Tag Archive for: Telogen Effluvium

Why Self-diagnosing Your Hair Loss is a Bad Idea

“When did you graduate from medical school?” my husband asks me on a regular basis.  I didn’t, but I am a self-proclaimed expert in the medical field anyway.  Why wouldn’t my Google education make me highly qualified to diagnose the whole family’s symptoms and illnesses?  Evidently, I’m not the only one self-diagnosing.  A survey conducted in March 2020  indicated that nearly one-third of all Americans do their own medical research. (01)

Being your own doctor can work against you though.  In fact, when I first started losing my hair, I didn’t even think to have it checked.  Based on what I read, postpartum hair loss is normal, and I had two babies in two years.  I would never in a million years have guessed that I had alopecia.  However, knowing what I know now, I do not recommend waiting to consult with a medical professional if you’re noticing an unusual amount of hair loss.  Treating hair loss early helps you prevent further shedding and even regrow your hair.  Here are seven more reasons why you should schedule an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist and hair specialist if you’re concerned about the amount of hair you’re losing. 

Reason #1:  Dermatologists are familiar with hair loss patterns associated with specific hair loss conditions.  

Your dermatologist has spent countless hours studying and memorizing the different types of hair loss.  Many times, just looking at patients’ hair loss patterns gives your dermatologist clues as to where to start with a work-up to get a diagnosis.  Common hair loss conditions and associated patterns are:

  • Androgenic alopecia (men) – Receding hairline and gradual thinning on top
  • Androgenic alopecia (women) – Widening of the part 
  • Alopecia areata – Patchy or circular bald spots on the head, eyebrows, or beard
  • Telogen effluvium – Overall thinning due to sudden hair loss
  • Fungal infection – Scaly patches that spread over the scalp
  • Alopecia totalis – Full-body hair loss

If your dermatologist suspects that you have androgenic alopecia, known as male or female pattern baldness, he or she may use the Norwood scale, a scale of 1 to 7, to track the progression of your hair loss.  The scale helps your dermatologist recommend the best possible treatment options to prevent further hair loss and stimulate growth based on the amount of recession or thinning you have.  

Reason #2:  Your doctor can determine the severity of your hair loss

Losing a certain amount of hair is normal and is part of the hair growth cycle.  How do you know if the amount you’re seeing in the sink or shower is too much?  You don’t.  However, once your dermatologist has an idea of your hair loss pattern, he or she has a number of tools and tests he or she can use to determine the extent of your hair loss.  The most common are:

Pull Test

A pull test is pretty much as the name indicates.  During the test, your doctor will gently tug on small sections of hair from parts of your scalp.  Usually, the litmus test is six or more strands.  If you lose that much, your hair loss is active.  

Scalp Biopsy

A scalp biopsy, also known as a punch biopsy, is often used to determine what type of alopecia you have. It allows pathologists to see inflammation and can distinguish whether the alopecia is scarring or non-scarring.  To take the biopsy, your dermatologist numbs the area and uses a pencil-sized device to remove a small amount of tissue that is sent to a lab for analysis. The incision is closed with a couple of small stitches.   

Trichometric Analysis

If your dermatologist wants to analyze your scalp and hair, he or she may do a trichometric analysis using a small handheld device with a high-definition camera.  The device magnifies images by up to 100 times so your hair, hair follicles, and scalp can be seen in great detail.  The tool shows how much hair is covering your scalp, and the diameter of each hair strand.  Dermatologists often use this camera to monitor progress after you begin treatment.  

Fungal Culture

If your dermatologist suspects that your hair loss is due to a fungus in your hair or scalp, he or she may run this test.  Fungal cultures determine if a condition called tinea capitis, scalp ringworm, is causing your hair loss.  During the test, a small sample of skin or hair is sent to a lab for incubation.   

Reason #3:  Your vitamin levels may need to be checked

Often one of the first questions dermatologists often ask new patients is whether they have recently had a routine blood test.  The reason why is because simple vitamin deficiencies can cause hair loss.  Fortunately, if this is the case, supplements will usually solve the problem quickly and easily.  The two most common vitamin deficiencies that cause hair loss are vitamin D and iron.  

Studies have shown that vitamin D has anti-inflammatory properties and affects the hair cycle. (02)  When your body has a vitamin D deficiency, regulation of the hair follicles is challenging.  Growth and shedding cycles are disrupted causing your hair to suddenly fall out.

Iron deficiency stunts the production of hemoglobin which transports oxygen to the cells in your body, including the cells that make your hair grow.  The hair follicles lack the nutrients they need to thrive.  With an iron deficiency, hair sheds and thins, giving the appearance similar to androgenic alopecia.

 

Reason #4:  Your hormones may be out of whack

 

Your dermatologist may also run blood tests to check for hormonal imbalances.  Hormone imbalances can cause hair to get dry, brittle, thin, or fall out altogether.  The only way to know if this is the case is to have your levels checked.  

Contrary to popular belief, high or low testosterone is not an indicator of hair loss.  Research has continually demonstrated that there is not a link between serum androgen levels and androgenic alopecia. (03)  Instead, male pattern baldness could be linked to an androgen sensitivity or high androgen density. 

Factors that can affect your hormone levels include:   

Menopause

Estrogen levels fall before, during, and after menopause while testosterone levels inversely increase.  During the process, the testosterone converts to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which attacks your hair follicles, and makes your hair fall out.  

Stress

Stress is a bigger contributor to hair loss than most people realize.  When you are stressed out, your body creates cortisol which disrupts the function and regulation of your hair follicles as well as your hair growth cycle.  

Pregnancy

During pregnancy, estrogen levels rise, causing your hair to get fuller and thicker. After the baby is born, however, those levels drop rapidly, making the excess hair shed.  It can take a while for your estrogen levels and hair loss to balance out.  

Thyroid

Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism have been linked to alopecia.  In a 2013 study, patients aged 21-40 with thyroid disfunction were likely to have diffuse alopecia and alopecia areata.  Patients older than 40 were more likely to have alopecia areata and androgenic alopecia. (04)  The findings confirm the importance of checking thyroid levels when there is a hair loss issue.  

Reason #5:  You could have a scalp infection 

A number of scalp infections can cause hair loss.  These infections can easily be confused with various types of alopecia, but once treated, hair typically regrows.  Examples include:

Ringworm

Ringworm is a fungal infection that forms scaly, raised, red patches.  Itching is a common complaint among patients with scalp ringworm and is typically treated with anti-fungal medications.  

Scalp Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes thick red patches, and sometimes scaling.  There isn’t a cure, but proper management can help prevent hair loss.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis causes dandruff in adults, characterized by dry, flaky skin, and typically does not cause hair loss.  Shampoos and topical medications are often recommended. 

Lichen Planus

Lichen planus causes inflammation and can leave tiny red bumps on your scalp.  The cause is not known for certain, although autoimmune dysfunction is one of the possible causes.  Topical creams are often used to treat symptoms, but in many cases, lichen planus will disappear without treatment.  

Your dermatologist has been trained to address and treat all of these infections.

Reason #6:  Sometimes you need an outside perspective

When your dermatologist takes your medical history, he or she may be able to identify bad habits that are affecting your hair and contributing to your hair loss.  Some of these habits may include:

  • Smoking
  • Poor diet filled with processed foods
  • Stress
  • Tight buns, ponytails, braids, or other hairstyles that can pull on your hair and cause traction alopecia
  • Compulsively pulling on your hair (trichotillomania)

Reason #7:  The most effective medications are only available by prescription

Hair loss products are similar to skincare products in that very few over-the-counter (OTC) products are truly effective.  If you have a graveyard of barely or partially used tubes and containers under your bathroom sink, you get the picture.  The reality is that besides Minoxidil which is sold OTC as Rogaine in a 5 percent formula, you’re wasting your money on OTC hair loss products.  You’ll need a doctor to write a prescription.  Some of the most effective and widely used prescription hair loss medications that your doctor may prescribe are:

Minoxidil

Designed to enlarge the hair follicles and prevent miniaturization.  Used to treat a broad spectrum of hair loss conditions.  

  • Sold OTC in foam and liquid formulas
  • Available by prescription in higher dose pills and topical formulas

Finasteride

Prevents testosterone from converting to DHT, which attacks the hair follicles and causes hair loss.  Often used to treat male and female pattern hair loss.  

  • Available only by prescription
  • Reported sexual side effects such as lower libido by some users
  • Used by both men and women, but not recommended for women of childbearing age
  • Topical formula is proven to be equally as effective as the pill without the undesirable side effects since it is not systemic.  

Retinol

A derivative of Vitamin A that improves the absorption of Minoxidil, Finasteride, and other medications that stimulate hair growth.

  • Typically not used as a stand-alone hair loss solution
  • Low OTC doses not as potent as prescription doses

Spironolactone

A DHT blocker used to treat female pattern hair loss.

  • Available only by prescription
  • Safe for women who have not been through menopause

When to see a doctor

In a 2015 study conducted by the National Library of Medicine, nearly one-third of people surveyed reported avoiding the doctor, even those with major health problems. (05)  The result was later detection, reduced survival rates, and more suffering than necessary.  You won’t die if your hair falls out, but why lose your hair if you don’t have to?  If you are experiencing hair loss, be sure to seek medical treatment from a licensed dermatologist.   Early medical intervention not only prevents further hair loss but in many cases, can help you regrow your hair.  

If you have hair loss concerns and if accessibility and/or affordability is an issue, visit us at happyhead.com.  You will have the opportunity to consult with one of our board-certified dermatologists and hair specialists.  No insurance or co-pay is required.  You only pay for the product if deemed necessary and appropriate.

Resources:

(01) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7084283/#:~:text=Surveys%20suggest%20that%20a%20large,self%2Ddiagnose%20using%20online%20information.

(02) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34553483/

(03) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7432488/

(04) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746235/

(05) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4351276/#:~:text=People%20often%20avoid%20seeking%20medical,survey%20reported%20avoiding%20the%20doctor.&text=Even%20individuals%20with%20major%20health,12%20avoid%20seeking%20medical%20care.

Devastated About Your Hair Loss? Tips to Help You Cope.

 

“It seems to me that being “not okay” is a perfectly acceptable response to this unwanted, unannounced situation.  There’s nothing wrong with feeling “not okay” on some days or in some situations.  We are grieving the loss of our hair, the loss of our identity, the loss of our sense of self, and the loss of our confidence.”

– Sarah, Member of Alopecia Areata, Find a Cure (01)

In January of 2020, Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley made an announcement with a video that she has alopecia.  Much like Jada Pinkett Smith, Pressley is in the public eye and tried to hide her condition as long as she could.  Pressley decided that she was done hiding.  She took off her wig and shared her story.  The video helped Pressley make peace with her condition.  Coming forward helped Pinkett Smith in a similar way.  “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends,” said Pinkett Smith.  

Alopecia may not be life-threatening, but it’s upsetting no matter what type you have.  Whether you have androgenic alopecia, alopecia areata, telogen effluvium, or any other kind of alopecia, men and women go through a similar grieving process when losing their hair. (02)   

Society’s expectations of what’s attractive don’t make it easy to accept your hair loss.  Somehow we can talk about sex, curse, and even be openly rude to each other, but revealing that you’re balding or completely bald is shocking and newsworthy.    

So how do you get to the point when you’re “okay” when it feels like you never will be?  We asked Rachel, one of our staff writers with lichen planopilaris, an autoimmune alopecia, how she got there. 

Q.  How did you find out that you had alopecia?

When my son was about one and a half, I noticed a lot of hair in the shower and sink. My hairline also started to recede on one side.  I had just had two babies back-to-back, and I figured that my hair was falling out from the hormonal changes.  I thought it would grow back.

Then, during a routine visit to the dermatologist, I had my doctor take a look.  He took a biopsy, which I thought was overkill for a slight hormonal imbalance, and I didn’t think about it again until I got a phone call.  The call wasn’t from a nurse or an assistant.  The dermatologist called me himself.  I knew right away that the news wasn’t going to be good. 

Q.  How did you react when you found out that you have alopecia?

I remember being really upset and desperately hoping that my dermatologist was wrong.  I was a ballet dancer all of my life and always had my hair back in a ponytail or a bun.  There wasn’t a way to hide the recession, and I wasn’t sure how to make my hair look presentable. 

Q.  How did your alopecia diagnosis affect you emotionally?

It was a tough time.  I hated the way my hair looked, and I kept imagining what I would look like as the rest of it fell out.  

On top of that, I felt guilty about being so vain.  People get all kinds of horrific diseases as they age, yet I was lucky enough only to get something cosmetic.  I didn’t think I had the right to be so upset about my hair.  Looking back, I wish I could tell my younger self that it’s okay to be upset.  It’s a natural part of the healing process.    

Q.  How did you treat your alopecia?  Did it help?

Shortly after I was diagnosed, I found a top dermatologist in my area who specializes in hair loss.  Initially, I was treated with steroid injections (yes, they hurt), topical Clobetesol, five percent Minoxidil, and Tacrolimus.  The goal was to prevent further hair loss and strengthen the surrounding hair.  

My alopecia went into remission for over ten years, but recently flared up again.  My treatment this time around is a bit different.   It’s amazing how much research has been conducted and how much has been learned since I first started on this journey.  My dermatologist added Finasteride to my treatment plan.   Much to my surprise, I’m seeing small areas where hair is growing back.  I didn’t expect that to happen.

Q.  What did you do to get to a better place emotionally when you were feeling down about your hair loss?

I set a time limit to allow myself to be upset.  I gave myself a week and decided that after the week was over, I would let my sadness go and focus on other things.  The time limit gave me power over my emotions and the situation when I didn’t have any control.   

When the lichen planopilaris flared up after being in remission for so long, I regressed a bit.  I wasn’t as upset as I was the first time because I had some experience, but I definitely got emotional.  I had to go through the same process of limiting my grief.  I think emotions tend to ebb and flow with alopecia.  Everyone has to find what works for them when managing those strong emotions.

Q.  A lot of people with alopecia are at a loss about how to style their hair.  What did you do?

I visited my hair salon and got a sassy, short haircut.  I wasn’t sure that I would like short hair, but it’s since become my style.  If my alopecia gets so bad at some point that I have to cut it shorter, I will.  

Ironically, this process has given me confidence and taught me to own my look, whatever that is at the time.  Although it’s not a choice that everyone would make, I found that cutting my hair was liberating. I followed the protocol that my doctor prescribed for me, but I stopped fretting about every hair that I saw in the sink.

Q.  What advice do you have for other men and women who are experiencing hair loss?

Most importantly, find a board-certified dermatologist who you like and respect.  You’re going to need a supportive partner.  If you don’t think you have the right professional on your side, get second opinions until you find the right person.   

Secondly, I’m in a few Facebook groups for people with alopecia and read about how many are apprehensive about testing.   If your dermatologist recommends getting blood work or a biopsy, do it.  The blood test isn’t a big deal, and the biopsy area is small.  Your dermatologist will numb the area.  You won’t feel anything, and the site heals quickly.  The small bit of aggravation is worth knowing if you have a form of alopecia.  You can then move quickly into treatment.  

Lastly, be kind to yourself.  It takes time to come to terms with your hair loss.  If you visit online or in-person support groups, you’ll see that you’re not the only one experiencing alopecia.  Millions of other people are in your boat.  It’s common for people with alopecia to suffer from anxiety or depression. (03) If this is the case for you, don’t hesitate to seek help from a professional therapist or psychologist.  

Healing from the sting of learning that you have a form of alopecia isn’t easy.  Now that we’ve heard Rachel’s story, we would love to hear yours.  What tricks have you used to make yourself feel better emotionally when dealing with alopecia?

Resources:

(01) Name has been changed for confidentiality

(02) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1261195/#ref11

(03) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1261195/#ref11

 

Hair Loss Reversal 101: What You Need to Know

If you’re experiencing hair loss, you’re not alone.  According to the American Hair Loss Association, at least two-thirds of all American men will have noticeable hair loss by the time they turn thirty-five.  Women account for forty percent of all Americans experiencing hair loss. (01) Those numbers are much higher than you thought, right?

Sure, most people expect to get some gray hair, wrinkles, and a few extra pounds as they age, but hair loss?  That’s not usually part of the plan.  We can color our hair, use Botox for our wrinkles, and spend some extra time at the gym.  But what can be done about a receding hairline?  More than you think.

There are Different Types of Hair Loss

The first step is to understand the different types of hair loss.  All hair loss is not the same, so not all hair loss will respond to the same treatment.  We’re here to give you a crash course.

The Term Alopecia Encompasses More Conditions Than Most People Realize

When people think of alopecia, they usually think of alopecia areata, the type that Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley and actress Jada Pinkett Smith have.  However, if you use Dr. Google, you’ll see that WebMD defines alopecia areata as an “autoimmune disorder that causes your hair to come out, often in clumps the size and shape of a quarter.”  The definition is accurate, but not all hair loss is alopecia areata. Alopecia is an umbrella term for many different hair loss conditions.

There’s a Difference Between Non-Scarring and Scarring Alopecia

Alopecia falls under two broad categories:  non-scarring and scarring alopecia. There’s a big difference between the two types.

When people have non-scarring hair loss, their hair just falls out.  No redness, scaling, flaking, itching, or burning occurs. The alopecia can come on fast and furiously, leaving people holding clumps of hair in their hands, or gradually over a long period of time.

Scarring alopecia is a different story.  Also known as cicatricial alopecia, scarring alopecia is an inflammatory condition that occurs in otherwise healthy people. The hair follicle is destroyed and replaced with scar tissue.  The hair loss can happen over time and go unnoticed, or it can happen quickly, causing symptoms such as severe itching and burning. (02)  Speed is essential when it comes to treating scarring alopecias.  The goal is to slow or stop further hair loss and promote hair regrowth in unaffected areas.

What Type of Alopecia Do You Have?

Many different types of hair loss fall under the categories of non-scarring and scarring alopecia.  Once you know what type you have, your dermatologist will work with you to develop a treatment plan.

Examples of Non-scarring Alopecia

Telogen Effluvium

Telogen Effluvium is a form of temporary hair loss caused by stress, severe chronic illness, high fever, childbirth, thyroid disorders, major surgery, dieting, certain medications, etc.  Telogen Effluvium usually resolves itself over time.

Androgenic Alopecia

Also known as male and female pattern baldness, androgenic alopecia is a genetic condition experienced by up to 50 percent of men and women. (03)  Experts believe that pattern baldness is due to an excessive androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT) response which causes hair follicles to miniaturize.  When the hair follicles shrink, hair loss occurs.  Androgenic alopecia typically causes frontal hair loss in men and diffuse hair loss at the crown and top of women’s heads.

Alopecia Areata

If your hair falls out in clumps around the size and shape of a quarter, you may have alopecia areata.  This condition is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when your body attacks its own hair follicles.  With alopecia areata, hair loss is unpredictable and can happen anywhere on your body.  Sometimes the condition resolves itself.  However, it can also reoccur without notice.  Many research studies are currently underway to understand the cause and effective treatment. (04)

Traction Alopecia  

Constant pulling on hair due to tight ponytails, buns, braids, cornrows or dreadlocks, hair extensions, weaves, and more can cause traction alopecia.  This condition, that’s common among actresses and models, can cause small bumps that resemble pimples.  Fortunately, traction alopecia can be reversed if you stop pulling your hair back.

Examples of Scarring Alopecia

Lichen Planopilaris

Lichen Planopilaris is the most common type of scarring alopecia.  Although it can affect both genders, lichen planopilaris is more likely to affect women aged 40 to 60 than men. (05)  Redness, itching, burning, and tenderness can accompany frontal or other pattern hair loss.

Central Centrifugal Cicatrical Alopecia (CCCA)

CCCA is found almost exclusively among black women aged 30 to 55 year-old.  The cause is still unknown and is being researched.  Women who experience CCCA experience inflammation and associated hair loss in the crown area. (06)

Effective Hair Loss Treatment Complements Your Diagnosis

After your dermatologist determines the cause of your hair loss, he or she will discuss treatment options with you.  Keep in mind that hair reversal treatments are not one-size-fits-all.  In some cases, “cocktails” which combine specific medications and protocols may be needed. Just to give you an idea of what’s out there, here are some of the most frequently used medications and treatments:

Minoxidil (Rogaine)

Minoxidil, also known as Rogaine, is available over-the-counter as a topical foam and liquid and by prescription as an oral pill.  Minoxidil is a vasodilator reduces miniaturization of the hair follicles and elongates the growth phase.

Minoxidil has proven to promote growth among men and women with male and female pattern hair loss.  Minoxidil is also often recommended to patients with scarring alopecia to promote growth in unaffected areas.

Once you start using Minoxidil, you need to continue. When you stop using the medication, any new hair that grows will most likely be shed.

Finasteride (Propecia, Proscar)

Finasteride is a 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor originally designed to treat enlarged prostates.  The medication, available both as a pill and a topical solution, blocks the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that inhibits hair growth.

Clinical studies have found Finasteride to be highly effective in reversing hair loss in both men and women with scarring and non-scarring alopecias. (0708)  Topical Finasteride is often used to treat androgenic alopecia, while oral is typically recommended for scarring alopecias.

Finasteride is only available by prescription and is not recommended for women of childbearing age.  Check with a board-certified dermatologist to see if you are a good candidate for the topical or oral treatment.

Corticosteroids

Topical or injected steroids are often used to treat hair loss that is induced by autoimmune diseases such as alopecia areata and lichen planopilaris.  The corticosteroids allow hair to grow by inhibiting the autoimmune disease.

Steroid treatments are only available by prescription and should be surprised by a qualified dermatologist.

Platelet-rich Plasma (PRP) Injections

PRP injections have become a popular treatment for healing wounds and regrowing tissue such as tendons, ligaments, and muscles.

PRP has regenerative properties and has been primarily tested on patients with androgenetic alopecia. (09)  When injected into the scalp, PRP is believed to stimulate hair growth by increasing blood flow to the hair follicles and increasing the size of the hair shaft.

As the name suggests, PRP injections are made from platelets derived from your blood.  Blood is first drawn, and then spun at super high speeds to separate the blood components.  The resulting plasma is highly concentrated.

PRP use is still in its early stages and can be expensive.  Research also indicates that PRP is most effective when used with Minoxidil, Finasteride, and other hair growth treatments.

Biotin

Biotin, also known as Vitamin B7 or Vitamin H, has become a familiar hair growth supplement.  Sold in supplements or as an ingredient in hair care products, Biotin is promoted as a way to make your hair grow longer and healthier.

Does it work?  Well, the jury is out.  Not enough research has been conducted to say yeah or nay. (10)  It won’t hurt you to try a new shampoo that contains Biotin, but there’s no evidence to indicate that it will help.  Biotin deficiency is rare. (11)  Most people get adequate amounts through their regular diets.

Many Biotin supplements sold are not FDA approved, and high concentrations of Biotin can interfere with the results of some lab tests. (12) As with any oral supplement, check with your doctor before testing it out.

Hair Transplants

Hair transplant procedures and techniques continue to improve over time.  Rather than using noticeable plugs, today’s surgeries move hair strips or carefully selected hairs from one area to another to promote growth that looks natural.

When determining whether a patient is an ideal candidate for a hair transplant, dermatologists consider several factors, including:

  • Type of hair loss
  • Degree and pattern of baldness
  • Patient age
  • Hair color
  • Donor hair density
  • Patient expectations

Although hair transplants are expensive and time-consuming, they are an effective, reliable, and safe way to get lasting results.

It’s Important to Set Realistic Expectations When Treating Alopecia

We’re fortunate to live during a time when hair loss research is prolific, and the list of hair replacement options is growing.  Whether you’re 25 or 55, you don’t have to live with bald spots, a receding hairline, or thinning hair, even if your genetics or immune system are working against you.

The first step is to find a board-certified dermatologist and hair specialist you trust and get diagnosed.  He or she will help you select the right treatment option for your type of alopecia and lifestyle.  Remember to set realistic expectations for your hair regrowth.  Treatments don’t work overnight, so be patient and track your progress over time.  After all, small signs of stubble today can lead to a fuller head of hair tomorrow.

Resources:

(01) https://www.americanhairloss.org/

(02) https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/cicatricial-alopecia

(03) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/

(04) https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/types/alopecia

(05) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470325/

(06) https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/fullarticle/2768748

(07) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4809380/

(08) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9951956/

(09) https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/platelet-rich-plasma-does-the-cure-for-hair-loss-lie-within-our-blood-2020051119748

(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5582478/

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5582478/

(12) https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/safety-communications/update-fda-warns-biotin-may-interfere-lab-tests-fda-safety-communication

The Surprising Connection Between Covid and Hair Loss

You’re in the shower, look down, and notice the drain is filled with hair.  Is that mine, or is it my partner’s?  Did the kids use my shower?  Where is all of that hair coming from?  Then, you notice something even worse.  The hair on the side of your head is so thin that it looks like you’re going bald.  What in the world is happening?  

As if dealing with constant fatigue, brain fog, and other Covid long-term effects isn’t enough, if you had Covid-19, you might be experiencing Covid related hair-loss.  Hair loss due to Covid can begin two to three months after having the virus and typically lasts about six months.  Although the CDC doesn’t talk about hair loss as an adverse effect, observational research conducted by leading dermatologists and hair specialists indicates that post-Covid hair loss is real. (01) Both men and women are affected.  

Covid-induced Hair Loss Can Be Significant

While thankful to be alive and regaining their health, many Covid long haulers are left trying to figure out why they’re shedding and how to stop it.  Dr. Ben Behnam, board-certified dermatologist, and owner of Dermatology and Hair Restoration located in Los Angeles, California, has seen many patients with Covid-induced hair loss in his office.  “I had a female patient in my office a few months ago who was 21 and lost 50 to 60 percent of her hair,” said Behnam.  “It was devastating for her.”  Some who have recovered from Covid report losses of as much as 70-80 percent of their hair. (02)

Covid’s Shocking Effects on Your Hair

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the actual Covid virus doesn’t make your hair fall out.  The culprit is the fever that’s associated with the virus. (03)  A high fever can shock your system causing a condition called Telogen Effluvium.  Childbirth, major surgery, crash diets, and some medications also cause the condition.

Telogen Effluvium, the most common cause of diffuse hair loss, occurs when hair prematurely goes into a resting (telogen) phase.  Your hair sheds faster than normal when this happens, resulting in thinning hair or bald spots.  

Anything that puts stress on your body can cause Telogen Effluvium.  The condition is common after a significant health-related event.    

Losing your hair can be depressing, no matter what the reason.  There’s good news though.  Telogen Effluvium is temporary.  Typically, patients will find that their hair sheds for about six to nine months, then it stops.  While the wait may seem like forever, your hair will grow back.

How to Cope with Covid-induced Telogen Effluvium

It’s not unusual to feel powerless when you don’t have control over your hair loss and don’t feel like yourself. If you are experiencing Covid-related Telogen Effluvium, here are four tips to help you get your mojo back as you wait for your hair to grow:

1. Visit your dermatologist 

If you’re wondering whether you have Telogen Effluvium from Covid or another hair condition, a visit to your dermatologist will give you peace of mind.  Patients who get Telogen Effluvium as a result of Covid don’t typically experience itching, redness, scaling, or other side effects like patients who have other forms of alopecia (04) such as alopecia areata and lichen planopilaris.  If you have any of these symptoms, your dermatologist can give you a firm diagnosis to help you get on the right track and continue to recover.

2.  Try your best to relax

Getting Covid is scary.  Recovering from Covid is tough.  Losing your hair is upsetting and stressful.  You have been through a lot.  Although it’s not easy, do whatever you can to decompress, whether that’s yoga, meditation, listening to the Calm app, or even taking a brisk walk.  

Stress relief is crucial because stress triggers hair loss.  “When your scalp muscles tense, you constrict your blood vessels so that the blood doesn’t flow to your scalp,” said Benham.  So if you’re experiencing Telogen Effluvium from Covid and anxiety simultaneously, hair growth is going to be inhibited even more with both conditions.

3.  Eat for Nutritional Value

The cleaner you eat, the better, shinier… just more gorgeous hair you will have,” Benham explains.  In addition to minimizing processed foods, he recommends increasing the amount of protein in your diet since your hair is made up of protein.  Cashews, nuts, avocado, and organic, grass-fed chicken are all good choices.  He also recommends pure whey protein concentrate.  

You should always ensure that your vitamin levels are where they should be, but doing so is especially important after recovering from Covid.  Iron and vitamin D deficiencies are common contributors to hair loss.  

4.  Experiment with new hairstyles and make-up

Members of Facebook’s Covid-19 Long Hauler Group report feeling more confident after a make-over.  Some have shaved their heads, but others are sporting cute bobs and pixie cuts.  Perhaps it’s time to do some experimenting.  You may even fall in love with your new look.

If you had Covid and are currently experiencing hair loss, don’t despair.  Many Covid long haulers report that their hair grew back thicker and healthier than before (05).  Growth will be gradual, so don’t expect miracles right away.  You may not even realize that your hair is starting to grow.  Meanwhile, stay calm, make sure that you’re living the healthiest lifestyle you can, and do whatever it takes to make yourself feel confident.  Better hair days are right around the corner. 

Resources:

(01) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34467470/

(02)  Facebook:  Covid-19 The Long Haulers Support Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/373920943948661/

(03) https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/causes/covid-19

(04) https://consultqd.clevelandclinic.org/covid-19-related-hair-loss/

(05) Facebook:  Covid-19 The Long Haulers Support Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/373920943948661/