Working from home, face-masks and zoom meetings marked some novelty moments during the pandemic, from unexpected zoom meeting guests (this one is for you mums with young babies) to Maskne (acne caused by wearing a mask). It’s been a learning experience for us all.
With it being over a year since the outbreak, we are now able to understand more about the virus and in particular its relation to hair loss. A recent study has suggested that “asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection is a risk factor for the development of acute telogen effluvium” (Moreno-Arrones et al., 2021) in other words, patients who had contracted the virus were at a higher risk of developing temporary hair loss (telogen effluvium), even if the case was only mild or symptomless. In another study it was reported that 28% of patients recovering from COVID-19 experienced alopeciathat improved over time (Xiong et al., 2021). The number was particularly high amongst women.
So does COVID-19 cause hair loss?
The answer is no, not directly. It is the stress that the body undergoes that causes hair loss, whether it’s physical or psychological. When fighting infection or disease the body uses a lot of energy. Our bodies go into survival mode and direct all their resources to fighting that disease. It takes energy stores from non-vital functions such as our nails and hair, thus causing increased hair fall or temporary hair loss.
This form of hair loss is called telogen effluvium, where majority of your hair follicles immediately go into resting phase, where they stay for about 2-3 months before beginning to fall out in large numbers. This is the reason why people recovering from COVID19 don’t see hair loss immediately, but a few months into their recovery. Normal hair sheds on average 100-150 hairs a day, whereas telogen effluvium causes 300 hairs or more to fall out a day. This increased shedding for some people can cause additional stress creating a vicious cycle of hair loss.
You don’t need to have suffered from the virus to experience stress related hair loss or hair thinning. During the pandemic there were increasing numbers of men and women in lockdown who were reporting excess shedding, which we know can occur due to increased levels of the stress hormone Cortisol (Choi et al.,2021). With high unemployment rates, uncertainty and not being able to leave the house it was a difficult time for many. Highly stressful events can, like illness, also lead to telogen effluvium, so some of the more distressing features of the pandemic, like losing a job or losing a loved one, is likely to have lead to this form of hair loss in many people as well.
One conclusion we can make is that COVID-19 has been a major trigger for telogen effluvium.
Can your hair make a full recovery?
The answer is yes! One great thing about our bodies is their ability to heal as soon as we are better. When it comes to stress related hair loss or telogen effluvium, the hair growth cycle will return back to normal as soon as stress hormones settle or the illness has passed. The normal regrowth phase can be anywhere from 6 months to a year, however we can help the recovery process by eating a balanced diet and ensuring our bodies receive all the right nutrients like zinc, iron and B vitamins for healthy hair growth.
If 6 months to a year is too long for you. You can always use the right products to help lengthen and thicken your hair, like any of our évolis® Professional 3-step systems. Our products take a holistic approach to promoting longer, stronger, healthier hair.