Covid 19 and Hair Loss: Everything You Didn’t and Should Know

“Let’s go out, catch some Covid-19, and oh, lose some hair too,” said no woman ever. But sadly, life doesn’t need our permission to happen and sometimes it will hit us with the exact thing that scares us the most. 

The truth is that Covid-19 is horrible enough on its own. I mean, merely testing positive for the virus is enough to cause you crippling panic. From the chest pain to the fever, cough, aches, loss of taste and smell, etc.; this sure seems like a virus with a mission.  But you are a tenacious woman; you know you can beat this just like you’ve dealt with every other past illness.

Unfortunately, nothing prepares you for the hair loss that may follow your diagnosis. So, yes, the hair loss you experienced (or are experiencing) during Covid is not all in your head. The good news, however, is that many Covid-19 victims, including your favorite celebrities, have dealt with this and won. You’ll get your hair back, and I’ll be with you every step of the way.

How Does Covid-19 Cause Hair Loss?

SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images.

There are many types of hair loss, and the one associated with Covid-19 is telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium happens pretty dramatically and rapidly. First, you may notice your bathroom floor covered with hair or your hairbrush filled with them. Then, a few weeks later, you may find that your hair has fine strands or looks thinner.

But here’s the shocker: the alopecia you suffer during Covid-19 isn’t caused by the virus that causes the disease; instead, it’s from the stress you go through as your body works hard to fight the virus. Another bombshell: in most cases, you won’t notice your hair loss until as late as three months after being infected.

Generally, about 90% of your hair is in its anagen or growth phase, while the remaining 10% are resting in their telogen phase. For example, the hairs on our scalps are in the anagen stage for about three years before entering telogen, which lasts 2 to 6 months. 

Our hairs gradually shed from their follicles after telogen, and fresh anagen hairs replace them. This process happens over and over again.

People lose between 100 and 150 hairs every day on average. However, during stressful events like Covid-19, our bodies may prematurely convert an abnormally high amount of anagen hairs into the resting stage. So, while 10% of your hair should be in the resting stage, it can increase to up to 50% in the telogen stage. This is the same reason you may experience hair loss during postpartum, after losing someone close to you, or after major surgery.

Let’s Face It: Covid-19 Induced Hair Loss is Devastating, But There’s Hope!

It’s normal to lose hair now and again, but hair loss from Covid-19 can be beyond devastating, especially for women. Telogen effluvium can harm your emotional well-being and self-image. It can make you feel less beautiful or desirable than you used to. In fact, Jada Pinkett Smith, who spoke up for the first time about her alopecia diagnosis in 2018, once described her hair loss as depressing, painful, and embarrassing. Uh-huh, it’s that bad!

Sadly, society has compelled women to endure their suffering in silence. Male hair loss is seen as being much more acceptable than female hair loss. Even worse, women’s hair loss receives less attention from the medical community.

Fortunately, we’ve got more and more women shaking off the embarrassment and drawing awareness to alopecia, especially as a result of coronavirus. For example, reality star and social influencer, Khloe Kardashian, talking about her experience with hair loss post-covid, and describing it as a struggle. 

Alyssa Milano has also repeatedly opened up about her Covid-19-related hair loss on her social media. Sharing an Instagram video of herself losing lots of hair as she brushed it, she had this to say, “Thought I’d show you what Covid-19 does to your hair. Please take this seriously…One brushing, this is my hair loss…wear a damn mask.”   

I hope this will give more women the courage to speak up about their challenges with alopecia and get the support they deserve.

While dealing with any form of hair loss can be traumatic, thank goodness telogen effluvium is temporary. Yes, while this type of alopecia means that lots of hair enters the resting phase, that’s all there is to it. You’ll usually grow your hair back once the stage is over.

When the extra hairs that were prematurely moved into telogen have shed, your telogen effluvium will typically resolve in three to six months. This is because telogen effluvium will not make you lose your hair. The hair follicles are still there, so even though hair may not grow right away, it will ultimately grow back.                               

However, note that your hair may be thinner than it once was, even after the hair loss has ceased. That results from the hair’s average growth rate, which is just approximately a centimeter every month. It can take over two years for new hairs to grow to shoulder length and for your ponytail to regain thickness if you have shoulder-length hair.

In the worst-case scenario, you may develop chronic telogen effluvium, especially if your covid lasted long. Even with that, you will not lose your hair completely, as the hair that enters the telogen phase is never more than 50%.     

All you have to do within the recovery period is ensure that you don’t have any nutritional deficiencies that can limit the process. Also, speak with your doctor about special treatment options that may speed your recovery up.                                                                                                                                                                                           

Let’s Put an End To Post-Covid Hair Loss Together

Are you suffering hair loss after successfully beating coronavirus? You’re not alone. I’ve had to fight off alopecia due to stress sometimes in my life too. Though it took me roughly six months, hair loss is frequently apparent two to three months after your stressful condition (mine was childbirth). There is no guaranteed medical treatment for this problem, but most times, your hair will resume growing at its normal rate in a few months.

During this time for me, the postpartum and breastfeeding hormones made me feel discouraged and badly hurt my self-esteem, but I was aware that I couldn’t remain dejected. I made the decision to deal with the challenging issue in true Nicole style, which meant doing it with grace, persistence, and resolve beyond anything I had ever experienced before.

Hair loss or not, Black don’t crack!

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