As you start the bariatric surgery journey, you’ll hear a lot of talk about hair loss after bariatric surgery. It happens to a lot of patients due to lower amounts of nutrient consumption and the stress on the body after surgery. However, by taking some extra vitamins, meeting your daily protein goals, and being kind to your hair, you can minimize the amount of hair you may lose. To understand the hair loss after bariatric surgery, you’ll need to understand how hair grows and what causes the hair loss. I also suffered from some hair loss after my surgery. Hair loss after bariatric surgery is common and can be helped with extra vitamins and meeting your protein goals.
The Hair Growth Phases
To understand why you lose your hair after bariatric surgery, I think it’s important to understand the three phases of hair growth. According to WebMd.com, hair grows about six inches per year, and unlike animals, shedding of hair is not seasonal or cyclical. There are three stages of hair growth:
- Anagen – This stage is the growing phase of hair. The cells of the root divide and push a club hair (one that not in the growth stage or has stopped growing) up and out of the scalp. Hair is in this stage for two to six years. Most of your hair is in this stage.
- Catagen – This stage is the transitional phase and about three percent of the hair on your body is in this phase at any one point. Growth stops and the outer root sheath shrinks, forming the club hair. Hair is in this stage for two to three weeks.
- Telogen – The telogen stage is the resting phase of hair. About six to eight percent of the hairs on your body are in this phase. The club hairs are at rest for approximately 100 days, and about 25 to 100 hairs are shed per day during this stage.
Hair Loss After Bariatric Surgery
Now that you understand the growth stages of hair, let’s look at reasons why you have hair loss after bariatric surgery. Typically the hair loss begins around months three to six after surgery and can last about six months. Surgery puts stress on the body. One of the ways your body deals with that stress is by putting more hairs into the resting phase, so it can allocate its energy on healing your newly-formed stomach. According to the Dallas Fort Worth Bariatric Institute, any hairs that were already in the resting phase when you have surgery are most likely to be shed first. When your hair does start growing again, it’s going to push all of those club hairs out, making you shed more hairs as it starts to grow new hairs.
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Other reasons for hair loss after bariatric surgery include low-calorie intake, hormonal imbalance, chronic diseases, low protein intake and even certain medications. When you combine these factors with major surgery and weight loss, it adds up to a lot of stress on the body, leading to hair loss. However, the good news is that, unless you have a chronic underlying condition like hypothyroidism, your hair will eventually grow back.
How to Prevent Hair Loss
While you may not be able to prevent hair loss after bariatric surgery, there are some things you can do to minimize it. First, make sure you are getting at least 60 to 80 grams of protein each day. We all know that protein is king after bariatric surgery and making sure you eat enough of it can help minimize weight loss. Second, make sure you are taking your bariatric vitamins regularly. Remember that you are not consuming the same amount of nutrients as you were before. You need to supplement with vitamins for the rest of your life. Third, get regular blood work. Your bariatric doctor should be monitoring your blood work for the rest of your life to ensure you aren’t deficient in any nutrients and check your thyroid levels. If you need to supplement with additional vitamins, make sure you take them regularly.
You can also take vitamins specifically designed to help promote hair growth. My doctor recommended Nature’s Bounty Hair, Skin and Nail vitamins. They are gummy vitamins in a strawberry flavor and taste good. There are a wide variety of vitamins for this purpose, so find ones that you like and will remember to take regularly.
My Hair Loss Experience
Like many bariatric patients, I experienced hair loss after bariatric surgery. At around three months post-op, I noticed lots of hair on my clothing and more in my hairbrush. I would have to clean out my hairbrush weekly because it would fill up with so much hair. I expressed concern at my six-month check-up with my doctor, and he recommended the vitamins I mentioned above. Since I started taking those vitamins, my hair loss improved. I also increased my protein and water intake, and both of those seemed to help as well. It lasted approximately six months, and once I hit a year post-op the shedding went down immensely.
I have colored my hair since the seventh grade. At the time of surgery, I was going every four weeks to get my hair bleached. After surgery, I extended it to six weeks and at the suggestion of my stylist, I cut it every other time. This helped with the growth and kept my hair healthy during this stressful time on my body. I was also going through a divorce and job loss, so I was under a lot of stress. It’s no wonder my hair started falling out! However, it eventually leveled off, and it will for you too.
General Haircare Tips
Besides meeting your protein and fluid intake, taking your bariatric and hair vitamins, and getting your blood work done regularly, there are a few general hair care tips to keep your hair in good condition. Some of these are tips I’ve learned from my stylist and others I’ve found on reputable sites.
- Get regular hair cuts. Regularly cutting your hair keeps it healthy by removing the hairs that would split and eventually snap off, leaving your hair brittle.
- Do not put wet hair in a ponytail. I know it’s tempting when you’re running late and don’t have time to blow dry your hair to just throw it up in a messy bun. Doing so will cause more hairs to damage and break.
- Use quality shampoo and conditioner. It may feel like your salon wants to charge you for their expensive products, but you get what you pay for. Big store brands contain water and ingredients that can hurt your hair. Buying salon-quality brands ensures you are treating your hair with quality products.
- Do not color your hair at home. According to my stylist, Cassi at Artistic Edge Salon, it damages your hair and makes it more difficult to get the color molecule out of your hair. Somethings are better left to the professionals.
Dealing with Hair Loss
When you can prepare for what lies after bariatric surgery, you’ll feel more comfortable in your choice to get surgery. Hair loss is common and happens to many. I saw lots of hair loss around months three to nine after surgery. My doctor recommended hair, skin and nail vitamins, and it greatly helped my hair loss. I also increased my protein and water intake, and the combination of both strategies helped me slow my hair loss. While you may experience more or less hair loss than I did, you can still take extra care of your hair during this stressful time. Self-care is so important, but especially during your post-op days. Use this time to take extra-care of yourself.
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Many bariatric patients experience hair loss after bariatric surgery. However, after about nine months after surgery, hair does start growing back.