By Ana Snyder, M.S., Exercise Physiology; CPT, FNS
Doctors are noticing more and more patients experiencing hair loss after recovering from coronavirus. Experts believe that the stress that comes from a case of COVID-19 may result in a type of temporary hair loss known as telogen effluvium. With job uncertainty, financial impact, face masks, and social distancing, these are undoubtedly stressful times. By understanding the full effects stress can have on coronavirus survivors’ hair loss and finding ways to manage stress, you can begin to take back control.
By now, you’re probably familiar with all the common symptoms of COVID-19. But there are other symptoms and side effects that are deeply concerning to many people. Several months into the coronavirus pandemic, doctors are seeing a rise in patients with hair loss.
Currently, there’s no evidence linking hair loss directly to coronavirus. Instead, doctors believe that the extreme stress that occurs with a case of COVID-19 could be to blame. A reversible form of hair loss known as telogen effluvium is having a big impact on coronavirus survivors.
Telogen effluvium is a type of alopecia. The average person loses about one hundred hairs every day; it’s normal. There’s a shift in the hair growth cycle in a person with telogen effluvium, which results in hair loss. When your body experiences shock or stress, it can push more hair into the telogen phase, also known as the resting phase. As less hair grows and more rests, you may lose as many as three hundred hairs per day.
Telogen effluvium can occur several months after a stressful event. When your body experiences a shock, you have to deal with physical and emotional stress. Your body is smart, so during a time of extreme shock, it focuses on the essentials. Hair growth is not essential. This is why you may end up with hair loss. Other triggers of telogen effluvium include:
First, you may notice thinning on the scalp with an unusual amount of hair collecting on the bathroom floor. You will find that more hair is falling out, especially when brushing and washing.
Hair loss is a very emotional condition. It can cause a ton of anxiety in and of itself. The good news is that your hair will likely grow back, and for most people, the condition is temporary and reversible.
As you already know, hair growth is slow. Your hair should eventually grow back, but there’s no quick fix, unfortunately. In general, it takes about six months to one year for your hair to grow back.
Coping with hair loss is tough. Although you begin to treat the physiological signs of hair loss, it’s important to address the psychological impact. When you lose your hair, even temporarily, it can massively affect your confidence. So it’s a good idea to speak to a close friend or professional to share how you’re feeling. Understanding that your hair should grow back is an essential part of dealing with hair loss.
Treatment for telogen effluvium really depends on what is triggering the hair loss in the first place. In the case of high-stress events like contracting COVID-19 and living in a pandemic, finding out how to handle stress and manage anxiety is often a good starting point.
In addition to stress-reduction techniques, try to avoid harsh products on your hair and scalp. Avoid wearing tight hairstyles and focus on eating healthy, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep. Wash your hair carefully to avoid big clumps falling out. Other medical issues can also contribute to your hair loss, so seeking professional medical treatment could support your hair regrowth journey.
Finding ways to manage anxiety and lower stress can be useful in supporting your hair regrowth process. Here are four ways to ease stress and feel more relaxed.
Yoga is a mind-body practice that can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. A yoga session usually includes poses, controlled breathing, and meditation. All of this can be great for stress management. Mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques use a combination of yoga and meditation to restore harmony and balance.
Getting outside to soak up nature and breathe some fresh hair can do wonders for your stress levels. Research shows that a stroll in the forest helps combat depression, calm nerves, and reduce anxiety.
Massage is a popular way to relieve muscle tension, promote relaxation, and boost energy. However, you don’t always need to visit a professional masseuse to reap the benefits. Even just a few self-massage minutes throughout the day can help to ease worries and increase focus. For tense feet, try using a tennis ball to relieve tension.
It’s important to find ways to handle stress that work for you. Something as small as enjoying a hot bath can help your muscles to relax. The heat can relieve tight muscles and set you up for a deeper night’s sleep.
Hair loss itself causes more stress, which magnifies the current situation. For most patients, the condition should be temporary. But it still takes months to regrow hair and feel like yourself again. The long-term effects of the coronavirus are still unfolding as doctors continue to find out more information about the disease. By focusing on ways to lower your stress levels, your hair regrowth cycle should return to normal after your stress levels go back down. If your hair loss is down to high anxiety and stress, there’s every chance your hair will return to its original length, fullness, and volume.