It is one of the first questions I am asked by women seriously looking into Bariatric Surgery.

“Will I lose my hair?”

YES. Yes you will. But ladies it is not the end of the world, I can say that in the most common case you will actually be the only one who will actually notice.

I get it ladies I really do! My hair was my security blanket. I may have been a fatty, but I was a fatty with flawless makeup, gorgeous hair and hot shoes.

My weight was something I couldn’t control. But damn could I control my sexy ass hair!

So in short, yes hair loss after bariatric surgery is very common (we all pray to be the girl who gets away with it) so I get that it is very stressful. We all want to achieve epic weight loss results and still have phenomenal hair.

The hair loss associated with bariatric surgery is called telogen effluvium and has to do with the normal hair growth cycle. It usually starts abruptly and very seldom lasts longer than 6 months. Human hair has a two stage growth cycle. The growth phase is called anagen and 90% of our hair follicles are in this phase at any given time. The resting phase is called telogen, which lasts about 1 to 6 months, with an average of 3 months. About 5-15% of our hair is in the resting phase at any given time. It is also known that telogen effluvium has to do with stress to the body and hormonal changes that can occur. Due to the stress more hair follicles can enter into the resting phase. This is important because the hair in the resting phase at the time of surgery is most likely the hair you will shed. This is why your hair sheds between 1 to 6 months after surgery (usually about3 to 4 months). When the hair starts to grow again the old hair follicle is released and you lose hair. Sometimes the hair comes out before new hair grows, BOOOOOOO!!!
(Yes I totally had to Google all those big words)

The best part? (Not) telogen effluvium occurs a little more frequently in women.

So why must life be so cruel after bariatric surgery to take our locks?

It comes down to several simple factors such as-

  • Surgery, acute illness, trauma
  • Chronic disease such as liver disease or any chronic debilitating disease
  • Hormonal imbalance such as hypothyroidism
  • Crash dieting, low protein intake, anorexia, chronic iron deficiency
  • Heavy metal toxicity
  • Medications such as beta-blockers, excess vitamin A and anticoagulants (1)

So, what we have here are a few things that may be affecting people with hair loss. It starts with surgery, a very low calorie intake and possibly low protein intake. Then you add any illness along the way, an underactive thyroid, iron deficiency, or genetics and you get hair loss of about 5-15% of your hair follicles. Other nutrients implicated in hair loss include zinc, biotin, folate, vitamin B-6 and essential fatty acids. (2) If no deficiency of these nutrients exists, then they will likely be of little use.

The good news is that you can count on the hair returning unless you have a chronic illness or genetic reason for the hair thinning. The following suggestions are the best advice I can give anyone with telogen effluvium, now that we know what it is.

  • Relax and don’t worry. It is natural hair loss of 5-15% of your hair due to the stress of surgery and weight loss. It rarely lasts more than 6 months. It grows back.
  • Visit your primary care doctor to be evaluated for any illness or non-nutritional reason for hair loss such as thyroid disease or other chronic illnesses.
  • Follow our dietary prescription, which calls for limited calories and exceptional diverse protein intake on a daily basis. DO NOT add a lot of protein and increase your calories so much that you sabotage your weight loss. Obesity kills, not a little hair loss!
  • Take a bariatric specific multi-vitamin with adequate B vitamins, folate, zinc and biotin. Don’t forget your B12 and calcium citrate with vitamin D supplements.
  • Avoid excessive vitamin A and high dose zinc supplements they are both potentially harmful.
  • Add iron if you are iron deficient based on your lab findings in consultation with your healthcare provider.
  • Consider adding an additional B-complex. The B vitamins are not generally toxic and the extra B vitamins with biotin may help keep your metabolism running smoothly.
  • Eat fish rich in omega three fatty acids several times a week or supplement with fish oil supplements in consultation with your healthcare provider.

And ladies, when all else fails, Hair extensions are FUN!

Left- my thinned out hair at 5 months post sleeve after 52kg loss
Middle- after custom made balayage micro wefts by the Golden Gypsy
Right- ghd curls showing the extra volume given with the micro wefts.

Don’t fret about the hair loss (easier said than done I KNOW) but trust me when I say the feeling of getting into those jeans without a squish, or buying that dress you never had the confidence to wear before, running around with your kids or friends without getting tired feels so much better than having epic hair!

Keep your food clean, your life active & your heels high
Love Sammy O’Keeffe

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Hi, I'm Sammy, mother of 3, student of nutritional medicine, mistress to my husband while the Navy is his wife, I'm sick of that bitch getting all the attention! I am wonder woman. I change my hair colour more times in a year than my bed linen. After my whole life yo-yo dieting I bit the bullet and had weightloss surgery. I lost 70kg and started my plastic post weightloss surgery with a Tummy Tuck. My story is still being written. Keep your food clean, your life active, and your heels high!

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