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The Surprising Connection Between Covid and Hair Loss

Covid related 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/