Yes, “COVID Hair Loss” is a real thing. You or someone you know may have experienced some hair loss as a result of having COVID. This can be a little alarming, especially for women. Here’s what you need to know…
What Causes This Hair Loss in Some People and Not in Others?
Hair shedding is not really a symptom unique to COVID. “COVID Hair Loss” is really a condition called Telogen Effluvium. Telogen Effluvium can occur after any traumatic event – a severe accident, a difficult delivery, a difficult surgery, losing a job – hundreds of stressful events can all trigger Telogen Effluvium. While it is not unique to COVID, the incidents of Telogen Effluvium have increased nearly 400% since the beginning of the pandemic.
Hair loss doesn’t affect everyone who has had COVID. Only about 20% of patients who have been hospitalized for COVID experienced greater than normal hair loss.
Hair loss related to COVID is definitely not caused by any drug or treatment someone may have received for COVID symptoms. It is a result of the physical and emotional stress experience by the body.
Stages of Hair Growth
All hair goes through three stages: Anagen or growth stage, Catagen where hair stops growing, and Telogen or resting phase. Hair typically stays in resting phase for 2-3 months before shedding. Under normal circumstances around 10-15 percent of your hair is in the Telogen phase. When you experience a stressful event or a difficult illness including COVID, the growth stage can be “interrupted”. This results in greater than normal shedding beginning about 2-3 months after the event.
The average person loses up to 100 hairs every day. In Telogen Effluvium, hair follicles are forced into the telogen phase earlier than normal. It is common to lose close to 300 hairs per day, and for this to continue for several months. Hair loss will be more obvious when brushing your hair, or while shampooing in the shower. For many, the hair loss is significant enough to notice an obvious thinning of the hair.
What Can I Do About the Hair Loss?
You may not be able to do anything to stop hair from shedding. However, there are several things you can do to help your new hair grow faster.
Biotin (B7) is a supplement that can be purchased at your local health food store or pharmacy. Supplementing with Biotin will definitely help, especially if you don’t get a lot of eggs, milk or bananas in your diet. Biotin will stimulate keratin production in your hair and can increase the rate of follicle growth.
Other nutrients that you should be sure to include in your diet or supplements include plenty of protein, omega fatty acids, iron, vitamin D, vitamin C, Zinc, Folic acid, and vitamin B12.
You can also make some lifestyle change that will help. Do your best to avoid stress in your life. If you are at a season of life where this is unavoidable, talk to your doctor or therapist about ways to manage your stress levels. Get some form of exercise every day – even if it is a leisurely walk. And, get plenty of sleep – at least 7-8 hours each night.
You can also make some changes to your hair care that can help. Avoid hairstyles that pull on your hair, like tight braids or ponytails. Also, avoid applying heat to your hair like blow dryers, curling irons, and flat irons. To style, use a blow dryer on a low, cool setting. Finally, avoid chemical treatments like coloring or bleach.
What if my hair is falling out in clumps or continues to fall out?
With most COVID related Telogen Effluvium, hair will stop shedding in 3 to 6 months. If your hair is falling out in clumps or continues to shed, you should schedule an appointment with your dermatologist. Hair loss can also be related to hormone changes or can even be an indication of a thyroid problem. A dermatologist can help rule out these causes, and can recommend additional treatment options.