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Can Anesthesia Cause Hair Loss? An Expert Reveals the Truth

The list of things that cause hair loss is fairly lengthy and you may already be aware of most of them. Genetics play a huge role, as do diet, stress, environmental factors, medical conditions, and more. But there’s one thing you may not have ever considered to be a factor that contributes to hair loss, and that is anesthesia.

Healthline reports that there is a strong link between hair loss and anesthesia. A 2012 study even highlighted the link between anesthesia and postoperative or pressure alopecia. So how exactly does this happen? Hair loss expert and certified trichologist Ky Smith shared everything you need to know. Keep reading for her expert advice!

anesthesia hair loss | Mane Addicts
(via Canva)

How does anesthesia cause hair loss?

There’s a largely scientific response for this. We’ll let Ky take it away.

“General anesthesia works by interrupting nerve signals in the brain and body that disconnects the brain from processing pain and recalling what happened. As a result, this process interrupts the flow of oxygen across the cellular membrane, which reduces the amount of oxygen the cells receive while under anesthesia,” she explains.

Essentially, when the hair cells don’t receive enough oxygen, hair thinning and hair loss are more likely to occur. Ky also points out that anesthesia “can cause an alopecia referred to as Telogen Effulium, which means excessive shedding. While this medication blocks the sensation of pain, it also slows down the body’s cellular processes, thus blocking the hair follicle from receiving adequate amounts of oxygen, thrusting a large percentage of hair follicles into a resting phase prematurely that causes hair to release and fall.”

This sort of hair loss doesn’t happen right away, so many assume their hair loss is caused by something else. “Typically a person who experiences hair loss doesn’t notice shedding until 4 to 16 weeks post-surgery. Therefore, they may never connect the excessive hair fall to their surgery,” Ky shares.

What precautions should you take before a surgery to avoid hair loss?

Anesthesia-related hair loss impacts everyone. And, because of this, there’s really no way to prevent this from happening beforehand.

“General anesthesia is no respecter of persons, meaning it doesn’t matter the hair type or texture of hair, if a person has a chemical sensitivity to short-term fluctuating levels of oxygen transporting across the cellular membrane, they may experience TE post-anesthesia,” Ky says.

Still, Ky stresses the importance of evaluating your “current state of health to ensure there aren’t any pre-existing imbalances that could lead to alopecia. Assessing the entire person to distinguish side effects from medical causes and other imbalances is critical to correcting the hair loss.”

What should you do post-surgery to treat hair loss?

Any anesthesia-related hair loss can’t be treated with a single hair product, as it’s an internal problem. However, Ky shares that “cleansing your hair regularly with a shampoo that is formulated for your hair texture/condition, and following it up with a pH-balancing conditioner will provide a great environment for your scalp to thrive and prepare to receive the new hairs as they emerge.”

Even though the process is frustrating to deal with, it is usually temporary. “TE should slow and return to normal within 3 months,” Ky mentions.

Want some extra guidance on how to treat hair loss? HERE’S how a dermatologist and hairstylist recommend you handle hair loss!

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