Hair loss after weight loss: What is the connection?

Source: Medical News Today

Hair loss that results from weight loss is a temporary condition that occurs when a person loses weight through restrictive dieting or weight loss surgery. Additional stress on the body or nutrient deficiencies is usually the cause.

This type of hair loss is known as telogen effluvium, and it is a common cause of hair loss. It typically occurs after rapid weight loss or sudden stress to the body and may last for up to 6 months or longer.

Not all hair that falls out though is hair loss associated with telogen effuvium. It is normal to lose about 50 to 100 hairs per day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. This is commonly known as hair shedding.

During telogen effluvium, however, much more hair falls out. It is very alarming to experience increased shedding and that may also cause additional stress on the body. Covid-19 illness is also known to trigger telogen effluvium.

Some causes of telogen effluvium can include:

  • losing a significant amount of weight
  • giving birth
  • having high levels of stress
  • having high fever
  • undergoing surgery
  • experiencing illness, particularly with high fever
  • stopping birth control pills

Telogen effluvium generally subsides within 6–9 months as the body adjusts to the changes it has been exposed to.

Telogen effluvium following weight loss is often the result of nutrient deficiencies in the diet and the cumulative effects of weight loss on the body. This is particularly the case if the weight loss is due to crash dieting, weight loss surgery, or restrictive dieting.

Proper nutrition is vital to the formation of healthy hair shafts and the promotion of hair growth. Studies suggest that diets low in iron and zinc may be more likely to induce hair loss. Other nutrients that may affect hair growth include fatty acids, selenium, and vitamin D.

Hair shafts undergo cycles during their lifetime.

  • The anagen phase: This occurs when hair is growing and can last for 3-6 years.
  • The catagen phase: This is a short transitional phase of a few weeks.
  • The telogen phase: This is a rest phase of 3–4 months. At the end of this phase, the hair will fall out, and new hair will grow in the follicle.

Hair loss happens when stress on the body triggers the hairs to stop growing and enter the catagen phase too early. They will go on to the telogen phase and fall out prematurely.

Weight loss surgery

Although weight loss surgery can lead to reduced overall weight, it can also cause nutrient deficiencies that may lead to hair loss.

For example, one 2018 study involving 50 people who underwent sleeve gastrectomy observed hair loss in more than half of the participants.

Also, a 2021 study involving 112 women who underwent sleeve gastrectomy found that nearly 75% of them experienced hair loss. Of those who reported the condition, nearly 80% said that it started 3–4 months after surgery.

If you are experiencing sudden hair loss, see a hair loss professoinal early. It is always better to act upon hair loss as soon as possible. There are many treatments to help aid in slowing the hair loss and accelerating the hair growth cycle.

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