COVID-19 Stress Might Be Causing Temporary Hair Loss

Mask-wearing, social distancing, and vaccinations — these are pandemic-related things that Americans can never seem to agree on. If there’s one thing that most can agree on, it’s that stress levels are at an all-time high. In a survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association, 78 percent of adults say COVID-19 is a significant source of stress in their lives.

Stress has physical effects on the body. For instance, it can cause and exacerbate health conditions. One stress-related condition that doctors are seeing a rise in is hair loss. If, since the start of the pandemic, you are noticing clumps of hair falling out, don’t panic, it could be temporary hair loss or telogen effluvium (TE).

What is Telogen Effluvium?

In a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, dermatologists in New York City report a 400 percent increase in telogen effluvium cases since March of 2020.

Telogen effluvium is a type of hair loss triggered by extreme or prolonged stress, such as what many are experiencing due to COVID-19. Ten to 15 percent of the hairs on your head are in the resting phase at any given time. The hairs in the resting phase are usually what falls out. TE happens because of a shock to the system — which is what a period of extreme stress is like. In effect, a large number of hairs in the growth stage could get pushed to the telogen phase. Stress and subsequent hair shedding could take two to four months to progress.

Note that TE results in hair thinning but not bald spots. That in itself is a silver lining. However, for people who are already experiencing hair thinning or loss, the worsening state of their hair can lead to extreme distress.

TE is a well-known side effect of cancer treatment or antidepressants. It can also occur after an illness, infection, or surgery. Before the pandemic, dermatology clinics would see seven cases of TE every two months, and often only in women. However, come July and August of last year, which is four months after the start of the pandemic, TE cases rose, along with the number of men seeking treatment for it.

Hair shedding or hair loss can be distressing no matter the type. The good news is, TE is temporary and usually resolves itself as long as the underlying cause has been addressed. After hair loss treatments (by a hair doctor) commence and stress levels are reduced, it can take as little as six months to recover from TE. A healthy diet, getting at least eight hours of sleep, and minoxidil can help reverse telogen effluvium.

Hair Doctor in Kansas City

Dr. Scott Darling is a top hair loss specialist in Kansas City and regularly treats patients with hair loss. He continues to see patients with COVID-19 related telogen effluvium, as well.

Dr. Darling starts with a comprehensive hair loss evaluation that takes into account your medical history and lifestyle, before letting you know the treatment options that are available to you. To make an appointment with our top hair doctor in Kansas City, call our clinic at (816) 792-3400 or use our online request form.