Not surprisingly, we still have a lot to learn about COVID-19. Does it contribute to hair loss? Yes. We now know 27%, of patients recovering from COVID-19 have reported hair loss as one of the post-recovery issues. A survey was conducted of more than 1,500 people in the Survivor Corp Facebook group. The group’s members have been discussing the long-term effects of the disease for some time now.
Doctors now say telogen effluvium is to blame. This is a temporary condition where people experience excessive hair shedding after an illness, surgery, high fever, a stressful life event, extreme weight loss or giving birth. Some are considered natural causes of hair loss while others are classified as medically related.
Then there is Dr. Esther Freeman, who directs the Dermatology COVID-19 Registry — a database of dermatologic manifestations of COVID-19 that now contains 1,000 cases from 38 countries — said there’s been a growing number of hair loss cases recorded. She declined to give specific numbers while researchers were actively working on data analysis of the phenomenon.
The timing of an uptick now is not surprising since people with telogen effluvium usually start to see the hair loss about three months after getting sick or the stressful life event, which coincides with about three months since the peak of the pandemic, she noted.
“If you’re recovering from COVID and then all of a sudden your hair starts to fall out, it can be extremely emotionally distressing,” said Freeman, director of Global Health Dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and an assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School.
But doctors are seeing a lot more telogen effluvium in general — regardless of illness status — because most everyone has been deeply stressed this year, whether by worrying about catching coronavirus, adjusting to life in quarantine, or dealing with a job loss.
Dr. Marc Glashofer, a hair loss expert with The Derm Group in West Orange, New Jersey, has recently noticed an overall increase in telogen effluvium cases at his practice.
“When I see somebody who has shedding, I don’t ask about daily stress like your job or traffic. We’re talking about big stress like the death of a loved one, change in career, a divorce, and COVID — COVID is a big stress,” Glashofer said. I think we can all agree on that.