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Can losing weight cause hair loss?

So you've been hitting the gym. But it seems like as you've been losing weight, you've been losing hair, as well.

Written by
Stephanie Anderson
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
April 22, 2024
min read
Can losing weight cause hair loss?
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So you've been hitting the gym, watching what you eat, and you're seeing some results. There should be a boost of confidence that comes along with it, right?

But you've noticed something that's less than desirable. It seems like as you've been losing weight, you've been losing hair, as well.

Maybe you've been noticing more hair on your pillow in the morning, in the bottom of the shower or on your hairbrush. If you're concerned about hair loss, you're not alone.

Hair loss is one of the few remaining taboos that guys don't like to talk about, but it can really affect our self-esteem. The truth is, it's really common, but that doesn't mean there's nothing that can be done.

In this article, we'll explain how weight loss can cause or contribute to thinning hair or excess hair shedding, and what you can do about it.

The connection between hair loss and weight loss

While it's normal to lose between 50 to 100 hairs a day, if you've observed hair loss while also dieting or losing weight, there could be a connection between the two. Dieting can cause nutrient deficiencies, and one 2017 study reports that "nutritional deficiency may impact both hair structure and hair growth".

On top of that, sudden weight loss can trigger a condition called acute telogen effluvium (TE).

Telogen effluvium is one of the most common causes for hair loss in relation to a person's weight loss journey, as it can be triggered by iron deficiency anemia, zinc deficiencies and malnutrition.

Basically, rapid weight loss can indicate to your body that you're under stress, which can send the hair follicles into an inactive phase, causing excess shedding.

Your hair growth cycle consists of three phases, which are:

  • The anagen phase: When your hair is growing. This can last for years.
  • The catagen phase: A short phase, the catagen phase is the transitional weeks between the anagen and telogen phases, during which the hair stops growing and prepares to rest.
  • The telogen phase: After transitioning out of the active growing phase, the hair enters a three-to-four month rest period. Once this phase is completed, the hair follicles will shed old hair in preparation for new hair to grow.
hair growth phases

Telogen effluvium occurs when stress forces the body into the catagen phase prematurely, causing the hair to shed early and more frequently than naturally.

If you've been dieting for a while, telogen effluvium might sneak up on you. Usually, it happens around three months into a triggering event, like a diet or rapid weight loss, and will last for around six months.

If it lasts for more than six months, it could be chronic telogen effluvium, or androgenic alopecia, aka male pattern baldness.

Here are some of the main causes of hair loss in relation to weight loss.

Weight loss surgery

The rapid weight loss that occurs after undergoing weight loss surgery can cause nutritional deficiencies. Those deficiencies — usually in protein, as well as essential vitamins and minerals — can then trigger telogen effluvium and hair loss.

In fact, one 2018 study found that 56 per cent of its participants experienced hair loss after undergoing a laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy in the six months after the operations, although it was less common in men than women.

Weight loss surgery is often "designed to result in malabsorption of calories", which can contribute to nutritional deficiencies, explains a 2016 study.

Restrictive diets

If you're not getting enough protein, iron and other essential vitamins and minerals as a result of restrictive dieting, you may experience hair loss.

Without the right nutrients, hair can become stressed out and thirsty, and trigger both telogen effluvium and male pattern baldness.

Restrictive diets can lead to iron deficiency and anaemia, as well as low levels of important nutrients like zinc, niacin, selenium, essential fatty acids, and vitamin D, all of which are important for healthy hair growth.

On the other hand, excess levels of vitamins and minerals can also lead to hair loss, which is why a balanced diet is so important.

Low protein diets

If you're following a low-calorie diet and neglecting your protein intake, you may end up dealing with hair loss.

This is because amino acids play a huge role in hair growth. They're the molecules that combine to form proteins, and they're essential in the production of keratin, which is the main protein in your hair.

When you don't get enough protein, your body will start prioritising where the protein you are getting goes, and hair growth ends up at the bottom of the list.

That's because protein also plays a huge role in keeping you alive and well. It helps your tissues repair themselves, it helps your digestion and pH and water balance regulation, as well as hormone production.

Weight loss as a result of stress

It's no secret that stress can really do a number on the body.

A stressful event can trigger both weight and hair loss. If it's a temporary event, the hair loss will usually begin around three months after the event, and stop within three-to-six months after that.

On the other hand, if you're dealing with chronic emotional stress or an ongoing situation, hair loss can become chronic and harder to treat.

When it comes to treating hair loss, early intervention is key to achieving the best results. Start your online consult with a Pilot practitioner today to find the right treatment for you.

How long does hair loss occur after losing weight?

Hair loss after weight loss is usually temporary and brought on by nutritional deficiencies. In most cases, the hair loss will begin around three-to-four months after rapid weight loss and last for up to six months after onset.

Weight loss as a result of telogen effluvium (TE) is usually temporary. For the most part, the body will adjust to the weight loss and the TE will resolve itself.

However, if you're finding that the hair loss is persistent, there are ways to treat it.

Can hair loss from weight changes grow back?

In short, yes! If you're experiencing hair loss as a result of weight loss, it's very unlikely that it'll be permanent.

In most cases, the body adjusts to the weight loss within six-to-nine months, and your hair will start growing once again.

It's important to examine the likely cause of hair loss, though. If the hair loss has been triggered by nutrient deficiencies or a lack of protein, it's important to adjust your diet accordingly, in order to promote hair regrowth.

This is also important because nutrient deficiencies can lead to health problems beyond hair loss.

How can I prevent hair loss when losing weight?

So how do you stop your hair from falling out while also losing weight?

Since telogen effluvium is triggered by crash diets, restrictive diets and losing weight quickly, the best approach is to lose weight slowly and sustainably, making sure that you're not skipping out on essential nutrients, and important vitamins and minerals.

Choosing a healthy diet rich in nutrients will ensure that you're staying healthy while losing weight, and will also protect your mental health, as well.

If you're unsure of how to lose weight in a healthy way, it's always best to consult a practitioner or nutritionist. They can help you devise a weight loss plan that will keep you happy and healthy, and keep your hair intact.

Treatments for hair loss to encourage growth

Before you begin a treatment plan for hair loss, it's important to figure out what's causing the hair loss in the first place and to address any underlying medical conditions.

At Pilot, you can consult one of our hair loss experts, like Dr. Knudsen, who can help assess your hair loss and devise a personalised hair loss treatment plan.

You might also like to try our Hair Growth Booster Kit, which includes our Thicken Shampoo & Keep Conditioner, Biotin Hair Gummies and DermaRoller, which all encourage the hair growth cycle.

You can also take a look at your diet and address any nutrient deficiencies, ensuring you're getting enough protein, iron, zinc, niacin, selenium, essential fatty acids, and vitamin D.

While some causes of hair loss can be treated with dietary adjustments, others may require medical treatment.

At Pilot, we believe that the key to successful treatment of hair loss is getting the right ingredients, in the right dosages for you. It's also important to seek out medical advice and treatment sooner rather than later, in order to yield the best results.

We're happy to report that over 80 per cent of men who use our treatments keep their hair.

Photo Credit: Marvel Studios

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