It has been more than a year since the global outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic that has been taking a heavy toll on human world in a multiplicity of aspects. Nearly 3 million lives are lost out of more than 132 million confirmed cases so far, with North America and some European countries hit the hardest. Thankfully, in the interest of humankind, the international community characterized by consistent and powerful solidarity has come a long way in struggling with this unprecedented pandemic, especially after the widespread advancement in vaccination rollout in many countries, helping flatten the growth curve. The existing cases across the world are on the wane given the fact that the very majority of infected population managed to pull through within months or even weeks.
However, the pandemic’s impact on our physiological as well as psychological health throughout our society will likely outlive Covid itself as the virus has left those who recovered with a variety of mysterious and tormenting aftereffects, such as fatigue, muscle ache, difficulty breathing and memory issues. Sounding somewhat unbelievable and astounding, hair loss is also among these commonly reported symptoms as a large number of Covid survivors reported that their hair had been falling out at an unprecedentedly rapid speed before a noticeable thin hair look showed up in only a few weeks. While agonizing over a less vibrant and rejuvenated look, it is becoming more than necessary for us to make sense of the causes behind it, as well as figure out the ways to cope with it. Does Covid-19 directly cause hair loss from the pathological perspective? Are there any other factors contributing to this type of hair loss? How long will the hair loss last? Is it as contagious as Covid-19 itself? While such kind of questions might have been haunting your mind, we decided to jump in and have everything cleared out!
According to researches conducted in some western countries, there has been an increasing number of people who reported abnormally rapid hair loss in the aftermath of coronavirus without any other commonly reported symptoms related to scalp problems, such as itching, burning and flaking. What is more strange is that the onset of this particular type of hair loss does not emerge at the same time as does that of contracting the virus, with usually a few months gap in between. So far, no evidence has been found in support of the argument that Covid-19 itself can lead to hair loss. But there seems to be a subtle connection between them based on what the research suggested. In fact, it all comes down to what’s known as telogen effluvium, a form of non-scarring hair loss that happens due to an abnormal shift in follicular cycling. As many of us have probably heard about this particular type of hair loss, it is not caused by illness of any kind, nor is it an outcome of genetic inheritance or aging process.
In the hair follicle growth cycle, there are 3 phases our hair goes through in order, which are anagen(growth phase), catagen(resting phase) and telogen(shedding phase) respectively. Typically speaking, 90% of hairs are in anagen phase with 5% in each of the other two phases. However, when telogen effluvium comes into existence, the amount of hair follicles in the shedding telogen phase skyrockets, to a proportion as large as 50%, ten times its normal amount. So it is not hard to visualize how fast and intense one’s hair can shed in the case of telogen effluvium. What comes to your mind must be “what exactly is it that triggers the development of telogen effluvium? Covid-19? Or some other things we are not aware of?” Well, the answer actually varies on a case by case basis even though common ground can be found. Telogen effluvium can follow any type of stressful event in life, even though it manifests usually 3 months after the event. For those who contracted Covid-19, life can get incredibly crippling and debilitating both physiologically and psychologically, thus giving rise to a very stressful way of living for the patients in a number of aspects. Not only are they afflicted by the excruciating symptoms of the virus itself, such as fever, fatigue, loss of smell and taste, they also have no choice but to face the life challenges that go with the pandemic. On the other hand, there have been even some telogen effluvium cases among those who are not infected, which further proves that it is a stress-induced type of hair loss. To this population group, the pandemic is grueling enough to stress them out in different ways, as many have to deal with the agony of losing a loved one, some have to shoulder the responsibility of taking care of those infected, many others are stuck with financial stress or mental burnout mostly caused by endless quarantine and harsh restrictive policies.
After knowing how the pandemic is related to this particular type of hair loss, what we are interested in must be whether it is temporary or permanent and if there are ways to recover from it. The good news is telogen effluvium typically resolves itself within 6 months for most people as the hair gradually grows back. So there is really nothing to worry about if you are not that bothered by the thin hair look , especially when there is no other complications out of it. Nevertheless, to many of us who are not very used to appearing with a thin hair look, solutions still remain available. It has been advised by many certified pathologists that people living with telogen effluvium can apply a topical minoxidil 5%, known as the best over-the-counter treatment for telogen effluvium, which helps mitigate hair shedding of this kind by encouraging hair follicles to leave the telogen phase early and return to the anagen or growth phase. However, there are some potential side effects long identified concerning this medication that could cause you a certain level of discomfort, such as scalp irritaion, a light-headed feeling, unwanted growth of facial hair, dizziness and flushing. But when applied correctly and in the right amount, most of the symptoms are not as likely to come along and bother you. So it is recommended to consult a medical professional before resorting to this treatment.
For those who are very mindful of the identified side effects of minoxidil 5% for treating hair fall, the best solution can be wearing a hair system or a hair wig to cover your thin hair and present a full hair look! It is understandable that many are not very accustomed to wearing something like a hairpiece for the purpose of recovering from heavy hair loss given that it would not be your own hair that make up that highly rejuvenated and transformative look, or it would be hard to live without a hairpiece in the future once it is put into use. While such concerns remain undeniably true and sensible, it would still be a wise move to give it a shot just as a makeshift solution, especially when it would take nearly a year for that old full hair look to make its comeback.
Overall speaking, both minoxidil 5% and hair system products can be your options to give a thought to when it comes to coping with hair loss caused by telogen effluvium. Which one to go for is mainly dependent on what your preferences and concerns are as either option is a double-edged sword. No matter which one to choose, the best thing you could do it to manage your stress properly. Aside from getting regular exercise and eating a well-balanced diet, try to always stay positive amid post-pandemic time and have faith in the tremendous efforts the whole world has consistently been putting into ending Covid-19 and bringing back the life we all once had!