Amongst many of the symptoms that occur due to Covid-19, a rising number of people are reporting Covid hair loss. Here, we take a look at the research surrounding the link between Covid-19 and hair loss and offer our advice on how to cope with the adverse side effects. So, does Covid cause hair loss?
What does the research say?
There have been numerous reports of hair loss after Covid-19 infection, and a large body of research has been carried out. The majority of research studies look at patients who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 but have since recovered and received a vaccination. For the most part, research supports the idea of a relationship between hair loss and Covid-19 infection and many experts have come forward with solutions for those who are suffering from the side effect.
Research 1: Telogen effluvium: a sequela of COVID‐19
In 2020, Karolina Mieczkowska and colleagues carried out research after numerous dermatology patients complained of diffuse hair loss after experiencing Covid-19. The research concluded that what the patient’s were experiencing was clinically compatible with a condition called Telogen Effluvium (TE). TE is described as diffuse hair loss occurring within months of a significant systemic stressor. In this case, Covid-19 is the systemic stressor.
All participants in the research had no history of hair loss, reducing the contribution of any other health conditions that may cause the side effect. After vigorous testing, all patients were diagnosed with TE following their experience with Covid-19. Other causes of hair loss, such as an autoimmune disorder were ruled out by the researchers.
Research 2: COVID-19 infection is a major cause of acute telogen effluvium
A year after Mieczkowska and colleague’s research, Sharquie and Jabbar further investigated the role of Covid-19 in the development of TE. Once again, the research found a strong link between Covid-19 infection and the emergence of TE in patients who had no prior history of hair loss. Furthermore, the research excluded Covid-19 medication as a cause of TE.
Research 3: COVID-19 Can Exacerbate Pattern Hair Loss and Trigger Telogen Effluvium – The Role of Proteoglycan Replacement Therapy with Nourkrin® in Clinical Treatment of COVID-19 Associated Hair Loss
Following on from Clinical research, Gadzhigoroeva and colleagues attempted to find a solution to Covid-19 related hair loss. They noted that the systemic stress of Covid-19 is a likely cause of TE and proposed using proteoglycan replacement therapy (PRT) using Nourkrin with Marilex as a possible treatment for the side effect.
PRT with Nourkrin is a common hair loss treatment that contains ‘hair growth cycle’ normalising effects. The authors suggested that further research needs to be carried out on the effectiveness of the treatment.
Research 4: COVID-19 related anagen effluvium
Shanshal conducted a case study conducted a case study on one patient who experienced clumps of hair falling onto her pillows after receiving a diagnosis of Covid 19. The patient was a 35-year-old female who was admitted to a Covid-19 respiratory care unit during the outbreak of the pandemic. 10 days after her admission, the woman observed extreme hair loss as well as rashes, itching, and redness. The rash spread to the patient’s face and became gradually worse over time.
After examination, the patient was diagnosed with Covid-related anagen effluvium. Anagen effluvium is a condition that causes excessive loss of growing hairs. The condition is triggered by the disturbance of the metabolic activity of the hair follicle. In cases of Covid-19, the metabolic activity of the hair follicle may be disturbed by systemic stress.
The patient was placed on steroids and recovered after 5 days. The steroids that were used were accompanied by sedating and non-sedating antihistamines to treat the severe rash.
While the study only looked at one patient, this is a strong example of how Covid-19 may induce hair loss.
Why does Covid cause hair loss?
1. Systemic stress
Research has positioned systemic stress as the main trigger for the onset of TE. Systemic stressors are those that threaten the body’s self-regulation mechanisms such as extreme changes in temperature or hormone levels. It is thought that Covid-19 is a form of systemic stress that could trigger diffuse hair loss.
Homeostasis plays a vital role in regulating bodily functions. Therefore, when a person’s homeostasis is threatened by a systemic stressor, functions such as hair growth can fall out of sync. This is done to prioritise the more important functions such as those carried out by major organs.
2. Increased ‘telogen’ phase
TE is cognition that causes extreme hair loss after experiencing a stressful event. Hair loss is caused by a sudden surge in the ‘telogen’ phase. In this phase, large quantities of hair are pushed to the follicle which speeds up the shedding process. The telogen stage is a rest phase after which it is usual to experience some hair loss. The phase can last anywhere up to 4 months and is typically followed by a re-growing phase. However, TE causes more hair than normal to go into this phase and your normal hair growth cycle may not be able to keep up!
3. Hormonal changes
Hormones play a large role in hair growth and when levels of essential hormones drop, hair growth can dramatically slow. The stress that Covid-19 plays on the body could cause this drop to happen which may partially explain Covid-related hair loss. However, hormonal changes could be due to other factors such as diet, medication and sleep.
Does the Covid vaccine cause hair loss?
A number of vaccinated individuals have reported hair loss. Research has linked the development of TE to Covid-19 but suggests that the vaccination does not cause Covid hair loss. However, it is possible that hormonal changes brought on by the vaccination could play a role in the development or recurrence of alopecia.
Androgenetic alopecia is a fairly common form of hair loss that occurs in both men and women. Typically, sufferers experience hair loss in a distinct pattern that usually begins above both temples.
The condition is caused by hormonal changes. Specifically, an increase in dihydrotestosterone (DHT) can attack your hair follicles, causing hair to fall out. Typically, men have more levels of the hormone than women. However, the Covid-19 vaccine may encourage hormone fluctuation which could cause some women to experience an increase in the hormone.
Furthermore, some research has found a link between the Covid vaccine and the recurrence of Alopecia Areata. In this case, all patients had experienced Alopecia Areata before receiving the Covid vaccine but had since recovered with full hair regrowth. However, after receiving the vaccine, participants experienced further episodes of hair loss suggesting the recurrence of Alopecia Areata.
It is worth noting that hair loss as a side effect of the Covid vaccine is not considered to be common. Furthermore, many of the patients who experienced alopecia after the vaccine had episodes of hair loss before the vaccination was given. Your genetic makeup and hormonal distribution will also affect your likeness of losing hair after receiving the vaccine.
If you do notice hair loss after vaccination, the condition is usually treatable. There are a number of regrowth treatments available for people who develop both Androgenetic Alopecia and Alopecia Areata. While hair loss can be frustrating, it is rarely a permanent side effect.
How to stop Covid hair loss
For anyone, losing hair can take a toll on self-esteem and confidence. Not to mention, experiencing the condition can be incredibly frustrating. Luckily, there are a number of ways that you can prevent Covid hair loss.
For the most part, it is always a good idea to consult a medical professional before taking in any treatment options. Different treatments will affect every individual differently and what works well for others may not always be the best option for you.
Nevertheless, here are some ways that you could prevent Covid-related hair loss.
1. Home remedies to combat hair loss
Hair loss is an age-old concern that has affected people for centuries! As a result, numerous home-remedies have been created to target the condition naturally and for a relatively low price. Home remedies are a great option for people who prefer natural solutions and want to avoid putting too many chemicals into their bodies.
Egg hair mask
Eggs have numerous benefits for your hair! The dairy product is rich in protein and biotin which helps to moisturise your hair and repair damaged strands. Using an egg-based hair mask has been shown to stimulate hair growth which could help to combat the effects of both Alopecia and TE. Furthermore, using eggs for hair can help to improve texture and shine!
Egg masks are easy to make at home. Simply mix one egg with a cup of mayonnaise and then massage into the hair. Alternatively, use an egg on its own to soak the hair before washing off with cold water in the shower. For the best results, use an egg mask every day for 30 minutes until improvements can be seen.
Studies have shown that a simple scalp massage could help to encourage regrowth. Massaging the scalp stimulates blood flow which increases the speed of hair growth. Try to massage the scalp with hair-friendly products such as coconut oil, egg yolk or shea butter. Using products such as these will provide extra benefits including moisturising the scalp, strengthening hair follicles and preventing damage.
To massage the scalp, warm up the desired product in the palms. Then, tip your head upside down and start rub fingertips over the head. Try to continue this for about 30 minutes and repeat daily. Rinse the hair with cool water to get rid of the product after the massage.
Coconut oil mask
Similar to egg masks, coconut oil hair masks can be hugely beneficial in the fight against hair loss. Coconut oil contains fatty acids that penetrate into the hair follicle and reduce protein loss. This helps to both prevent hair loss and encourage hair regrowth. As well as this, coconut oil is incredibly moisturising and can help hair to look shiny and healthy.
Coconut oil hair masks can be purchased from most drug stores or they can be easily made at home. Simply take a tablespoon of coconut oil and melt it in with the palms of hands until it is liquid enough to distribute through the hair. Try to place the majority of the product onto the scalp and comb any excess through the strands. Leave for 30 minutes and wash off with cool water.
2. Change up your diet
They say you are what you eat and this is particularly true when it comes to having healthy hair! If you have noticed your hair thinning or falling out since Covid, you may want to shake up your diet. Many foods contain vitamins and nutrients that can help to encourage regrowth and strengthen your hair follicles.
Eating an extra handful of peanuts each day could have considerable benefits for hair! The yummy snacks are a source of biotin- a nutrient that is known to stimulate hair growth and prevent hair loss. Peanuts also contain high amounts of protein which helps to strengthen the hair strands and prevent breakage.
Avocados are a source of healthy fats, vitamin E and essential fatty acids. All of these nutrients have excellent benefits for hair and can help to combat hair thinning and hair loss. Eating one medium avocado a day will provide you with 21% of your daily vitamin E needs. In one study, 34% of people reported experiencing increased hair growth after upping their vitamin E intake.
While they are small in size, seeds can provide your body with a huge number of nutrients. Essential hair growth nutrients provided by seeds include vitamin E, selenium and zinc. 28 grams of sunflower seeds will provide 50% of the recommended daily vitamin E intake along with a healthy dose of vitamin B which is great for hair growth!
Meanwhile, flax seeds are a great source of fatty acids and omega 3. Both of these nutrients help to stimulate hair growth and strengthen hair strands. Therefore, the seed can help to both prevent hair loss and encourage hair regrowth.
3. Hair loss medication
If the hair loss is more severe, medical treatment may be required. Typically, patients will need to see a doctor in order to get a prescription for this type of treatment; however, it is also possible to find some hair loss medication in drug stores. Depending on the symptoms and hair-health history, a doctor can recommend a variety of treatment options. Here are some common types that sufferers may want to consider.
Minoxidil can be bought over the counter without a prescription. The treatment comes in liquid, foam and shampoo forms and works to reduce hair loss and encourage regrowth. Minoxidil should be applied directly to the scalp daily for women and twice daily for men.
Minoxidil helps to return hair to the ‘growth’ stage, encouraging it to regrow quicker after loss. The treatment has few adverse side effects but some people may experience scalp irritation.
Finasteride is most commonly used to treat Alopecia and male pattern boldness. The treatment is an oral medication that can be prescribed by a doctor if a person is experiencing severe hair loss. Finasteride works by preventing the body from turning testosterone into DHT- a hormone that can damage the hair follicles. Finasteride is largely prescribed to men however it could be considered as an option for women who experience patterned hair loss after Covid.
4. Cosmetic products
The easiest way to prevent hair loss after Covid is to use hair care products that promote growth. The majority of these products will contain ingredients such as biotin, keratin, caffeine, coconut oil, zinc and vitamins B & E. Usually, products will indicate whether or not they are made for promoting hair growth. Alternatively, ask store assistants for help.
Hair growth shampoo and conditioner
Hair growth shampoos and conditioners are designed to strengthen the hair follicles, massage the scalp and provide nutrients that promote hair growth. Alpecin is a popular example that is used world-wide to target hair loss. The shampoo contains caffeine which activates the scalp and promotes hair growth. Watermans also offer an excellent growth shampoo that moisturises and nourishes hair strands while stimulating hair growth.
Using a hair growth shampoo on its own may be enough to prevent Covid hair loss. However, it may be worth considering pairing the shampoo with a growth conditioner that will further stimulate the scalp and aid growth. Using a conditioner for every hair wash is also a great way to prevent breakage and improve the overall texture of the hair.
How long does Covid hair loss last?
Most people who experience hair loss after Covid will see regrowth over time. Typically, hair loss can last anywhere up to 9 months. However, the exact length of time that the hair loss will last will depend on individual hormones and how the body reacts to the Covid disease.
Some people may only experience hair loss for a couple of weeks and others won’t experience any hair loss at all! Don’t be alarmed if hair loss lasts longer than other people have reported, this is simply the body’s individual reaction to Covid-19.
If a person has a history of hair loss prior to Covid-19, they may experience more severe symptoms. This is because the body is naturally prone to hair loss so will enter the shedding phase at a faster rate.
When should you seek medical advice?
You should seek advice from your GP if you experience large amounts of hair loss every day. Similarly, if a person starts developing significant bald patches, they may want to visit the doctor. If the hair simply becomes thinner after suffering from Covid, there is no need to seek medical help. Hair growth should return to normal over time and the thinning won’t last forever.
Additionally, seek medical advice if your hair loss is accompanied by any itching, redness or rash. Hair loss can be incredibly disconcerting so, asking for medical help will never be a problem.