When health experts list the potential long-term side effects of COVID-19, a loss of taste and smell, debilitating headaches, and lethargy seem to be the most common. But nearly six months after the virus first took hold in the west, some survivors are beginning to notice another lingering repercussion: hair loss.
You might have seen actress Alyssa Milano speak openly about her firsthand experience with hair loss following a coronavirus diagnosis. In a video shared to Twitter, Milano brushed her hair and showed the camera just how many strands came loose in a single stroke. She isn’t alone: Head to Reddit and Twitter, and you’ll see countless threads where individuals discuss hair loss as a potential post-COVID side effect.
“I have quite fine hair, but it has never come out in my hands before,” Vanessa, a coronavirus survivor, tells Refinery29. “I would never see a hair at the bottom of the shower or around the house. It just didn’t fall out at all — until now. Initially I put it down to stress, but when a friend messaged me asking if my hair loss experience mirrored hers after contracting coronavirus, I realized it probably wasn’t.”
While symptoms such as exhaustion, sensitivity, and a loss of taste and smell have passed for Vanessa, who is 36, she’s still experiencing hair loss months down the line. “It’s generally all over, rather than in specific areas,” she says of the shedding. “I’m baffled. In quarantine, I bought some really nice hair masks and products. I haven’t colored my hair for months, I’m washing it less, and I haven’t used heat on it since February. I thought my hair would do really well, but it’s shedding more.”
What is stress-induced hair loss and why does it occur?
Dermatologists and hair loss experts have, in fact, noticed an uptick in reported cases since coronavirus. “Typically, temporary hair loss, otherwise known as telogen effluvium or TE, will start two to four months after a triggering event such as stress,” says Simone Thomas, a hair loss specialist. The list of such events includes grief, shock, childbirth, and illness; anything from a major surgical procedure to extreme weight loss can contribute, too.
Dr. Zainab Laftah, consultant dermatologist at HCA The Shard, adds, “A disturbance in the hair cycle causes the hairs to shift from the growing phase to the shedding phase. This results in sudden hair loss, which affects hair thickness all over the scalp.”
Can coronavirus cause hair loss?
We still don’t know exactly how coronavirus might impact our bodies longterm, so the research surrounding its contribution to hair loss is scarce. Dr. Laftah says she’s noticed firsthand a number of patients presenting with hair loss roughly three months after a short-lived coronavirus bout or from quarantine-induced stress.
“A Spanish journal recently …read more