At this point in the pandemic, there is still much we don’t know about COVID-19 and its long-term effects, including hair loss. More studies are finding that, among patients who have been hospitalized with COVID, some of them were dealing with hair loss months after being discharged. At the Institute of Trichologists (IoT) in the United Kingdom, 79 percent of its members said they’d seen cases of “post-COVD hair loss” in their clinics.
COVID-19 Patients Are Experiencing Hair Loss—Here’s What We Know About It
Is hair loss a direct symptom of COVID-19?
According to experts, not directly. “The hair loss that occurs after COVID-19 infection occurs because of overactive inflammation in the body," explains Alexis Young, MD, a dermatologist with Hackensack University Medical Center, who has seen many long-haul patients with this issue. “It’s the inflammation, not the virus itself, that can cause a shift in the hair cycle. As the chemicals in your body ramp up to fight off infection, it can cause hairs to go from their growth phase to their shedding phase prematurely,” she clarifies.
“Hair loss after a stressful situation is not unusual,” adds Dr. Young. “People can experience hair loss after childbirth, a major surgery or an otherwise stressful event in their life, and we’re now seeing the same results after COVID-19 infection in some people.”
When does COVID-related hair loss start to show?
“Hair loss typically begins two to three months after the initial COVID-19 infection or roughly 50 to 60 days after your diagnosis,” says Dr. Young. “How long it lasts will vary from patient to patient, but it usually takes six to nine months before hair starts to grow back. However, full growth can take up to 18 months, so try your best not to stress about it in the meantime,” she tells us.
The good news is that even without any treatment, your hair has the full capacity to grow back on its own. Yes, it helps to keep a healthy diet, since your body needs vitamins and minerals to grow hair, and again, it’s important to reduce the amount of stress in your life, since stress can cause inflammation and trigger more shedding.
Some of Dr. Young’s patients use topical minoxidil (the active ingredient found in Rogaine), but even that takes up to nine months to kick in and is more effective against age-related hair loss, which is different from telogen effluvium (the stress-related hair loss we’re referring to here).
But what about biotin, the B vitamin that’s so often touted as the cure-all for hair loss? Dr. Young tells us, “There is no real data that shows biotin is an effective treatment for hair growth. In rare cases, it has been shown to help, but only if you have a biotin deficiency, which isn’t common because it’s readily available in most diets,” she explains. For example, biotin can be found in meat, fish, seeds, nuts, and certain vegetables like sweet potatoes and spinach. And according to the National Institutes of Health, one cooked egg provides 10 micrograms of biotin per serving, which is 33 percent of the recommended daily amount.
So, go ahead and have that spinach omelet and maybe try adding a few minutes of meditation to your day. Over time, your hair should slowly but surely grow back.