Hair Loss after Surgery – Causes, Treatments and Preventions
Many people don’t realise that having surgery can lead to hair loss, but this side-effect is actually relatively common, and can impact both your mental health and body confidence.
Fortunately, however, although hair loss after surgery can be distressing, it’s worth remembering that it’s rarely permanent. Here, we discuss the causes of post-surgery hair loss, as well as treatments and preventative measures you can take.
- Surgery can cause a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium.
- The main causes of post-surgery hair loss are prolonged exposure to anaesthetic and the stress an operation places on a person’s body.
- Post-surgery hair loss can be treated with various methods, including reducing stress, PRP therapy, and black seed oil.
Why Does Surgery Cause Hair Loss?
Hair loss after surgery is normally caused by a disruption to the follicles’ normal cycle leading them to produce less hair than normal. Medically, this condition is referred to as telogen effluvium. Generally speaking, it’s normal to lose around 50-100 hairs a day. Any more than this, however, and you’re likely to be suffering from hair loss. Telogen effluvium differs from other types of hair loss as you are more likely to see an all-over thinning of locks rather than patches.
The hair cycle sees hair follicles grow for a few years at a time, in what is known as the anagen phase, but follicles don’t all continuously grow hair at the same time. Some will enter what is known as the resting (telogen) phase, with around 5-10% of hair follicles in this stage at any time. Surgery can disrupt the usual cycle and lead to an elevated percentage of hair follicles in the telogen phase, and this is a clear indication of telogen effluvium.
Post-Surgery Hair Loss Causes
Losing hair after surgery is a result of the stress placed on you – both physically and emotionally – and tends to happen around 3-6 months after the initial event. Hair loss after major surgery is particularly common. Reasons for hair thinning and loss after surgery include:
Ultimately, the stress placed on your body whilst in surgery is a major cause of hair loss. Often, the body diverts nutrients such as iron, protein, biotin and zinc away from the scalp – nutrients that are needed to stimulate the follicles into growing hair – and sends them to the body’s vital organs instead.
Hair loss from anaesthesia is particularly known to occur after lengthier surgeries. Prolonged exposure to anaesthetic can induce hair loss due to the slowing of cellular division that impacts follicle production.
3. Positional or Pressure Alopecia
Recent studies have shown that hair loss can occur post-surgery because of the length of time the head remains in one position, which in turn reduces the blood flow to the hair follicles. This is known as positional or pressure alopecia, but it’s usually reversible.
4. Hair Loss after Weight Loss Surgery
Hair shedding post weight loss surgery is common. The rapid weight reduction that is sparked by the surgery puts the body under stress but can also lead to nutrient deficiency, with the body lacking in protein, zinc, and iron to name but a few. These factors can all trigger hair loss.
5. Hair Loss after Hysterectomy
Undergoing a hysterectomy can cause hair loss owing to the fact it’s a major surgery, and although a hysterectomy can be performed via keyhole surgery, hair loss after laparoscopic surgery can still occur. The resulting telogen effluvium can also be caused by the hormonal changes the body experiences that bring on the menopause.
6. Bowel-Related Hair Loss
Bowel complaints, such as IBD, can lead to hair loss as they can cause nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances and a poor gut microbiome. It’s also common to suffer with hair loss after a colonoscopy or after bowel surgery, especially if it’s performed under general anaesthetic.
7. Hair Loss after Plastic Surgery
If you’re having plastic surgery to update your look, you’ll need to be prepared that you might suffer hair loss in the process. Although you may be less apprehensive and more excited about plastic surgery in comparison to other surgery types, it still places stress on the body that can result in telogen effluvium.
8. Hair Loss from Post-Surgery Medication
There are plenty of medications that come with a side effect of hair loss, and this is particularly true of post-surgery medicines that might be prescribed to aid recovery. Certain drugs, such as beta-blockers and NSAIDs, are known to interfere with the hair growth cycle and cause telogen effluvium.
How to Stop Hair Loss after Surgery: 8 Treatments
As surgery can cause hair loss, albeit temporary in most cases, there are some actions you may want to take to stimulate regrowth and reduce thinning locks. These include:
As your hair loss is related to surgery, you may wish to speak to your doctor about this unwanted side-effect. They may be able to recommend a treatment such as minoxidil. This is a liquid that’s applied to the scalp to thicken locks and stimulate the hair follicles with results being seen in as little time as eight weeks.
2. Black Seed Oil
3. PRP Therapy
Platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP) is a cosmetic treatment where blood is taken, processed, and then reinjected back into the scalp which encourages follicle growth. It stimulates inactive hair cells and moves them back into the anagen, or growth stage, of the hair cycle. Most people see some changes within the first three months of treatment with a more noticeable difference in 6-12 months.
Although microneedling won’t prevent hair loss, it can help with the regrowth journey by thickening hair and promoting growth through the tiny punctures made by the needles. First signs of regrowth can be seen in around six weeks according to recent studies on the impact of microneedling and hair loss.
5. Reduce Stress
As one of the main causes of post-surgery hair loss is stress, it’s worth trying to create a calm environment with stress-free activities that can help you relax. Many people take up hobbies such as swimming or yoga, or even meditation and journaling to restore inner calm. Reducing stress can see regrowth in around six months.
6. Scalp Massage
7. Use Gentle Hair Care Products
When experiencing hair loss, it can be tempting to reduce the amount you wash your hair. It’s important, however, to continue washing hair as and when it is needed. Whilst it may not directly regrow hair, it provides a healthy starting point for your locks to grow.
Ditch any sulphate-containing shampoos and swap them for naturally-derived formulations that will gently cleanse locks, without stripping the natural oils. Use a conditioner with every wash as this works to support hair cuticles, keeps locks hydrated, and strengthens any hair that’s regrown. We love the nourishing formulation of the Marula Leave-In Conditioner.
8. Vitamins and Nutrients
Eating a balanced diet is always important, but especially so after the strain of surgery to aid recovery, and help hair regrow from post-surgery loss. Look for foods that are rich in nutrients such as protein, iron, vitamin B, omega 3, and zinc.
You could also introduce a daily supplement to further boost your hair health. Be warned, though, that this is a slow route to take if it’s the only one you choose to help regrow your hair, with it taking anywhere between 1-5 years to see results.
How to Prevent Hair Loss after Surgery
It’s hard to prevent hair loss after surgery, but you can look to reduce its impact and aid your recovery after the operation. Steps you can take to mitigate loss and hair thinning after surgery include:
- Reducing and managing stress.
- Undertaking regular exercise.
- Ensuring optimum sleep.
- Maintaining a balanced diet, paying particular attention to protein and iron intake.
- Supporting hair and scalp health.
- Discuss hair loss and surgery concerns with your medical team in the immediate aftermath of the surgery.
Hair Falling Out After Surgery? Final Thoughts
Unfortunately, surgery does cause hair loss and there’s a real chance that you may experience this after an operation. Be rest assured, though, that it’s most likely to be temporary and tends to reverse after several months. There are plenty of medical and natural methods that will see hair loss after surgery grow back, but it will require some patience and consistency to get the desired results.