Covid-19 took the world and left in its wake many long-term symptoms that linger even months after the victim has recovered from the initial Covid-19 sickness. The long-term side effects vary between people. Some experience all of the symptoms and some make a full recovery with little to no lasting side effects. Hair loss as a result of a Covid-19 infection affects many of those that thought they have made a full recovery. Months after the initial infections, people will find clumps of hair coming out with daily brushing and grooming or while washing hair in the shower. Hair loss like this is telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium as a result of Covid-19 will typically happen approximately 3 months after the infection of the virus.
Before one can fully understand the hair loss associated with Covid-19, one must first have a basic understanding of the cycle of hair growth. There are three distinct phases associated with hair growth and the many different hair follicles will be in one of the three phases at any given point in time.
Anagen: The hair follicle grows
Catagen: This is a transition phase and the hair follicle will stop growing
Telogen: In this phase, the follicle rests in place for two to three months until it sheds.
Hair follicles are abruptly pushed into the telogen (resting phase) and will typically start shedding and falling out 2-3 months after an event that stresses the body like Covid-19
At any given point, 5-10% of the follicles on the head are in the resting phase of hair growth. A stressful event, such as a COVID-19 infection, can cause the body to move into the anagen phase. “Instead of the usual 10 percent of hairs that are in the resting and shedding phase, up to 50 percent of hairs are resting and shedding, which is much more than normal,” says Powell Perng, MD, a dermatologist and specialist in hair loss (alopecia) at the University of Utah Health.
Triggers of Telogen effluvium can include:
Quick and excessive weight loss
Carrying high loads of stress (divorce, loss of a loved one, or caring for an ailing family member)
Viral infections (Covid-19)
While studies are still ongoing to understand and minimize the long-term effects of Covid-19, some show immediate results and links. In 2020, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology shared findings that showed over a 400% increase of telogen effluvium (Covid Hair) in a New York City neighborhood.
Covid Hair: How Long Will It Last?
The good news is that Covid Hair in most cases is not long-lasting or permanent. Excessive shedding due to Telogen effluvium can last from three to six months. According to Dr. Helena Kuhn, the hair growth cycle and its phases will normalize and level out. While Covid hair impacts should regain its fullness between six and nine months after the initial shedding, Dr. Kuhn also shares that it could take up to one to two years to fully regain a pre-shed status.
Halting Covid Hair:
There are no magic fixes to stop Covid hair. The first solution is to be patient and allow your body to do what it does best: heal and level itself out. An additional step you can take is to practice healthy hair habits to encourage growth and healthy hair follicles as each follicle transitions from one phase to the next in the growth cycle.
Take steps with hair care that will minimize any more hair loss.
Avoid excessive heat from tools that style the hair
Avoid chemical treatments such as hair coloring or chemical straighteners
Avoid tight hairstyles that put tension on the hair and its roots
Avoid high-stress situations. Lowering stress levels can help normalize the hair growth cycle.
There is no steadfast way to stop Covid Hair from happening but there are a few proven ways to encourage healthy new growth.
Just as your body and skin need a balanced diet to work efficiently, the same is true for hair growth. Be sure you are ingesting, whether through food or through supplements, the following vitamins, and minerals.
Protein (meat, fish, eggs, and dairy)
Iron (shellfish, spinach, and legumes)
Vitamin D (salmon, tuna, and dairy fortified with Vitamin D)
Vitamin C (citrus fruits, bell peppers, and tomatoes)
Zinc (legumes, seafood, and nuts)
Folic acid (dark green leafy veggies, fruit, and whole grains)
Vitamin B12 (meat, fish, milk, cheese, and eggs)
Mitigating and combating stress can also help promote hair growth. You can try:
Get 7-8 hours of sleep at night
Not all hair loss that comes after Covid-19 is a result of telogen effluvium. In some rare instances, there are underlying hair loss conditions like alopecia areata. A Covid-19 infection can trigger these underlying conditions. If you suspect hair loss could be from an underlying condition, reach out to your physician or health care provider.
The hair is the crown you wear every day. Your hair is a part of self-identity and brings great stress and self-image concerns when it falls out, but the good news is hair loss from Covid-19 is temporary in most cases. Be patient with your body and love your hair through the loss. Treat your hair gently and use products like Phil’s Better Hair Growth Oil that can nurture current hair follicles and encourage new growth.