COVID-related hair loss is a real thing — but these treatments can help

by Doree Lewak

There’s a big fallout from the pandemic.

Hair loss brought on by the COVID-induced stress and anxiety of the past 18 months is plaguing women, but they’re finding help with a range of innovative — though often costly — treatments.

“About 30 percent of my patients were e-mailing about hair loss,” said Michele Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill. “It was frightening. Some had sheets of hair falling out.”

Last spring, Erica Sperling, 37, noticed her curly locks thinning around the crown. She was working two jobs — in media and real estate — and tending to her toddler, after losing child care to coronavirus concerns.

“It was a really stressful time,” said the Westchester resident.

She initially tried to conceal her thinning mane on Zoom calls with headbands and ponytails, but in October she sought medical help. She turned to Bruce Katz, a dermatologist at Juva Skin and Laser Center in Midtown East, who’s also seen an uptick in patients complaining about hair loss. He recommended Platelet-rich Plasma (PRP) treatments, which involve taking blood from the patient, spinning the blood, and then injecting it back into the scalp at a cost of $700 to $900 per session. After two or three monthly cycles, Katz said hair will grow back 25 or 30 percent faster than usual.

It worked for Sperling, who noticed a thick improvement after four treatments. “I feel great. I saw results — the hair around my temples and forehead grew in,” she said. “It’s one less thing to worry about.”

For those who can’t spend a four-digit sum on their ponytail, Green at first recommends some relatively inexpensive remedies. Minoxidil, which is the main ingredient in Rogaine, can be purchased over the counter and applied topically, so long as you’re not pregnant or breastfeeding. The 5-percent, extra-strength formulations especially “can help a lot of patients grow their hair back,” she said. Oral supplements designed for hair growth, such as Nutrafol and Viviscal can also be helpful.

She also advises patients not to get their hair colored or wear it in braids — anything that adds stress to tresses. And, Green said, “I tell them not to get a haircut because it might feel like you have less hair.”

As for special shampoos and conditioners that claim to curb hair loss, Green said she’s skeptical.

“I’m not convinced a shampoo or conditioner can grow back hair. It’s not something you leave on your scalp long enough to make a difference,” said Green, adding that serums, including Pureauty biotin hair serum ($26.45) could be more effective because they’re designed to stay on longer.

When it comes to more stubborn cases, she might suggests investing in a scalp-stimulating LaserCap, which uses Food and Drug Administration-cleared Low-Level-Laser Therapy, starts at about $1,000, and can be ordered through a physician.

If none of these treatments do the trick, Green will call in blood work to rule out hormonal changes. She’ll also ask patients to collect strands of their hair over 24 hours, which she’ll send to a lab to test for autoimmune diseases, such as lupus.