Since the COVID-19 pandemic began over two years ago, the list of side effects associated with the condition has grown exponentially. Ever-improving research and data has allowed doctors to identify and differentiate between long term and short term side effects of the coronavirus. Recently, temporary hair loss has been identified as one of the emerging side effects of the condition. Although it can be initially scary, hair loss caused by COVID-19 is usually not serious and should subside within a couple weeks or months. In the following article we discuss how to treat hair loss that occurs due to COVID-19 and outline a few of the common symptoms that may indicate that you are losing hair.
Most often, hair loss is not caused by an infectious disease such as COVID-19. In fact, there are a multitude of factors that can influence hair loss, including advancing age, changing hormones, and cancer. (You can learn more about the many causes of hair loss here.)
The hair loss that is usually seen post COVID-19 infection is known as telogen effluvium, a form of hair loss that occurs when intense stress is placed on hair follicles. Telogen effluvium is the second most common form of hair loss and can be brought on by side effects of medications, nutrient deficiencies, and hormonal abnormalities.
Research from the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology showed that more than 10% of people infected with the coronavirus experienced significant hair loss within a year of infection. However, contrary to popular belief, it is not the actual coronavirus that causes your body to lose hair. Rather, the main culprit seems to be the stress that infection placed on your hair follicles and immune system.
In order to fully understand how COVID-19 causes hair loss, it is important to first understand how the hair cycle works. Hair follicles go through phases: anagen, catagen, and telogen. These phases coincide with hair growth, hair resting, and hair shedding or loss. During telogen effluvium (the form of hair loss that happens during COVID infection), your immune system pushes a large number of hair follicles into the resting phase. Under normal conditions, no more than 10% of your hair is in the resting phase at a single time. But telogen effluvium pushes as many as 40% of hair follicles on your head into the resting phase simultaneously.
COVID-19 infection causes hair loss in two different ways. Not only do you lose hair from the physical strain of being infected with a disease, but the mental strain of having COVID-19 and the isolation associated with being infected can both also cause hair loss.
Hair loss from telogen effluvium can be identified by a few common factors and side effects. In the first few weeks after infection, you may notice hairs falling onto your bathroom floor, car, or bedroom. After a few more weeks, the hair on your head may seem thinner, and may fall out while you brush or wash it.
When telogen effluvium begins to set in, hair loss can be quite rapid, with the average person losing more than as many as 1,000 hairs per day, significantly more than the 100 we lose per day due to natural causes. This hair loss isn't gradual or subtle either. It's quite acute and can be frightening as it leaves your hair feeling and looking noticeably less full.
Unlike most COVID symptoms that appear days or weeks after infection, you’ll typically notice hair shedding two to three months later. In general, non-COVID cases of telogen effluvium causes hair to begin shedding in about three months.
However, recent research has shown COVID-19 to expedite hair loss. In fact, one study of 30 COVID patients found that most patients start to lose hair just 45 days after infection. During COVID-19 infection, more hair follicles than normal are in the dormant stage and have begun to shed. As such, infection patients usually see changes to their hair whenever they agitate or scratch the scalp. This may be the first sign that COVID-19 infection is causing hair loss, after which hair clumps will appear when brushing your hair or after you shower. Your hair will then start thinning out within a few weeks of seeing hair clumps.
It’s important to remember hair shedding is due to a disruption in the growth-regeneration process, not actual damage to hair. Hair will regrow over time because the follicles from which it first sprouted are still present.
Whether it is caused by COVID-19 infection or not, telogen effluvium hair loss is rarely super serious or permanent. Medical professionals do say that shedding can occur for as long as 6 months after infection. Other studies have shown a much faster recovery time, with more than 90% of patients losing hair for only two months after infection.
If you're still losing hair even after you have recovered from infection, you're likely looking far and wide for ways to mitigate your hair loss and keep hair on your scalp. First, you should ensure you are minimizing any other potential hair loss triggers. This means avoiding using hot hair curling irons, chemical processes such as highlighting, and hairstyles that put tension on your hair.
If you've changed hairstyles and shampoos and are still concerned about hair loss, it may be wise to look into using a nutrient supplement for hair growth. Deficiencies of vitamin D, iron, and vitamin A have been closely linked to significant hair loss and may be the culprit in your situation. While it is often easier said than done, lowering your stress levels can also help keep your hair healthy and strong.
Looking for easy ways to reduce stress? We've listed ten of the most helpful tips here, so you don't have to search for them yourself.
Sometimes, hair loss persists for months despite your best efforts to keep your head healthy. In these cases, you may need to consult with a certified dermatologist who can determine if your hair loss is caused by a skin condition unrelated to COVID-19. Sometimes, COVID-19 infection exacerbates hair loss caused by genetics or other serious infections.
Looking to treat hair loss caused by COVD-19?
One of the most effective and widely available hair loss treatments is the medication finasteride.
Finasteride is a prescription medication that comes in a bottle and works to increase the number of scalp hairs. You can get a prescription for finasteride today from Cloud9 Healthcare and have your medication delivered to your doorstep in just 2-3 days!
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If you have been infected with or are currently dealing with the coronavirus, you may have lost hair on your head or other areas of your body. Fortunately, this hair loss is usually not much to be concerned about and should disappear within a few months. If hair loss resulting from COVID-19 does not disappear, it may be best to consult with a dermatologist, hair specialist, or seek the use of prescription medications such as finasteride.