Covid And Pandemic Stress Is Causing Widespread Hair Loss
Hair loss is a common side effect of COVID-19 and the trauma of the pandemic itself. NPR’s Ailsa Chang talks with Atlantic writer Amanda Mull about her article, “The Year America’s Hair Fell Out.”
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
If you’ve noticed your hair is getting thinner during this pandemic or even falling out, you’re not alone. For many people, the general upending of life as we knew it has shown up in visible hair loss – bald spots, receding hairlines, clogged shower drains. Hair loss can also be a side effect of COVID-19 itself. This has been “The Year America’s Hair Fell Out.” That is the title of an article in The Atlantic written by Amanda Mull, who joins us now. Welcome.
AMANDA MULL: So glad to be here. Thank you for having me.
CHANG: I understand this reporting all started with your own personal experience with hair loss. Can you just talk about what happened to you?
MULL: Yes. I experienced two distinct waves of hair loss. And when I experienced the second one, it was one of those sort of, like, come to Jesus moments where it’s like, OK, I can no longer pretend that this is not a thing that is happening to me, and it’s time to figure out why.
CHANG: And just to be clear, you did not contract COVID-19, but COVID can result in hair loss, right?
CHANG: Wow, that’s confusing. Yeah.
MULL: Right. Right. There’s no, like, real logical reason that you would look at your hair loss in June and go, this is because of an illness I had in March.
Losing Hair From Stress What You Should Know About Hair Loss And Chronic Stress
If youre finding more strands of hair than usual on your pillowcase and in the shower drain, you may be wondering if anxiety is to blame.
Youve probably heard about a possible link between stress and hair loss, but is there any truth to that claim? Whether youre feeling frazzled by work or are overwhelmed by emotional events such as divorce or a death in the family, its natural to feel concerned about how stress can affect your body. Heres what you should know about stress and hair loss.
Focus On Good Nutrition
Hair needs good nutrition to grow and be healthy, especially protein and key vitamins and minerals. Whether through diet or supplements, be sure to get enough of the following:
Get good quality sleep, 7 to 8 hours per night
Talk with your doctor or therapist about other ways to manage your stress levels
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How Stress Causes Hair Loss
Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Noticed more hairs on your brush, pillow or around the shower drain than normal? Dealing with hair loss is never fun, especially when youre not sure whats causing it.
However, its also possible for a range of other factors to cause and contribute to hair loss.
One of these factors is emotional stress. If youre feeling overly stressed due to work, your personal life or anything else, its possible that this stress could contribute either tomild hair thinning, or significant hair loss.
Below, weve explained how and why stress can cause you to lose hair. Weve also looked at a range of treatment options that can help you regrow any hair you lose due to stress.
How Can I Treat Stress
Roughly 10% to 15% of your hair strands are in the telogen phase at any given time, where theyre preparing to fall out, says Dr. Landriscina. Unfortunately, once those hairs are lost, theyre gone. But that doesnt mean new strands won’t grow back in. Both dermatologists recommend minoxidil, a vasodilator that improves circulation around the hair bulb at the base of the hair follicle, and one of the few FDA-approved remedies for hair growth.
Most people are cleansing, conditioning, and using an after treatment on their hair, so it’s easy to swap out what you’re using, says Dr. Henry. Unlike other minoxidil products, Nioxin looks at hair as a whole, she says, keeping strands healthy, moisturized, and strong while addressing the scalp and getting rid of dirt and debris that could make hair loss worse.
I actually used Nioxin products at my local salon after my hairstylist also recommended the brand she noticed about four years ago that I had mild hair thinning around my temples . I’ve used it at the salon several more times since then, and my hair has grown back noticeablythough I don’t know if it was because of the Nioxin products or my own better hair care habits.
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Is There A Way To Prevent Telogen Effluvium
Unfortunately, there is no proven way to prevent or stop an episode of telogen effluvium, and it should resolve on its own with time.
However, there are a few things that may help to support overall hair health. Eat a balanced diet, and in particular, consume an adequate amount of protein . Hair is made up of primarily protein , so its no surprise that sufficient protein is vital to maintain and grow hair. Also, be sure to avoid very tight hairstyles, excessive heat styling, or chemical-based treatments, as these can contribute to hair loss or cause hair breakage.
If you hair loss is chronic, patchy, or associated with redness, itching or pain, seek medical care from a dermatologist.
Managing And Treating Stress
If stress is leading to hair loss, its important to work out whats causing your stress and take steps to reduce it including seeing a doctor for help if youre struggling to cope.
As well as getting advice from a doctor, there are various ways you can manage stress yourself and get stress relief. To start with, you might find it useful to talk to a friend, family member or someone else you trust about whats bothering you.
Practising calming breathing exercises can help, as can making time for exercise and other activities you enjoy.
Read more about ways to quickly relieve stress.
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Does Stress Cause Hair Loss
Can stress lead to hair loss? Absolutely, and stress related hair loss affects 55% of Americans, according to a 2018 Gallup Poll. Compared to the global average of 22%, its evident that U.S. citizens are stressed out. Daily stress creates a cycle of compounded damage: stress leads to physical symptoms, and in turn, these symptoms generate more stress, and can lead to hair loss due to anxiety and stress.Chronic stress leads to hair thinning, breakage, and loss. Whats more, stress appears in many forms. While one woman can experience stress-related hair loss from a demanding job, another can experience it from a death in the family. There is no strict yardstick for whom stress-related hair loss effects. What we do know for sure is that repeated and ongoing stress triggers send the hypothalamus into overdrive and result in hair loss for many people.
Stress And Hair Loss: The Basics
Contrary to popular belief, stress is not linked to male pattern baldness the form of hair loss that causes you to permanently lose hair around your hairline, temples and the crown of your scalp.
However, stress can trigger and potentially worsen a form of temporary hair loss called telogen effluvium.
Telogen effluvium affects your hair by interrupting the natural hair growth cycle.
Normally, there are four different growth phases during the hair cycle as it grows from below the skin to its full length, then falls out to be replaced by a new hair:
The first phase is the anagen phase, during which the hair grows to its full length.
The second phase is the catagen phase, during which the old, fully grown hair follicle detaches from the skin.
The third phase is the telogen phase, also known as the resting phase, during which a new hair starts to grow from the follicle to replace the old one.
The fourth phase is the exogen phase, during which the old hair falls out, with the new hair growing in its place.
Just like your skin and nails, your hair is constantly undergoing this growth cycle. Weve covered each phase of the hair growth cycle in more detail in our guide to the hair growth process.
Each phase of the hair growth cycle varies in length. Hairs usually stay in the anagen phase for up to six years during which they grow to their full length.
About 90 percent of your hairs are in the anagen phase at any time, meaning that most of your hair is constantly growing.
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Gro+ Advanced Replenishing Conditioner
This gorgeous-smelling conditioner contains hemp, which helps relieve stress and curb the effects of DHT, the testosterone-based steroid and hormone that can cause hair loss. GRO+ Advanced Replenishing Conditionermade my hair look shiny, smooth and feel so good! Plus, my hair became effortless to manage, which is a first!
The clinically proven phyto-actives in the conditioner work alongside VEGAMOURs proprietary Karmatin, a unique vegan keratin that stays on your strands even after you rinse.The results? Karmatin stopped my hair from breaking and boosted my hair growth! Plus, its color-safe, which is perfect for my chocolate-brown look.
Not All Hair Loss Is Anxiety Related
It’s also important to note that not all hair loss is anxiety related, but the two may occur at a similar period of time. Some people that start to suffer from hair loss are at an age with many other stresses, like kids, work, and finances. Because they happen at the same age they may seem related, but are technically different conditions.
Furthermore, some people start to feel anxiety**_ because_** they’re experiencing hair loss. In a way, hair loss is their anxiety trigger, and they experience greater levels of anxiety because they are so worried about losing their hair.
Finally, sometimes those with anxiety simply see more hair loss where it doesn’t exist, because of their fears. It’s not uncommon for hair to look exactly the same but anxiety plays tricks with the mind to make it seem or feel like more fell out than usual.
While anxiety can absolutely cause hair to fall out – in some cases in very large clumps – anxiety is not always the problem. Sometimes the problem is simply that your anxiety causes you to think more and care more about your hair than necessary, giving the impression that the two are related.
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Hidden Causes Of Thinning Hair In Women
If youre a person who has experienced or is experiencing unexplained hair loss, you know how devastating it can feel. And the truth is that up to 40% of women experience hair thinning by the age of 40, but as a society, we dont talk about it a lot.
Although its normal to lose up to 100 hairs a day, when you feel clumps of hair running down your back after shampooing, see it on your pillow in the morning, and glean shocking glimpses of your scalp when your hair is wet or unstyled, you know something is not right.
The good news is that thinning hair, at any age, doesnt have to be something you just live with or try and cover up. There is a reason for it, and oftentimes you can get your beautiful locks back.
Having experienced thinning hair myself , and helped many patients get to the bottom of their hair loss problems Ive learned thinning hair in women is often rooted in one of the following health issues.
Other Hair Loss Factors
There are other factors that can also cause hair loss, including but not limited to:
- Nervous habits
- Pregnancy, childbirth, and birth control pill usage
If your hair is thinning, or youre experiencing baldness and it seems abnormal its a good idea to see your doctor in order to determine the cause.
Also, if youre concerned that stress is the culprit, its always a good idea to cut down on lifestyle stress and find some effective coping techniques for the stress that remains. Specifically, the following resources can help.
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Does Emotional Stress Cause Hair Loss
Emotional stress, such as loss of a loved one, work-related pressure, financial troubles or parenting problems, can cause hair loss. These changes in mood can trigger hormonal imbalances, which lead to hair loss, often through telogen effluvium.
During periods of extreme emotional stress, telogen effluvium can cause the hair to fall out. Telogen effluvium is the most common type of stress-induced hair loss but is not permanent. Hair often grows back within 2 or 3 months.
Emotional stress can also trigger a specific type of alopecia, called alopecia areata. This is characterised by sudden bald patches on the scalp, which can spread to cover the entire head. Again, hair loss caused by alopecia areata is not permanent and often grows back, although sometimes treatment is required.
Can Anxiety Make Your Hair Fall Out
Anxiety itself does not directly cause hair loss. Instead, it is the stressful situations that those with anxiety encounter that can cause the hair to fall out. The amount that falls out depends on the severity of the stress and frequency of the interactions.
Anxiety is the bodys reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. Though everyone feels anxious occasionally, those who suffer from anxiety disorders suffer such distress that it interferes with their ability to lead a normal life.
As with other emotionally stressful situations, anxiety can trigger telogen effluvium or alopecia areata which will ultimately cause hair loss.
If you think you are suffering from hair loss as a result of emotional stress, it is best to consult your doctor. Your doctor may refer to you to a counsellor or therapist, to address the underlying cause of the emotional stress which should help prevent any further hair loss, as well as allow the hair to regrow through the resolution of the source of emotional stress.
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Habits And Lifestyle Changes
Changing your lifestyle and habits can often help to reduce stress. If you often feel stressed, try using the techniques below to limit your exposure to sources of stress and manage stress when you experience it:
If your hair loss is caused by chronic stress, understanding and coping with the stress in healthier ways may help you to regrow some or all of the hair that youve lost.
This is something that youll need to discuss with your healthcare provider.