Unexpectedly losing your hair can be a hard reality to face. It can affect your mental well-being and really dent your confidence. Unfortunately, it seems the more stress your body is under, the more hair loss you might experience.
Whether you're preparing for surgery or you've recently experienced a procedure, it's an excellent time to educate yourself on any hair loss you might encounter. (As if going through surgery isn't stressful enough!)
Rather than panic about possible hair fall, read on to pinpoint the problem and discover ways to remedy thinning hair.
Can Surgery Affect Your Hair?
Unfortunately, yes, your normal hair cycle can be interrupted when you go through surgery. Though it's a pretty common occurrence, it's a distressing side effect that can interfere with your healing process. What's even more frustrating is this type of hair loss can occur months after the surgery is complete.
Why Exactly Do You Experience More Hair Loss After Surgery?
Dr. Anna Chacon, a board-certified dermatologist based in Miami, Florida, explained, "Surgeries often lead to a form of hair loss called telogen effluvium; this stressor can shift the hair into a greater percentage of the telogen, or shedding face."
When the human body experiences stress, shock or something it's not used to — like surgery — it can cause the cortisol levels to shoot up. Reacting like an internal distress signal, you could then experience more hair fall than usual.
Understanding the Hair Growth Cycle
- Anagen phase: This is the hair's active growth phase. It can last between two to seven years; it's when the hair gets actively thicker and longer.
- Catagen phase: During this short, transitional phase, the hair fiber stops growing.
- Telogen phase: This is the hair's resting stage. It's when old hair makes its way to the skin's surface. During this phase, the hair naturally sheds to make way for an emerging anagen strand.
Understanding Telogen Effluvium
Unlike alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition that can make the hair fall out in patches, telogen effluvium can result in progressive shedding and hair loss.
"Any start or stopping of medication, anesthesia or stress can cause the body to respond by pushing some of the hairs that are in the anagen phase into the telogen phase. This phase lasts for three months, and then the hair falls out," said Tabitha Fredrichs, a certified trichologist based at the Christopher J Salon in Plymouth, Minnesota.
"The hair is not a vital organ, so if the body is trying to heal itself, the hair is the last to get nutrients and oxygen. All the energy that the body has is going to the areas that need help before the hair," Fredrichs said.
Many patients live with telogen effluvium after surgery, and it's one of the more frustrating side effects. Thankfully, the hair follicles are only temporarily affected. New hair will continue to grow, and within months, the excessive hair loss will halt as long as the stress levels have reduced.
Learn: How Fast Does Hair Grow?
Any Other Post-Surgery Hair Loss Triggers?
It's not just a stressed-out nervous system that can bring on excessive hair loss. Although it's pretty rare, some research suggests that a condition called positional alopecia occurs when the head stays in one position for long periods.
If you're working with a surgeon on a short-term procedure, it's doubtful you'll experience this side effect. If you're undergoing lengthy reconstructive surgery or cardiac treatment, you may experience more hair loss because the hair follicles' blood supply can falter.
Before and after surgery, put a gentle but effective hair wellness program in place to reduce any potential hair loss woes. A hair serum is easy to use and promotes healthy hair with minimal effort.
The jury is still out on whether there's a definite link between hair loss and anesthesia. A 2012 research review found that patients might risk alopecia if hypotensive anesthesia is used during their operation. This specific type of anesthesia is primarily used during maxillofacial (jaw realignment) surgeries. Always talk to your doctor if you're concerned.
Certain medications can affect the hair of patients post-anesthesia. Detrimental hair loss can especially accelerate if you're allergic to the prescription given. If you're given beta-blockers, anti-seizure or anti-thyroid medications, the American Skin Association suggests discussing hair loss with your doctor.
Of course, it's not just surgery that can cause telogen effluvium and trigger the hair-shedding phase, according to Chacon. "Recent hospitalization, crash dieting, extreme stress and major weight loss can affect our entire body."
Does Hair Grow Back After Plastic Surgery?
Plastic surgery can be pretty exciting, but unfortunately, you could still experience telogen effluvium hair loss. The body will experience new levels of stress and shock as your doctor makes the desired changes.
There's some good news, though, according to Chacon, "The hair will grow back after plastic surgery. Even if you have minor surgery, it's still a stressor, which could cause hair loss. However, hair does typically grow back after plastic surgery."
Can Hair Grow Back After Thinning?
Once your surgery is complete, it's time to take the pressure off any stress and shock-inducing activities. Prioritize self-care and indulge in some dedicated relaxation time. Unfortunately, once the hair has been pushed to the telogen phase, it's time to kiss it goodbye and accept that the shedding phase will last for at least three months.
"The hair can definitely grow back after thinning, but the underlying cause must be addressed and resolved. After addressing the cause, it can take three to six months for things to normalize," Chacon said.
What Will Help the Hair Grow Back?
Ensure that you don't lose any more hair by keeping stress levels low and your hormone levels happy. "Focus on eating enough protein and eating clean, healthy foods for hair growth," explained Fredrichs.
Hair loss is a common symptom of zinc deficiency and iron deficiency, so make sure your diet is rich in nutrients. Top up your plate with dark leafy greens, legumes (chickpeas, lentils and beans), nuts and seafood. You can boost your zinc levels further with the GRO Biotin Gummies.
"You don't want the shedding to last longer than six months," said Fredrichs. "If it lasts longer than that, more testing might be needed by your doctor."
When it comes to taking care of your hair's wellness, preparation is key and knowledge is power. Whether you have surgery booked for the near future or you're just preparing for the unexpected, knowing how to take care of your (or a loved one's) hair after a stressful operation could come in pretty handy.
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