Are you suffering pandemic-related hair loss?

Around the globe, experts are reporting increased levels of stress-related hair loss. But the solution is relatively simple.

Recently I have become the human hair equivalent of a glitter ball cannon, leaving clusters of hair strands everywhere I go.

Forget strands washing down the drain, this is “rake the pillow every morning” and “wear hats to keep suddenly breezy scalp warm” shedding.

Deeply distressed about my hair loss (and convinced I will be completely bald before I know it), I decided to play pin cushion for doctors.

Although my physical health was found to be excellent, the question was posed: could my hair loss be related to my emotional health?

A(nother) unwanted pandemic side effect

Around the globe, a curious phenomenon is being reported as dermatologists and hair loss clinics reopen their doors post-lockdown.

A steady stream of patients are seeking treatment for sudden and unexplained hair loss and dramatic thinning.

“I didn’t go an hour without seeing a hair loss patient,” Massachusetts dermatologist Papri Sarkar told Allure magazine.

Philip Kingsley consultant trichologist Anabel Kingsley told Metro in the UK a huge increase in stress-related hair loss queries had led to her clinic offering Zoom consultations.

Closer to home, Sinclair Dermatology consultant dermatologist and hair transplant surgeon Dr Pooja Sharma says while she usually saw a couple of new patients a week for unexplained hair loss, post-lockdown this figure had jumped to 30 a week.

“For those who had contracted and recovered from Covid-19, obviously their immune systems were impacted, but for most others, their hair loss was related to the psychological trauma of living through a pandemic,” she says.

“The combination of isolation, anxiety, stress, working from home and home schooling came together in a perfect storm to trigger telogen effluvium, a medical term for temporary hair loss resulting from a shock to the system.”

What causes hair loss?

The average person loses around 70 hairs a day, strands which are quickly replaced.

In cases of extreme stress, the number of hairs lost daily can be anywhere between 200 and 700, leading to thinning hair and much distress.

“The effects of stress can be seen throughout the body, including in hair follicles, which themselves produce stress hormones,” Australian Trichology Centre consultant Chelcey Salinger says.

“Once the extreme stress has resolved, the hair will take around three months to stop the excessive loss.”

How to deal with hair loss

If excessive hair loss is a concern for you, it’s best to first speak with your GP to rule out any potential underlying medical causes such as low iron storage levels, thyroid issues or problems with your hormones.

Should blood work reveal a clean bill of health and you’re unable to trace your hair loss back to a particular illness or high-stress event, a GP can refer you to a dermatologist, or you can make a booking with a trichologist without a referral.

“A trichologist will examine your hair and scalp under a microscope, further investigate the possible causes of your hair loss and be able to explain the cause of the hair loss and the possible treatments that are available,” Chelcey says.

If you’re looking at buying an extensive range of headwear, it’s a good idea to hit pause on the panic; it’s possible that your hair loss will revolve itself in a matter of months, Dr Sharma says.

“Hair and general health are intimately connected so treating hair loss with regard to pandemic-related stress will involve treating your health in the meantime,” she says.

Your dermatologist or trichologist may assist with prescribing supplements and rectifying any nutritional deficiencies.

But along with regular exercise, eating a balanced diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables and getting plenty of sleep, it may be a matter of learning new strategies to help decrease your stress levels as we navigate our way through this new world order.

Me? I’m trying to learn how to relax.

Written by Dilvin Yasa.