Why Does Hair Loss Happen After Covid? How to Treat It?
Long-term side effects of Covid-19 have left many people concerned and confused. From the loss of smell and taste to brain fog and fatigue, the list of possible Covid-19 side effects seems to be never-ending. Among these devastating side effects, excessive hair fall after Covid-19 is one of the most alarming. The good news is that hair loss after Covid-19 is short-lived in most circumstances.
The connection between hair fall cause and Covid-19 is explained below.
Hair Loss After Covid-19
The type of hair loss seen post-Covid-19 is usually telogen effluvium, a condition in which there's prolonged hair shedding in response to a sudden stressor. Patients who have recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection may experience hair loss while washing their hair or during their daily combings. To understand the hair fall cause, it's important to first learn about the hair growth cycle.
Around 90% of scalp hair is in a growth phase, referred to as anagen, and about 10% of hairs are in a resting phase, referred to as telogen. Anagen lasts for around 3 years on the scalp, and then the hair starts transitioning into telogen, which lasts between 2 to 6 months. It is at the end of telogen that hair is shed from their follicles.
However, when an individual experiences a stressful event like Covid-19 infection, a higher proportion of growing anagen hairs shift into a resting and shedding telogen phase, resulting in excessive hair fall or widespread shredding. This happens because the individual deals not only with the physical stress caused by the illness but also the mental anxiety of being diagnosed with the virus.
How Soon Does Hair Shedding Begin?
According to a recent study, excessive hair fall after a Covid-19 infection can begin a little sooner than average. Instead of 3 months from the triggering element, it may be nearer to 2 months. Other surveys have also revealed quick recovery, around 2 to 3 months compared to 6 months on average.
How Long Does Covid-19 Hair Loss Last?
In most telogen effluvium cases, it takes about 3 to 6 months for the patients to recover. After this period, hair will slowly reach its pre-shed status. Telogen effluvium does not cause any damage to the patient's hair follicles. While hair may not grow immediately, the hair follicles are still present, which means all hair will grow back. However, patients may observe that their hair is not as thick as before. This is mainly due to slow hair growth. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, most patients see their hair regain its fullness within 6 to 9 months.
In very few cases, patients may experience chronic telogen effluvium, where excessive hair fall can last for more than 6 months. This condition is usually a symptom for long Covid patients because their bodies are undergoing a greater amount of stress. However, patients will not lose all of their hair as telogen hairs' proportion never goes beyond 50%.
Treatment Options for Covid-19 Hair Loss
Any hair loss treatment takes time and patience. Medication is not recommended during an acute phase. Most of the time, patients recover on their own. However, therapies and medicine may be required for hair fall treatment if the shedding continues after 4 to 6 months of onset. In the case of chronic telogen effluvium, it is suggested to undergo medical therapies to reduce shedding and augment hair growth.
Excessive hair fall can be a great emotional stressor, contributing to hair loss if it's not managed. Patients must monitor their progress at home and engage in breathing exercises or meditation to manage their stress. Lowering stress levels can also be useful in helping normal hair function resume more consistently.
To avoid the risk of losing more hair, it is best to avoid heat styling and intense chemical processes like straightening and highlighting. Tight hairstyles that put tension on the hair should also be avoided. It is also important to ensure that the body does not have any nutrient deficiency (Vitamin D and iron deficiency) as it can exacerbate the situation. Practicing home remedies for hair growth can help to a great extent.
The connection between dermatologic symptoms (that affect the hair and skin) and Covid-19 remains a little unclear. Researchers are still learning in real time about things that occur after the vaccine or the virus. However, if you are experiencing post-Covid hair loss, it is best to reach out to your dermatologist to find the root cause of your hair loss and find the right solution for you!