COVID-19 could be coming for our hair!

COVID-19 may be causing hair loss (Image: Shutterstock)

COVID-19 has one more unpleasant addition to its growing repertoire of meanness; it’s causing hair loss. Really, virus? As if the long-term loss of smell and taste and damage to lung tissue weren’t enough for you.

Survivors of COVID-19 have reported loss of hair as a possible long-term side effect of the disease. After recovering from the illness, they have been losing hair by the clumps.  From the looks of it, experts think that coronavirus could be one of the reasons for hair loss.

Now, I am not blessed in the hair department. So, if you are someone like me who has spent a bomb on hair loss treatments, I am sure the news has distressed you too. But is this piece of news worth losing your hair over? Here’s my understanding of the situation. Since we are the topic of coronavirus, can mouthwash, baby shampoo kill COVID-19?

The Belgravia Centre in London has reported instances of massive hair loss in patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19. According to the study, 64% of men and 38% of women suffered from this symptom in a six week period from June to July.

These people were suffering from a little something known as the telogen effluvium or TE. Luckily, it’s a temporary form of hair loss.

For those interested, there’s a paper titled “Evaluation of the effects of COVID‐19 pandemic on hair diseases through a web‐based questionnaire“, published in the journal Dermatologic Therapy. 

The study, back in June 2020, examined how COVID-19 could affect hair and scalp diseases like effluvium (TE), alopecia areata (AA) and seborrheic dermatitis (SD) in people who have to stay at home for a long time and the patients’ ways of dealing with these diseases.

During the pandemic, TE was seen in 27.9% of the participants, AA on the scalp was seen in 2.8%, AA on the face was seen in 2.5% and SD was seen in 19.9%. Applying to a dermatologist for complaints during the pandemic was lower than before pandemic. TE was higher in women before and during the pandemic

A Facebook page dedicated to survivors of COVID-19 is rife with stories of hair loss sometime after the infection.

So while there’s no evidence to say that coronavirus is causing the hair fall directly, stress could be the culprit.

This study examined the possible effects of COVID‐19 on hair and scalp diseases such as telogen in individuals who had to stay at home for a long time and the patients’ methods of dealing with these diseases.

Telogen effluvium is a reactive hair loss, which is caused by stress, hormonal changes or medication. Common triggers of TE include fever, infection, major surgery, trauma, drop in oestrogen levels, hypothyroidism, crash dieting, low protein in the diet, heavy metal ingestion and iron deficiency. Green tea is good for your hair growth btw, and here’s something else it’s good for — diabetes.

TE can happen to anyone at any age, gender or race. Most adults experience TE hair loss at some point. Although men and women are equally affected, women are more likely to go to the doctor due to TE.

Human hair has four phases — anagen or growing phase, catagen or transition phase, telogen or resting phase and exogen or falling phase.

Stress causes hair to go abruptly from the growing phase or anagen into the telogen or resting phase.

Is the hair loss permanent?

Luckily, the COVID related hair loss is a temporary phase. While it’s upsetting to see clumps of hair just go down the drain every day, TE is a self-limited condition. It can be treated if the underlying causes such as hormonal or dietary imbalance is treated.