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:

Telogen effluvium

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.

Nutritional deficiencies

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.
  • Another study examined 18 studies on hair loss and bariatric surgery. The study found that younger women and people with low amounts of zinc, folic acid (vitamin B9), and ferritin (protein) experienced hair loss most often.

What are the most common deficiencies?

Following bariatric surgery, your body may experience deficiencies in certain nutrients and minerals that may lead to hair loss. Keep in mind that other nutritional deficiencies may also result in hair loss.

IronThinning hair
ZincThinning and brittle hair that may fall out more frequently or break
ProteinThinning, brittle, and dry hair that may fall out more frequently, break off, and change color
CopperThinning hair that may also change color
Vitamins A and CBrittle hair that may break off
Vitamin B9 Thinning hair

It may be impossible to prevent hair loss after bariatric surgery, as it is a natural body response to surgery, significant weight loss, and changes to the diet. But there are ways you may be able to decrease the amount of hair you lose, such as:

  1. Stay the course. Follow the nutritional plan provided by your doctor.
  2. Eat enough protein. Include protein in meals and snacks, and ask your healthcare professional about nutritional supplements that include protein. Avoid more protein than what your doctor advises, though, because it could interfere with your weight-loss plan.
  3. Take nutritional supplements as advised by your doctor. You can take zinc, iron, and vitamins A, B9, and C as oral supplements. You may need to receive copper supplements intravenously. A doctor may recommend other supplements that encourage hair growth as well.
  4. Avoid overdoing it on supplements that may actually lead to hair loss. One study cites that too much vitamin A and E and selenium can lead to further hair loss.
  5. Stick to your recovery schedule: See your doctor as recommended to make sure you are getting enough nutrients in your diet and following your recovery plan.

Remember that nutritional supplements are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so brands may differ in quality. You can overdo it on certain supplements, which can lead to toxicity. Follow the recommendations of your doctor before taking supplements after bariatric surgery.

Your hair should grow back following bariatric surgery. It may take 6 months for all of the dormant hair to fall out, but your body will start growing more hair over time. There is no way for hair that has become dormant to reactivate.

Discuss hair loss following bariatric surgery with your doctor if you still notice significant hair loss after 6 months or a year. This could be a sign that your body needs more nutrients.

You should also see a doctor if your hair loss begins after 6 months, if you suspect you have nutritional deficiencies, or if any routine bloodwork shows that you have low levels of vitamins or minerals that can lead to hair loss.

Losing more hair than normal is common in the months after bariatric surgery. Talk to your doctor about dietary changes or supplements that reduce hair loss following your procedure. You should notice less hair loss over time, and your hair should begin to grow more typically after that. Talk to your doctor if you experience hair loss 6 months or more after your procedure.