Anyone with curly hair will admit that managing and maintaining it can often be challenging. But that amplifies after surgeries and the hair loss that comes as a result. As taxing as life can feel after any medical operation, your hair will need special TLC to overcome that post-surgery hair loss.
Major surgery, anesthesia, and associated medication can cause hormonal imbalances, leading to hair loss. Reducing stress, taking biotin supplements, and using quality hair care products can improve your hair’s health. Implementing a proper diet and sleep will also reduce hair fall after surgery.
Maintaining and caring for curls post-surgery with hair loss can feel daunting if you don’t know how to do it correctly. This article will provide tips to nurse your curly hair as you nurse your health after surgery.
Post-Surgery Hair Loss: Cause and Effect
Hair loss after surgery is not new or uncommon. People have been struggling with this for years. Whether post-c-section, gall bladder removal, hip replacements, or cancer treatment, hair fall appears.
Sudden hair loss has been associated with major surgery or prolonged medication. It can affect any body part, with the scalp being the most targeted. This is referred to as “Telogen Effluvium.” The first two weeks after surgery is the most common for patients to experience hair loss.
Generally, patients may complain of hair shedding three days after most surgical procedures. The shedding sometimes continues for two to three weeks after. The more invasive, longer, and traumatic the surgery, the greater the hair loss may be.
Medications like anti-cancer drugs (chemotherapy) and beta-blockers for hypertension can also cause telogen effluvium. Drugs like warfarin and heparin, used to prevent blood clots, have also been associated with hair loss.
Knowing the potential causes of telogen effluvium is essential if you have planned or unexpected surgery. That way, you can avoid it or lessen the effects. Always listen to and follow your doctor’s advice pre and post-surgery.
How Stress Contributes to Post-Surgery Hair Loss
Major surgery can cause a severe mental and psychological disturbance. Stressed nerves can induce localized inflammation underneath the scalp surface, leading to different medical conditions that can reduce blood circulation to the upper scalp causing a shortage of oxygen and essential nutrients.
Hair grows from a cellular complex called a “Hair Follicle” via a complex biological process. The emergence of new hair from its follicle, growth, and subsequent fall is called the “hair cycle.” All hair goes through this cycle.
A regular hair cycle involves fours steps:
- Anagen (Growing phase)
- Catagen (Transition phase)
- Telegen (Resting phase)
- Exogen (Shedding phase)
Just like our general health, our hair requires nutrients, good hygiene, and life with less stress. Any abnormality or stress on the body and mind can disturb the hair cycle. Surgery or prolonged medication is considered “stress” that can influence our hair life.
During prolonged medication or post-surgery cases, the body’s metabolism changes. The entire body uses a pain-relieving strategy and fight mode to release or combat this stress.
Under such intense pressure, the body requires more nutrients, and the existing supply of nutrients is consumed preferentially and quickly to restore body metabolism. That can lead to a lack of nutrients if you are not refueling.
The lack of nutrients and their increasing demand tend to induce various metabolic disorders. As a result, your hair weakens, and your hair follicles stop processing new hair.
Surgeries involving severe skin cuts or incisions can also disturb hair follicles. This hair loss generally happens two to three months after surgery and can be reversed with proper nutrition. But if hair follicles are kept inactive for a long time, they can be destroyed, resulting in permanent hair loss.
How Anesthesia Contributes to Hair Loss
It is much more likely for hair loss to happen if the patient is placed under general anesthesia. This occurs because major surgery and anesthesia cause hormonal imbalances, which affect hair health.
Various chemical agents are used as “anesthesia” during surgery, and their usage and dosage vary with medical conditions or surgery requirements. Some medics and dermatologists attribute post-surgery loss to prolonged or repeated exposure to anesthesia compounds.
Though there are few scientific findings, it is believed that anesthesia slows down a cellular division in follicles, pushing them into a prolonged resting phase; this slows down the whole hair cycle disturbing the growth of new hair fibers from the follicles.
The amount of time spent under anesthesia also impacts the level of hair loss. Remember that this type of hair loss is not permanent and doesn’t suggest any underlying severe conditions. Your body can naturally recover if you provide the proper tools (discussed next).
How To Minimize Post-Surgery Hair Loss
Like most curly-haired people, you probably wonder how to take care of your hair post-surgery to reduce and reverse substantial hair shedding. Surgery might bring a series of serious consequences, and you need progressive methods to minimize its negative impact.
Fortunately, post-surgery hair loss can be resolved by taking a few steps:
Implement a Healthy Diet
It is vital to ensure that your diet is healthy and contains a balance of proteins, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and fats. That will help you recover faster and feed your body with the necessary nutrients to nourish and strengthen your hair roots, reducing hair fall.
Exercise has a significant influence on our body’s response. It improves oxygen capacity, boosts blood circulation, and stimulates appetite. It can also decrease stress, a major factor in post-surgery hair loss.
You do not need to run or engage in strenuous exercise after surgery. A slow walk around the block with a family member or some physiotherapy can be a sufficient daily activity. The importance of physical activity is critical for overall health.
If you are not able to use the lower part of your body due to your foot surgery (like in my case), there are still various exercises that can promote better blood circulation and overall well-being. Gentle upper body movements, such as arm circles, shoulder rolls, and wrist exercises, can be beneficial during the recovery period.
Additionally, deep breathing exercises can aid in increasing oxygen capacity, which is essential for optimal healing and reducing stress. Sit comfortably and take slow, deep breaths, focusing on expanding your lungs fully and exhaling slowly. Repeat this several times throughout the day to reap its benefits.
Get Quality Sleep
Get enough rest and quality sleep. Proper sleep is crucial when recovering from any type of surgery. It also reduces stress, and the body, skin, and hair recover during those rest periods. Surgery and medication cause exhaustion, making enough sleep vital, especially with a proper schedule.
Invest in Quality Hair Care Products
Various hair care products aim to boost blood circulation to the scalp surface and calm nerves. Natural ingredients extracted from plants have demonstrated such characteristic benefits.
Essential oils or extracts of Rosemary, Thyme, Lemon, and Olive Oil may relax your hair nerves, stimulate hair follicles, relieve stress, and even induce new hair growth. Make sure to use a carrier oil to dilute essential oils properly before applying them to your scalp. Jojoba oil or coconut oil are excellent carrier options, as they nourish the hair and scalp while delivering the essential oils’ therapeutic properties.
Maintaining proper hygiene to avoid scalp odor and other unfavorable conditions is also essential. Use gentle shampoo and conditioners for this. Opt for sulfate-free and silicone-free formulas specifically designed for curly hair. These products preserve natural oils, prevent excessive dryness, and maintain the hair’s integrity, reducing the risk of breakage and hair loss.
Deep conditioning treatments should be an essential part of your hair care routine. Look for masks enriched with ingredients like Shea butter, Aloe vera, and Argan oil, as they provide intense hydration and strengthen your curls from within.
Oils and leave-in conditioners can help reduce dryness and dehydration and reduce hair fall.
For styling products, choose those that enhance and define your natural curl pattern without causing stiffness or weighing down the hair. Creams, gels, or mousse formulated for curly hair often contain nourishing ingredients that promote elasticity and reduce frizz.
Some therapeutic agents like Minixodil are reported to stimulate hair growth and are popularly available in various formulations.
Avoid Tight Hairstyles
Tight hairstyles will tug on your hair strands. And since your hair follicles are weakened from surgery, they will get pulled out more easily, increasing hair loss. Loser hairstyles during the recovery period can help minimize shedding and breakage.
Trim Your Hair
Trimming your hair may not stop hair fall, but it will help remove split ends and minimize hair breakage. It is also easier to manage and maintain, allowing you to take better care of it. Plus, a fresh haircut will likely improve your mood and lower stress.
Can Hair Grow Back After Surgery?
Yes, hair generally grows back after surgery. However, the regrowth process can vary from person to person and may be influenced by factors such as the type of surgery performed, the individual’s overall health, and any pre-existing conditions that could affect hair growth.
Typically, within a few months after the surgery, the hair follicles transition back to the anagen (growth) phase, and hair begins to regrow.
It is essential to note that the rate of regrowth and the extent of hair recovery may differ among patients. If there are concerns about post-surgery hair loss, it is advisable to consult with a dermatologist for a proper evaluation and guidance on managing the condition.
Can Hair Grow Back After Thinning?
The potential for hair regrowth after thinning depends on the underlying cause of the hair loss. If the thinning is temporary and caused by factors like stress, nutritional deficiencies, or medication side effects, hair often has the capability to grow back once these issues are addressed. However, in cases of hereditary hair thinning (androgenetic alopecia), the condition may be progressive and result in permanent hair loss if left untreated.
To promote hair regrowth after thinning, it is essential to identify and address the root cause. Dermatologists can help determine the underlying factors contributing to hair thinning and recommend appropriate treatments.
Medical interventions, such as minoxidil, may be prescribed to stimulate hair growth and slow down further thinning in cases of androgenetic alopecia. Additionally, therapies like platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and low-level laser therapy have shown promising results in promoting hair regrowth for certain individuals experiencing thinning.
I emphasize the significance of seeking professional evaluation to determine the best course of action for hair regrowth based on individual needs and conditions. Early intervention and personalized treatment plans can optimize the chances of successful hair regrowth after thinning.
Post-surgery hair loss can be alarming, especially for curlies with hair struggles. Following the mentioned tips to minimize hair loss after a medical operation will ease your mind and help your hair recover faster.