You may notice more hair than usual falling out in the months after bariatric surgery. This is a normal side effect of the procedure and can occur because of your body’s response to surgery, weight loss, and an altered diet.
You will not lose all of your hair, but you may see more of it in your hairbrush or when you wash your hair. Most of the time, this hair loss will taper off after several months, and your body will begin to grow more hair.
You may be able to modify your diet, or supplement it, to reduce hair loss. Consult a medical professional before adding extra nutrients to reduce hair loss.
There are a few reasons you may experience hair loss following bariatric surgery. These include:
These factors are just some reasons why people lose hair and develop telogen effluvium. This condition occurs a few months after a significant change to your body. Your body reroutes nutrients from your hair to your vital organs.
Telogen effluvium happens when more of your hair enters the dormant phase, or the telogen phase. This is the opposite of the anagen phase when your hair grows. When your hair is dormant, it stops growing and eventually falls out after 3 or 4 months, or sometimes even sooner. This condition does not result in total hair loss or even noticeable bald spots. You’ll just experience more hair shedding than what is typical for you.
Hair loss can occur in any type of weight-loss surgery, but some may affect the way your body absorbs nutrients more than others and lead to increased hair loss, such as:
- Restrictive surgeries like gastric sleeve and gastric bypass do not interfere with the way your body absorbs nutrients, but still can lead to hair loss. We’ll talk more about this below.
- Malabsorptive surgeries are biliopancreatic diversion (BPD) and BPD with duodenal switch. These can affect how your body absorbs nutrients.
- Mixed procedures like Roux-en-Y gastric bypass permanently affect the way you absorb nutrients and could require lifelong supplementation.
What the research says
Several studies have examined hair loss after bariatric surgery. Some found that certain nutritional deficiencies as well as age led to hair loss:
- One 2014 study examined hair loss after laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy in 42 women. Forty-one percent of participants had hair loss after the procedure. The study found that most of the participants experiencing hair loss had low combined levels of zinc and iron, and found that zinc supplements stopped hair loss in most participants.