followed by a resting cycle, where hair follicles loosen and then fall out, and are then replaced by new hair in another growth cycle. This entire process can take anywhere between one and six months. Normally, we don’t even notice the effects of this cycle as usually less than 15% of your hair is shedding at any one time and being replaced. However, after a major shock to the body (such as bariatric surgery or any other major surgery), your cycle can be knocked out of whack and you start shedding much more hair than usual. This is likely magnified by the bariatric surgery induced state of malnutrition following surgery as you start dropping pounds.
Luckily, the hair cycle re-sets and new hair begins to grow and replace the lost hair. So you should see regrowth start about six months after the hair loss began. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to make it as minimal as possible.
- Take care of your hair with gentle shampoos and conditioners. Avoid too many chemicals, hair products, heat styling and anything else that can damage your already at risk hair.
- Maintain a healthy diet. As with any good bariatric diet. Focus on proteins first. Your hair needs protein to grow and remain strong and healthy.
- Take your bariatric multivitamins! Bariatric multivitamins contain higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals than regular vitamins to make up for the lower amount of food that you’re eating.
- Biotin is a B vitamin often recommended for hair health. Proponents claim that taking biotin supplements (in pill or tablet form) can thicken hair and stimulate hair and nail growth. It doesn’t hurt to try it.
Lastly, remember that you did this to be healthier and live longer. You’ve taken a huge step with bariatric surgery – this is just a tiny bump in the road.