Hair loss after bariatric surgery

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Many patients experience hair loss after weight loss surgery. In most cases this tends to be mild and short-lived, but is some cases the loss can be more severe and more persistent. So what causes hair loss after surgical weight loss treatments? First, some background about normal hair growth. 

Normal Hair Growth

Hair is made from a protein called keratin (the same as nail protein) which is produced in hair follicles in the outer layer of the skin. The average human head has around 100,000 hair follicles and as the follicles produce new hair cells, the old cells are pushed towards the surface and appear as long strings of dead keratin cells or what we recognise as normal hair. At any one time, about 90% of the hair on a person’s scalp is growing. 

There are three identifiable growth phases for human hair:

  • Anagenic: active hair growth which lasts between 2-6 years
  • Catagen – transitional, lasting 2-3 weeks
  • Telogen – resting phase lasting 2-3 months after which time the hair is shed and the growth cycle starts all over again

There are various causes of hair loss. The most common type seen after surgery is called telogen effluvium or hair shedding. It can have nutritional and non-nutritional causes such as severe infections, major surgery, low protein intake and anaesthesia. Anaesthesia can cause up to 30% more hair to move into the telogen phase, thereby accelerating hair loss. So both the stress of the surgery itself and the associated anaesthetic may contribute to hair loss. 

Then there are post-surgery nutritional factors which may contribute. There is much anecdotal evidence about this, but remarkably little real scientific evidence. The two most commonly cited micronutrient deficiencies associated with hair loss are iron and zinc.

Iron deficiency is common after weight loss surgery, especially after bypass. However, studies which have attempted to link iron deficiency and hair loss have produced inconsistent and sometimes conflicting results. Some of these discrepancies may be due to problems with the measurement of iron levels. 

Zinc deficiency has also been associated with hair loss, but as with iron, there is little evidence to support this. It is certainly true that both iron and zinc deficiency are common after bypass surgery, but it is not clear whether deficiency of either/both of these elements is the cause of hair loss.   Furthermore, no study has shown that supplementation of either of these (or any other) nutrients can prevent hair loss after surgery.

So what to do?  We suggest the following:

  • Make sure you are taking a multivitamin or iron supplement to provide a total daily intake of 50-100mg of elemental iron/day
  • Take some additional zinc – 10-20mg/day
  • Increase your protein intake to 60-70 grams/day


Perhaps the most important point to remember is that whilst hair loss after weight loss surgery is common, it is almost always temporary.  With the cessation of weight loss and the restoration of nutritional balance, hair re-growth is usual within 3-6 months. 

We're still here!

Like the rest of our great country we’re keeping calm and carrying on amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. While we have healthy staff available (and probably like a lot of you, working from home) we’re here to talk to you about your weight loss options. 

Procedure bookings

While we can’t promise we can actually perform your procedure within the next several months, there is still opportunity to go through the eligibility and consultation stages. Our surgeons are on-hand to consult with you over the phone or Facetime (if available).

If you’d like to get ahead of the curve and plan a weight loss procedure with us in the future, we can add you to a priority waiting list for when we’re able to book hospital places again.

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