Hair Loss After Surgery – Causes And Prevention Tips

Reviewed by Kimberly Jenkins, WTS
Written by Annie Jangam

Science says that you experience more hair loss after surgery. Noticing large amounts of hair shedding might cause you to fret, but there is nothing to panic about. Losing hair after surgery is a normal but common side effect called telogen effluvium. This is your body’s way of coping with undergoing a medical operation, and your hair should start growing back within a few months.

Surgeries can be traumatic to the body. They may stress you out and cause hair loss. Here, we discuss all the causes of post-surgical hair loss and if it can be reversed. Keep reading.

Hair Loss After Surgery: Is There Any Link?

Yes, surgery can cause temporary hair loss or telogen effluvium. After a major surgery, the body experiences tremendous stress. This may interfere with the hair growth cycle and cause hair loss or thinning (1).

Hair loss is often common in people who have undergone bariatric or gastric sleeve surgery (2). Stress and nutritional deficiencies are believed to be the major reasons for such hair loss. Once these factors are addressed, hair loss stops (1).

The hair cycle is a complex biological process where the hair follicles undergo three major stages (1):

  • Anagen (growth phase lasting for 2-6 years)
  • Catagen (transitional phase lasting for 2-3 weeks)
  • Telogen (dormant phase lasting for about three months)

In the normal hair cycle, follicles on the scalp are replaced once every 3-5 years. However, during telogen effluvium, the hair follicles in the anagen or growth phase are triggered to enter the telogen phase prematurely (1). This causes hair thinning and shedding. What are these triggers? Find out below.

What Causes Hair Loss After Surgery?

Physiological stress is the major cause of hair loss after surgery (1). However, the exact mechanism is not clear. It is speculated that the body diverts all its resources (nutrients and energy) to keep the vital organs functioning, while less important functions, such as hair growth, are put on hold temporarily.

The surgical procedure followed by recovery puts the body under substantial physiological stress. It is widely believed that the anesthetics used during the surgery can trigger hair loss. However, there is no scientific data to back this claim.

Apart from the physiological process, the uncertainty involved and other psychological factors can take a toll on the mental health of the individual. Research indicates that stress can induce inflammatory effects that can inhibit hair growth, cause hair damage, and induce catagen (3).

The science behind how this happens is still in the nascent stages. It is speculated that stress acts as a trigger that signals the hair follicle to go dormant or enter telogen effluvium. Once your body starts to recover, the hair cycle normalizes. There are a few ways to speed up the recovery process and reverse post-surgical hair loss.

How To Reverse Hair Loss After Surgery

You can reverse hair loss after surgery by removing the trigger events like stress, nutritional deficiencies (zinc and iron), and hormonal discrepancies (1).

Thus, lifestyle changes, such as following a well-balanced diet and having a dedicated hair care routine can help you regrow your lost hair in 3-6 months.

You may take vitamin and mineral supplements like iron and zinc to reverse hair loss (4). This is especially helpful after bariatric or weight loss surgery. You may also consume amino acid supplements.

Generally, dermatologists recommend medication to stimulate hair growth if the hair follicle is still active. One such commonly prescribed drug for treating various hair disorders(telogen effluvium) is Minoxidil (5). or Rogaine.

Consult your doctor if the hair loss persists or worsens. It might indicate a serious medical condition. Here are a few more tips for managing hair loss after major surgery.

Tips For Dealing With Hair Loss After Surgery

  • Get Enough Sleep

Recuperating from a surgical procedure takes time. The body heals, repairs, and recovers mostly during sleep. Hence, ensure that you sleep well to speed up the recovery process. Lack of sleep will cause unwanted stress and may worsen hair loss.

  • Avoid Stress

Try to keep stress at bay. Practice self-care techniques, such as yoga and meditation, and indulge in activities that may help you relax. This will ensure speedy recovery. Your hair starts growing normally once you start adjusting post-surgery.

  • Follow A Healthy Diet

Consume a protein-rich diet since proteins make up the bulk of your hair structure. Foods, such as eggs, lean meat, seafood, leafy vegetables, and lentils will help replenish the essential amino acids for hair growth. Ensure that your diet is rich in zinc, iron, and vitamins. Whole grains, fruits, nuts, and seeds are great options to fight most nutritional deficiencies (6).

  • Avoid Stressing The Scalp

Tight hairstyles can put stress on the hair follicles and cause hair loss. Avoid hairstyles like tight braids and ponytails.

In A Nutshell

Hair loss after surgery is a common side effect. It may cause you to stress, but the good news is that the hair will regrow within a few months. The major reason behind losing hair after surgery is physiological stress. Stress and nutritional deficiencies induce inflammatory effects that inhibit hair growth. Prescription medicines and vitamin and nutrient supplements help reverse the situation. You can also make a few lifestyle changes to improve your hair health. Finally, consult a dermatologist if these do not show any results.

Key Takeaways

  • The body is under extreme stress after major surgery, impacting hair growth and leading to hair loss or thinning.
  • Removing triggers such as stress, nutritional deficiency, and hormonal imbalance, you can reverse hair loss after surgery.
  • A healthy diet, adequate sleep, and avoiding tight hairstyles can help you recover faster.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will hair fall out after anesthesia?

It is normal to lose hair for 2-4 months (telogen effluvium) after using anesthesia during surgery. Consult a doctor if the condition worsens.

Is hair loss a side effect of anesthesia?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the use of anesthesia can cause hair loss. There are no scientific studies to support this observation.

How long does hair loss last after illness?

You can experience hair loss for 2- 4 months ((telogen effluvium) after a prolonged illness. Your hair will start growing once you have recovered from the illness unless there is a serious underlying medical condition.


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Kimberly Jenkins

Kimberly Jenkins is a certified trichologist and cosmetologist with over 20 years of experience in the field. She runs the... more