It can be very traumatic to see clumps of hair in the shower drain, or to run your fingers through your hair and come out with a handful. Especially since for many of us, our hair was one of the few things we really liked about ourselves before surgery.
We wonder: How much hair will I lose? Will I go bald or have bald spots? And how quickly will it grow back?
Most importantly: What can I do to minimize hair loss and maximize regrowth?
Why We Lose Hair After Weight Loss Surgery
But after weight loss surgery, our bodies are forced to live on drastically lower amounts of calories. To compensate for the reduction, all the remaining nutrients are channeled to the organs that need them most. And our hair isn’t one of them.
So suddenly, our hair must do without the nutrients it needs to grow. And it also has to compensate for that loss. It sends more strands into “resting” phases and temporarily suspends production of new strands.
Not to mention the fact that hormones go haywire after surgery and while all that fat is being metabolized. That just doesn’t help matters.
The upshot: hair starts falling out.
How To Minimize Hair Loss After Gastric Bypass Surgery
Since the biggest reason we lose hair after surgery seems to be a lack of nutrients getting to our hair follicles, then it makes sense that getting more nutrients to our hair will minimize hair loss.
Nothing will keep you from losing any hair at all. Even without weight loss surgery, you lose a certain number of hairs every day. Afterwards, you’re going to lose more. It cannot be prevented.
But there are things you can do that seem to help. First off, be sure you’re getting all of your protein. My doctor recommended 60 grams or more a day. I’ve found 80 to be a better number, both for weight loss and for my hair. (Many other doctors recommend 80 as a minimum.)
Hair is built with protein. That’s what it’s made of. So making sure you’re taking in enough protein will help keep your hair healthy. At least, healthier.
TIP: Even a full year after gastric bypass, I find it impossible to get 80 grams of protein from diet alone. I’d never survive without shakes and protein snacks.
This website focuses exclusively on protein for bariatric patients. They’ve got items I haven’t seen anywhere else, and daily specials that can be fantastic – including free samples every now and then! Drinks, powders, cereals, chips – you name it, they’ve got it:
Keeping Hair Healthy
One thing I remember from Cosmetology School all those years ago is how to keep hair healthy. Any perms, color treatments, etc, damage your hair and should be avoided at this time. Yes, coloring your hair will make the hair shaft a little thicker, and that can give you the appearance of fullness. So will a perm. But the damage these chemical processes do will make for duller hair and more fallout.
I personally have a religious conviction against cutting my hair. But since most of you reading this probably don’t, I will say that keeping your ends trimmed or even going for a shorter cut will not only help what’s left feel a little thicker, it will make it easier for new growth to “catch up” to the length of existing hair.
One of the best ways to get more nutrients flowing to your hair (and therefore keep it healthy) is to increase blood flow to your scalp. Remember the old advice to brush your hair 100 strokes every night before bed? (Did I just seriously date my age or what?)
Well, 100 brush strokes may not be the best thing right now, unless you want a brush full of fallen-out hair. But the principle is a very good one. What makes it work is massaging your scalp.
Have you ever noticed when you’re being shampooed at the beauty shop that the stylist really massages your scalp? It’s about more than getting a clean head. She does that because it’s good for your scalp and your hair. The massage sends more blood to your scalp and helps loosen scalp muscles (tight scalp muscles lead to restricted blood flow).
You can massage your scalp yourself any time – as long as your hair is not wet. Use the tips of your fingers – never your fingernails – and rub in small circles. You’ll feel it starting to work within a few minutes. When your scalp feels all nice and tingly you’ll know you’ve got the blood flowing. Massaging 5-10 minutes every day will lead to a healthier, happier scalp and better hair. (I usually do this in the evening while watching TV).
Here is a video I made on how to do it right:
Finally, stressed hair needs special care – and obviously, gastric bypass surgery is very stressful for your hair. It really does matter what kind of shampoo and conditioner you use. You’ll want to use the absolute best you can afford.
TIP: Healthy hair comes from a healthy scalp. Nioxin is the only hair care line formulated exclusively as skin care for the scalp. It works to provide an optimal scalp environment to both minimize hair loss and stimulate faster, healthier regrowth.
For Non-Chemically Treated Hair: For Chemically Treated Hair:
Regrow More, Healthier Hair Faster
While it’s hard to stop hair from falling out, you most certainly can help more of it grow back faster and healthier.
Keeping up your protein and taking good care of your hair are a start. But to really ramp up regrowth you’ve got to feed your hair the nutrients it needs to grow.
Before having gastric bypass surgery this isn’t always easy to do. Afterwards, it’s nearly impossible from diet alone. Which is why you should consider adding some supplements to your vitamin regimen specifically for your hair.
You can find hair, skin and nail supplements at nearly any drugstore or health food store. But as with all vitamins, they’re not all created equal. As gastric bypass patients, we have to make sure our bodies are able to process and absorb the supplements we take.
The two most effective supplements for hair regrowth (at least according to the buzz on WLS forums and message boards) are Silica by Puritans Pride and Biotin.
When I started taking Silica, I noticed a difference in my hair within 2-3 weeks. Seriously. Best of all, it’s dirt cheap. With the special they were running at the time, I spent about $10 on a six month supply.
Puritan’s also has the best deal I’ve found on Biotin. While my local GNC charges up to $20 for a bottle, they’ve got a month’s supply for as little as $7.
The bottom line is that you’re going to lose some hair after gastric bypass surgery. But you really can minimize that loss, and help regrowth happen faster by taking good care of your hair.
When this is all over, you’ll not only have a healthier, thinner body – you’ll have a fantastic head of beautiful hair to boot!