Have you ever tried to lose a lot of weight in a short span of time? Most of us may have been guilty of doing it for an important event, just to get into that dream dress. But was this achievement accompanied with an unexplained increase in hair loss?
Yes, the two are very much connected. While there is nothing wrong in wanting a toned body, an unhealthy weight loss way might have its consequences on your hair, among other aspects.
Normal Growth Cycle Of Hair
To understand the underlying causes behind hair loss, it is important to know a little bit about how hair grows. On an average, it is normal to lose 30 - 150 hair strands everyday. This is eventually replenished by the hair growth cycle. The normal cycle of hair growth consists of the following phases:
1. Anagen phase (growth phase)
This is the growing phase of the hair cycle, when hair follicles are active and the hair shaft is growing. In a healthy individual, this phase lasts for about 2-7 years, depending on various internal and external factors.
2. Catagen phase (transition phase)
During the transition phase, hair stops growing. The hair follicle shrinks and detaches from the blood supply in the scalp. This phase is usually short, lasting from 14 to 21 days.
3. Telogen phase (resting phase)
After the catagen phase, hair is now called club hair, and rests in its own root. A new hair starts growing beneath the club hair. The normal duration of this phase is around 3 months.
4. Exogen phase (shedding phase)
Here, the club hair completely detaches from the roots. It falls out to give way to the new hair that has been growing underneath.
What Causes Hair Loss During Weight Loss?
To identify the reasons behind thinning hair associated with weight loss, a few things need to be considered. Was the weight loss achieved by surgical or non-surgical methods? Were there any drastic changes in diet? Was the amount of weight lost and time taken to achieve it, directly proportional to the amount of hair loss? A few common reasons are elaborated below.
1. Telogen effluvium
In this condition, there is a sudden increase in hairfall, which is usually reversible. This is mainly caused when your body perceives sudden or excessive weight loss as a stress signal. This stress signal in turn, alters your hair’s normal growth cycle.
The anagen phase (growing phase) is shortened significantly, while more hair is in the catagen or telogen phase. This leads to increased shedding of hair. The hair loss becomes more pronounced when the new hair growth is too little in quantity or quality, to make up for the hair that has been lost.
2. Nutritional deficiency
A weight loss program may involve an unusual diet regimen, which excludes certain foods or food groups. This can lead to nutrient deficiencies and low energy production. Since hair is not the most essential factor for your survival, it gets the hardest hit due to these deficiencies.
A low calorie diet accompanied by deficiency of essential nutrients can affect both growth and structure of your hair. Nutrients extremely essential for hair health include (but are not limited to) the following:
As we know, hair is primarily composed of the protein keratin. It is essential to have a protein- rich diet for the growth and maintenance of hair. Also, proteins like collagen are essential for hair roots and a healthy scalp.
It is important for the actively dividing cells of the hair follicle, which ultimately gives rise to new hair. Menstruating women and people having a vegetarian or vegan diet are at an increased risk of iron deficiency, which can elevate hair loss.
Weight loss diets often cut out fats altogether. However, good fats such as omega-3 and DHA are essential for the growth and shine of your hair.
such as zinc, biotin, vitamin D and niacin deficiency can also adversely affect the health of your hair.
3. Hormonal imbalance
A drastic weight loss or dieting schedule may bring about changes in certain hormone levels in your body. Imbalance in levels of androgen or thyroid hormones can heighten hair fall.
4. Pre-existing conditions
Some of us may already be predisposed to hereditary hair loss such as the male pattern baldness or the female pattern baldness, that runs in the family. The stress caused to the body due to dieting and weight loss may trigger these conditions or make them worse.
How To Prevent Hair Loss Accompanied By Weight Loss?
You can follow the given tips to minimize hair loss while shedding those extra kilos:
1. Take it easy
Give yourself enough time to reach a target weight. Losing a lot of weight in a very short period of time shocks your body, changes your metabolic rates and may throw your hormones off balance. All of these can contribute to hair loss. A weight loss of upto 2 to 4 kgs per month is considered to be a safe goal.
Also, do not be too alarmed about excessive hair fall, as most of your hair will grow back when your body adjusts to the new normal.
2. Have a wholesome diet
The need of a wholesome diet with enough calories and macronutrients such as proteins is vital for healthy hair growth and prevention of hair fall. It is advisable to avoid crash diets or extreme diets such as liquid diets, fruit diet or keto diet. These may lead to nutritional deficiency, elevating hair loss.
A diet rich in complete proteins such as legumes, soybeans, dark green vegetables or fish and meat should be consumed to meet your body’s daily requirements. Also, have fresh fruits and vegetables, and drink plenty of water.
3. Include nutritional supplements
Micronutrients such as vitamin D, zinc, iron, etc. also play important roles in hair growth and maintenance. If their daily requirements are not met through your diet, they can be taken as nutritional supplements, preferably after consulting a doctor.
4. Opt for medication
If you feel your hair loss is way above normal, or is causing you emotional distress, consult a healthcare professional. They may prescribe you medicines to slow hair fall and stimulate regeneration of lost hair. Minoxidil is one such medication. The topical application of this medicine can stimulate hair regeneration.
How Long Does Hair Fall Out After Weight Loss?
Various factors need to be considered when it comes to hair fall due to weight loss. It is normal to have increased hair fall for 3 to 6 months after you started losing weight. You need to give your body some time to acclimatise to the new conditions due to weight loss.
However, should there be excessive hair fall beyond 6 months, you should consider visiting a doctor. Your doctor can diagnose the underlying reasons for your hair fall and prescribe treatment accordingly.
Will Hair Loss From Weight Loss Grow Back?
On the brighter side, hair loss due to weight loss is usually temporary. Your hair grows back to normal once you have stopped losing weight and reverted to a normal diet.
However, if hair loss continues for a long period of time, despite taking nutrients, you might be facing malabsorption of nutrients. This is common in patients undergoing weight loss surgery or having disorders such as celiac disease. It is best to consult a doctor in such cases because elevated hair loss can indicate other health issues as well.