Since July this year, the number of reports of people losing massive chunks of hair months after surviving the coronavirus has been on the rise. Although there’s no known direct link between hair loss and COVID-19 infection for now; scientists have pointed to stress induced by the virus as the main cause of this phenomenon.
This article seeks to explain everything you need to know about the coronavirus and hair loss. Also, we’ll share 5 ways you can cope with this distressing change.
The Human Hair
Hair strands may not be a living thing per se, but they have a life cycle just like living entities. When a strand ‘grows old’ or gets to the end of its life cycle, it falls off.
But because the average healthy scalp contains close to 100,000 to 150,000 hairs. It won’t easily show on your head when you lose about 50 to 100 strands – normal shedding range – per day. Besides, when old hair falls out, within 3 weeks, the empty follicles grow brand new hairs as replacements, so the hair loss isn’t apparent.
The exception to the rule is when people start thinning. In this case, the follicles are too weak to produce new hair to replace what they are losing.
The Link between the Coronavirus and Unusual Hair Loss
At this time, since there is no evidence suggesting that COVID-19 directly causes hair loss, doctors have linked the massive shedding to stress which is a well-known culprit in most hair loss cases.
Experiencing the nerve-racking symptoms – from diagnosis to treatment, and even the intense fear of the disease before infection have put a lot of COVID survivors under great physical and emotional stress.
In addition, when a person is extremely stressed out, it can cause “telogen effluvium” – a temporary hair loss condition.
Most times, telogen effluvium doesn’t happen immediately after the stressful event, it usually happens about 4 months after. Also, the shedding is not limited to one region like the male pattern baldness. Every part of the head loses hair.
Other events that could cause severe stress which leads to a telogen phase are major surgery, high fever, or weight loss (most of which are also symptoms of COVID). So when the telogen effluvium condition occurs, it disrupts the cycle of hair growth.
At any given time, the human hair undergoes three life cycles phases: 90 percent of hairs are in a growing phase, 5 percent are resting while 10 percent are shedding.
When you undergo a major stressful situation, the shock will speed up about 50 percent of your hair to the shedding stage. But due to the nature of the hair growth circle, it can take about 3-4 months after your ‘shocking’ period, before the actual shedding starts to take place.
Managing Hair Loss after COVID
In normal hair shedding, you’re supposed to lose about 100 strands in a day. But telogen effluvium can make you lose around 300 hairs per day and for 6 months straight.
While the situation is extremely depressing and may have you searching for hair regrowth products and supplements, doctors have warned that these solutions are rarely effective.
On its own, the situation will resolve itself. Though, it may take about 6 months to 1 year from the time the hair starts shedding before you begin to regain your hair’s original length and fullness.
If you aren’t comfortable doing nothing and you feel the need to ‘aid’ your body, experts recommend doing the following:
- Develop a healthy lifestyle (e.g. exercising and eating nutrient-rich food)
- Learn to manage your stress
- Avoid smoking and too much drinking
- Stay hydrated