By Sharon Kim, M.D., F.A.A.D.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its related issues, from economic insecurity to emotional isolation, are taking their toll on many of us. Pandemic-related anxiety is a real problem, and for some this is leading to abrupt hair loss.
How Stress Causes Hair Loss
If you’re noticing more hair than usual on your pillow, in your hairbrush, or coming out in the shower, a temporary condition called telogen effluvium may be to blame.
Typically, up to 90% of the hair on our heads is actively growing at any given time during the anagen phase. Otherwise, the hairs are resting, which is called the telogen phase. During this phase, hair gradually falls out and is replaced by new hair, resulting in a natural loss of about 100 hairs per day. The phase usually lasts two to four months, which explains why most people seek a haircut every couple of months.
However, when prolonged stress and anxiety induce telogen effluvium, more hairs than normal — about 30% — are pushed into the telogen phase abruptly, causing loss of 300 hairs per day on average.
Although this can be concerning, the condition rarely lasts longer than six months, and the hair does typically grow back over time.
Preventing Stress-Related Hair Loss
Unfortunately, if you experienced a great deal of anxiety at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic months ago and are beginning to lose hair, there’s likely not much that can be done since stress-induced hair loss typically begins about three months after the onset of a stressful event.
However, you can help prevent Telogen Effluvium in the future by reducing stress and anxiety through self-care practices such as yoga, meditation, exercise, and aromatherapy.
If you notice your hair is not growing back after several months, you can consult a dermatologist to see if there’s anything that can be done to promote hair regrowth.
Dr. Kim is a board-certified dermatologist who cares for patients at Kelsey-Seybold’s Clear Lake Clinic and Pasadena Clinic. Her clinical interests include general Dermatology, skin cancers, cosmetic Dermatology, and dermatologic surgery.