Does COVID cause hair loss? The short answer is yes! As a clinical trichologist, I have encountered an influx of diffuse shedding concerns from April 2020 to the current day, and there are more and more people sharing their disdain over the lost clumps of hair with the hashtag #covidhairloss.
Let’s see what the connection between COVID and hair loss is and how you should deal with the issue.
Why Hair Shedding Happens
Let’s back up a little, and see what happens to the body during periods of illness, stress, and shock. Think of your body as a huge manufacturing plant, producing everything from hormones to excreting waste. When one of the manufacturing lines, in this instance the virus COVID-19, interrupts or disrupts the manufacturing line/the body’s natural equilibrium (homeostasis), the body makes a choice and stops feeding its Z – organs, the ones we can live without, to maintain the main organs – A, such as the heart and lungs.
So, if the energy is being redirected to protect the fundamentals of our inner mechanisms, the Z, or lesser important organs such as skin hair and nails are halted. A bit like turning the lights off at home to save energy! The lights don’t become obsolete, but once they are not needed and the energy is saved, then so be it.
Now you may understand a touch better why hair loss happens when infection, illness or even stress affects the body. Our body is redirecting energy to its main manufacturing needs, aka keeping you breathing and beating. The same hair shedding, or telogen effluvium according to its medical term, happens after childbirth, an operation, or trauma.
If we need to direct energy, hormones or antidotes, in the case of COVID-19, the body will disrupt the balance and direct these to help the A organs fight the cause. This is why the blood analysis and the disruption of the balance that doctors spot in the blood analysis allows determining a correct diagnosis and swift treatment pathway.
Hair Loss After COVID-19
Back to shedding, we tend to notice the “shed” around 3 months after people recover from COVID-19. This is due to the hair coming out of its natural growth cycle and slipping out of the little sheaths that grow and protect our hair shafts as they evolve. These hairs that fall out are very likely to already have a new hair growing in this dermal growth pocket, called a follicle.
Everyone is unique and has a different growth cycle, and hairs shed and grow naturally according to a predisposition that is affected by things such as age, and hormones. Because we can have around 100,000 hairs, it’s normally virtually unnoticeable; those fallen hairs are replaced by brand new hairs that grow from the same follicle. Some growth cycles can be as short as a year, some as long as 9 years. You will see this from long you can grow your hair without the very ends or the bottom lengths looking finer than say the mid-length.
The disruption of the growth cycle due to Coronavirus makes strands come to the shedding phase all at once, this is why losing hair after COVID-19 is quick and abrupt. This hair loss is not permanent, but it is noticeable, and it takes time for new hairs to grow from the follicle. Mind that noticeable hair loss causes much stress, which can further promote stress-related hair loss. This is why it is so important not to panic over post-COVID hair loss. Here is what you should do instead.
What to Do If You Are Losing Hair After COVID
If COVID-19 had a high toll on your hair, the key response should be patience, patience, and more patience. Imagine you just have to grow out those bangs or a bad haircut. Hair grows approximately 15cm a year, and some people have slower growth phases, so it’s going to take months to regain the density you have lost.
Try popular hair regrowth methods, but set realistic expectations. No amount of oil from the gods will make it grow quicker than your DNA cell renewal allows, and we certainly can’t clone our hair (no, it’s not that it is not possible today, but still out of reach for the general public). Also, consider getting haircuts more frequently to thicken the areas left finer or go shorter to give back some bounce to your hair.
NUTRITION is another key to growing hair and improving the overall health, your entire manufacturing plant. A well-balanced diet is the cornerstone of all things healthy; supplementation is fine, but it is not a replacement. If you are on a strict diet or have dietary needs or preferences, look for professional guidance on the subject, your body will thank you in the end, and so will your hair.
Let’s not forget that trichologists take the holistic approach to our patients’ needs, and sometimes those needs are lifestyle-induced or environmental effects! For more help and guidance, here is a list of worldwide organizations you can approach to find a trichologist near you:
- World Trichology Society (WTS)
- International Association of Trichologists (IAT)
- The Association of Registered Trichologists (ART)
After all, why not take this time of “hair awareness” and really get some great advice and styling tips from a trichologist and an experienced stylist, especially one that understands the sensitives surrounding hair loss and shedding! You are welcome to follow East Coast Trichology and reach out to me for tips and guidance.