Getting to the root of the problem: hair loss after COVID

by Joey Pellegrino for Wink Fort Myers

Hair loss is a common response to stress, and it is proving a very common after-effect in people who contracted COVID-19. WINK news health and medical reporter Amy Oshier gets to the root of the problem and finds out what people who have this issue can expect.

Lesa Dyer had COVID in February 2021. The illness was unexpected, but what happened two months later came as a hair-raising shock.

“I’d wash my hair and it was just coming out by the handfuls,” Dyer said. “How important is your hair to you? Well, like I said, I put a lot of effort into growing my color and my layers and my bangs and everything out.”

It was not a one-time occurrence. In the ensuing weeks, Dyer shed a lot of tears along with her hair. Fort Myers stylist Aimee Handy with Indie Salons, located at 9140 College Pointe Drive, is very familiar with the problem, too, as both a hair professional and someone who suffered from COVID hair loss.

“About half of my clients that have had COVID have come with a lot of hair loss,” Handy said. “I had COVID early in December of 2020. And about a month later I noticed my hair falling out.”

Cases of stress-related hair loss, called telogen effluvium, have surged 400% since the start of the pandemic. It’s normal to lose up to 100 hairs a day, but people are seeing triple that amount fall out. It happens over and over through the hair’s transitional growth phase. Therein lies the key to what’s next: A hair growth cycle takes years, spanning from new hair coming in to old hair falling out, the mass shedding occurring when the cycle is broken.

“If hair sheds before that new hair is ready to grow, then you’re gonna see an all-over thinning; the hair will eventually, you know, grow, but you have to wait until that new hair is ready to come out of the follicles,” Handy said. “So, when there’s a shock to the system, whether it be a sickness or diet can play a role, stress is a big factor that hair can shed before the new hair is ready to come out.”

The unruly situation seems to resolve itself. Dyer, for instance, is seeing a comeback.

“You’ll have all this weird texture I haven’t had before that I don’t know how to deal with, and then the new growth all coming in, doing strange things underneath,” Dyer said.

Some experts suggest scalp treatments and supplements to encourage faster growth. But the surest remedy appears to be time.