COVID-19 Hair Scare

Emily SchmidtMay 4, 2021
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Photo courtesy stock.adobe.com
Photo courtesy stock.adobe.com

The latest pandemic-related plague: hair loss. 

As if juggling working from home, Zoom meetups, homeschooling, telehealth and virtual exercise classes in a global pandemic weren’t enough, now your hair is falling out. You’re not alone.

Phoenix dermatologist Dr. Toni Stockton says she’s seen double the usual number of patients for hair loss over the past three months at her Ahwatukee practice, Stockton Dermatology. And according to data science firm Spate, Google searches for hair loss jumped 8 percent in the last year. While Stockton says not all of these cases are related to COVID-19, the majority of patients are likely facing the effects of pandemic-induced stress, if not post-viral inflammation for the “long-haulers.” Most patients are women ages 45-70 who have managed many responsibilities throughout the last year.

“I think it’s a real balancing act, whether it’s actually having COVID or dealing with COVID in their lifestyle,” Stockton says.

There are many types of hair loss in women, so the first question she asks patients is what happens when they run their hands through their hair. Three things can happen: no hair comes out, hair breakage occurs, or full strands with white tips detach. At any given time, Stockton says 20 percent of your hair is falling out in the natural growth cycle. However, the stress of the pandemic, physical COVID symptoms and medications used to treat the virus can change the growth pattern. Stress can increase cortisol levels, which releases neurohormones, neurotransmitters and cytokines that can interfere with the hair cycle. Stockton says patients shouldn’t panic about this type of hair loss, because it will grow back.

“It may take a good three months after COVID for hair growth to start,” she says. “Even then, sometimes they’re already recovered and begin to experience hair loss.”

While there isn’t a quick fix for COVID-related hair loss, Stockton recommends checking your vitamin levels, especially Vitamin D and iron, to ensure that your body has the proper building blocks for healthy regrowth. She has had success with using supplements containing B-complex vitamins (especially biotin) and zinc. Her preferred brands are Nutrafol and Elon, which carry products for men, women and postmenopausal women.

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