There is no doubt about it: we live in uncertain times. The COVID-19 pandemic that has reached its tendrils across the globe has caused an immeasurable amount of stress on people. People are concerned not only for their own health and that of their loved ones, but they are also worried about their jobs, education, and isolation. To limit the spread of COVID-19, many activities that people enjoy are currently deemed to be unsafe. From sporting events and in-person exercise classes to socializing with family and friends and just going places, people are struggling.
While stress is not always apparent, it has undoubtedly become visible in people across the country. More and more people are experiencing hair loss since the start of COVID-19, according to dermatologists across the United States. Where doctors would see a few patients suffering from hair loss each week, they are now helping many people daily who are struggling with new-onset hair loss. Furthermore, people who have a history of hair loss are reporting more thinning now compared to before the start of the pandemic.
If you are among the many who are struggling with increased hair loss during the pandemic, read on to learn why stress causes hair loss and what you can do to keep your hair on your head.
What is stress-related hair loss?
Losing hair during stressful events is nothing new. Indeed, stress is one of the most common causes of hair loss. Whether you are experiencing physical or mental stress, an increase in the stress hormones in your body directly affects your hair.
Hair loss caused by stress is known as telogen effluvium. In this condition, something triggers a stress response in your body, which leads to hair thinning all over your scalp. You may even experience hair loss on other parts of your body. Sometimes, thinning will be more noticeable in certain areas. Telogen effluvium can be triggered by:
- Health conditions
- Trauma or surgery
- Major dietary changes or poor nutrition
- Emotional stress (loss of a loved one, fear, pandemics)
- Significant life changes (divorce, job loss, etc.)
Hair loss usually occurs three months after the stressful event happens due to how hair typically grows. There are three phases of the hair growth cycle: anagen, catagen, and telogen. Anagen is the growing phase, which can last several years. Catagen is a short transitional phase (of about 14 days) where the follicle ceases to grow and moves into telogen. This final phase, telogen, is where the hair follicle rests for about three months before falling out.
A stressful event can cause many of your hair follicles to switch from the growing phase to the resting phase. People experiencing hair loss from the COVID-19 pandemic likely experienced a significant shift to telogen around March when major changes in daily life occurred. Thus, many people began to see noticeable hair loss starting at the end of May.
Interestingly, there is a phenomenon where many people lose more hair during March, April, and May compared to the rest of the year. Seasonal hair loss is not uncommon and may be related to changing weather patterns or it is an effect of the stress that people experience over the holidays.
What is a normal amount hair loss?
You usually lose between 50-100 hairs each day. Often, this normal shedding goes unnoticed. However, when you have telogen effluvium, you can lose up to 300 hairs a day. People are often surprised by the hair that accumulates on their shower drain, hairbrush, or pillow. In telogen effluvium, you may see hair thinning all over your head, and you may see more of your scalp than before the shedding event occurred.
If you are experiencing patches of baldness, it may be a sign that something else is going on. Similarly, telogen effluvium rarely causes a receding hairline.
How to restore thickness to your hair during the pandemic
Our hair is not necessary for our survival, which is why it is often one of the first things to go when we are under severe stress. However, it is often an important part of our identity and how we express ourselves. Fortunately, hair loss from telogen effluvium usually resolves within six months to a year, and your hair should return to its average thickness. Regrettably, we are not out of the COVID-19 pandemic yet, and in some states, the number of cases is rapidly rising. With the end not yet in sight, we have to learn ways to manage our stress during this pandemic to keep our hair on our heads. Let’s look at some tips to keeping your hair healthy during COVID-19.
Restore normalcy to your day-to-day life. Most of us have experienced a significant shift in our daily activities since March. Yet, our days are often marked by uncertainty and may lack structure as we are trying to roll with the punches. If you haven’t already, find a daily routine and stick to it. Planning ahead and knowing what to anticipate can reduce cortisol, which is the stress hormone that creates a cascade of events that result in hair loss (among many other factors).
Control your body-focused repetitive behaviors. Many of us have certain repetitive habits that we do, often unconsciously, when we are stressed. For example, it is common for women with long hair to brush their hands through their hair repetitively. Some people also repeatedly scratch their heads when they are thinking or stressed. People may also pick at their scalp, especially if they have flaking skin. These behaviors are often a sign of stress and can result in hair loss. Try to become aware of what you are doing with your hands and focus your attention elsewhere.
Spend your extra time cooking healthy meals. Nutrition is one of the best ways you can encourage new hair growth. Often, stress encourages us to snack on foods that are processed and high in refined sugars. Focus on eating simple, clean, wholesome meals packed with protein, iron, zinc, and vitamins A, C, D, E, and B-complex. For example, you may want to increase your intake of eggs, spinach, berries, avocados, and fatty fish. You may also wish to try a hair growth supplement that contains all of the necessary nutrients for hair health like the Revita Nutraceutical Tablets for Hair Growth Support from DS Laboratories.
Do At-Home Hair Care. Salon hair services are not yet available in many parts of the country. And while many of us have blatant roots, frayed ends, and shaggy mops, time away from the salon is actually good for your hair health. Often, we seek salon services to color and style our hair a certain way. But these processes can harm our hair with chemicals and heat. And, if you are struggling with telogen effluvium, it is best to avoid dying and styling your hair altogether so that you keep your remaining hair follicles healthy.
Fortunately, there are products that help your hair grow thicker and faster after telogen effluvium. DS Laboratories delivers professional-grade hair products to your doorstep so that you can maintain social distancing. Start by using a good shampoo and conditioner like the Revita product line that stimulates your scalp, supports existing follicles and stops stress-induced hair loss in its tracks. Also, look for a drug-free product that helps your hair grow faster and healthier like the Spectral.RS High-Performance Anti-Thinning Hair Treatment.
Reach out to your doctor. If your hair loss is concerning you, it is always a good idea to reach out to your doctor. Many dermatologists are offering telehealth visits during the pandemic to help people like you get control over your hair loss.
“I highly recommend Spectral.F7 topical to my patients with stress alopecia. Since its formula with amino acids and copper peptides works by blocking the substances responsible for altering the hair growth cycle. It also has an excellent cosmetic, it does not redden or hurt the scalp and most importantly it does not oil the hair. I have personally verified its effectiveness and the results are excellent in a short time ” - Dr. Adalid Yakelin Morales Miranda, Dermatologist and Trichologist
"Stress is a physical, mental and/or emotional factor that causes mental and body tension. This state initiates a “fight or flight” complex endocrinological, neurological and immunological reaction. Cortisol, adrenaline and norepinefrine are also known as the “stress hormones”. In the brain, stress produces inflammation, corticotropin-release hormone activation, and corticotropin realizing factor, these events are responsible for the cortisol release. Cortisol, affects the hair cycle and telogen effluvium appears.
In these cases, Spectral.F7 topical could be useful because it has a high content of antioxidants, amino acids, copper peptides and astressin-b.
Astressin-B is a peptide responsible for rapid hair regrowth, thru the blockage of corticotropin release factor." - Dermatologist Dr. Daniela Guzmán-Sánchez