Weight loss and hair loss
It’s normal to shed a bit of hair every day, especially when you brush or wash it. But if you’ve noticed more of your hair falling out than usual, you’re probably wondering what’s causing it.
Intentional weight loss could be a reason for your hair loss, especially if you’ve:
- lost a lot of weight in a short space of time
- been following a very low calorie diet (VLCD) – including following a VLCD diet under your doctor’s supervision
- been cutting out whole food groups
- had weight loss surgery, such as a gastric band fitted
- become underweight
- been diagnosed with, or think you might have, an eating disorder
Losing your hair can be upsetting, but the good news is that hair loss caused by weight loss, or a nutrient deficiency, is usually temporary. In most cases, your hair will start to go back to normal within 3 to 6 months – once your body has adjusted to the weight loss, and as long as you’re also getting the right nutrients by eating a healthy, balanced diet.
It’s also important to know that if you’re losing hair and losing weight, it may be due to another underlying medical condition, such as having an overactive or underactive thyroid. Read on to learn what you can do about intentional weight loss and hair loss, and when to see a doctor.
How does weight loss cause hair loss?
If you’ve been trying to
You might also be losing hair because your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs, for example if you’re following a diet that involves eating very few calories or cutting out whole food groups. This sort of restrictive diet can mean your body isn’t getting enough energy or the right nutrients to function properly. In this case, whatever energy is available is sent to your body’s most vital organs instead, and away from less important areas like your hair follicles, which may affect the health of your hair.
Find useful information on other areas of female hair loss with our
How does weight loss surgery cause hair loss?
Hair loss is also a common side effect of rapid weight loss following
Both the surgery itself, which puts a big stress on your body, and the weight loss that follows can be a cause of hair loss. But as with other causes of telogen effluvium, your hair will usually grow back within 6 months from this time. Be careful to follow the meal plans and medication suggested by your doctor to ensure you’re getting enough calories and nutrients, while allowing your stomach and intestines to recover.
What to do about hair loss caused by weight loss
Good health and nutrition can help you both avoid and recover from hair loss caused by weight loss. And there are things you can do to help you maintain a healthy weight and diet.
Improve your nutrition
Going on a restrictive or ‘extreme’ diet is a common way to lose weight quickly by reducing how much you eat and avoiding certain food groups. But this can lead to malnutrition and hair loss.
Common restrictive diets include:
- intermittent fasting – you eat only at a certain time of the day
If you’ve been restricting what you eat and you’re worried that it’s having an effect on your nutrition and hair, try switching to a more
If you’ve been restricting your diet, it could mean your body isn't getting the nutrients (particularly protein) it needs to grow your hair, leading to hair thinning or loss. Being underweight is a risk factor for getting a lack of nutrition. One way to check whether you might be underweight is to check your
If you’ve made changes to your diet and you still need to lose weight to get to a healthy size, you could try being more active. If you need a little help with this, our 28-day
A restrictive diet can lead to low levels (deficiencies) of essential
Nutrient deficiencies can also happen if your body struggles to absorb nutrients from food – which can happen after weight-loss surgery. In this case, your doctor may recommend a multivitamin that contains calcium, iron and vitamin B12.
When to see a doctor
Hair loss after weight loss is usually temporary, and your hair will generally go back to normal after a few months. But it’s still best to speak to a doctor if you’ve lost weight or you’re following a restrictive diet and you’re getting hair loss, so they can check what’s causing it.
You should also see a doctor if you think your weight loss might be driven by an
As well as a low body weight (BMI) and hair loss, the common symptoms of an eating disorder include:
- restricting your diet because you’re scared to gain weight, even though you’re underweight
- missing meals, not eating much or avoiding certain foods, which can get in the way of your social life
- taking medicines to reduce your hunger (appetite suppressants) or make you go to the toilet more (
Remember, losing weight isn’t the only reason you might notice hair loss – read about other possible
You should also see a doctor if you’ve lost weight without trying to. There are some medical conditions that can cause both hair loss and weight problems, including thyroid disorders for example, so your doctor will be able to help look into why you’ve lost weight.
Or try our
Your health questions answered
Can too much exercise cause hair loss?
“What amounts to too much exercise means different things to different people. There’s no evidence that exercise in general causes hair loss, but if you start working out excessively (for more than 3 hours a day), or lose weight very quickly as a result, it’s thought it could put your body under stress and trigger a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium. This is the same type of hair loss triggered by intentional weight loss after following a restrictive or extreme diet. But there’s little medical research to back this up, so if you’re worried about hair loss it’s best to speak to a doctor.”