by Liz Ritter
Since the start of the pandemic, Beverly Hills, CA hair restoration specialist Dr. Craig Ziering has seen an increase in patients searching for help with their hair loss. “Some cases are because of contracting COVID and others are from intense level of stress on everyday life the pandemic has brought with it,” he says. “The most significant is that hair loss is one of the top 15 most common side effects COVID patients experience.”
Since the actual hair shedding begins during the COVID recovery period (or three-to-five months post-COVID), Dr. Ziering notes that experts did not realize early last year how frequently they would be seeing and treating new hair-loss patients who were experiencing telogen effluvium (i.e., overall hair loss resulting from more hairs in the inactive portion of the growth phase) after a COVID diagnosis.
“The good news is that this type of hair loss is typically temporary and very treatable. You just must be patient—the hair regrowth process will take up to one year.”
The other consideration is the number of people navigating the extreme stress of pandemic lock downs, job loss, fear of job loss, learning to work remotely and just the isolation that has come with ongoing lockdowns, he notes. “This level of physical and emotion stress negatively impacts general health and well-being. This ‘shock’ on the system breaks down the hair growth cycle ,causing it to get ‘stuck’ in the telogen or resting phase which ends with the hair shedding or falling out.”
While Dr. Ziering explains that telogen effluvium affects both men and women equally, it typically is more dramatic with those who have had a prolonged high fever. “But we are still learning a lot from our patient base, as the treatment process takes time. Our cases of COVID-related and stress-related hair loss continue to increase. As a result, we continue to evaluate and study their progress. I do not think we know the full story yet.”
Of course, telogen effluvium is not new. “We have been treating this condition long before COVID. While there are not ‘advances per se,’ we have more treatment options and proven therapeutics than ever before to restart and reset the hair cycle when the hair follicles are ‘shocked’ into the telogen phase at a high rate. Most of our COVID- and stress-related hair-loss patients are on hair-regeneration treatment plans that include a combination of prescription topicals, supplements, laser therapy and for some stem cell injections with Amnio-Z and Exosomes. But it is a waiting game with stabilizing the hair cycle and then giving time for the hair regrowth to begin.”
Plus, Dr. Ziering notes, for some patients, a COVID diagnosis and the subsequent hair loss has unmasked their genetic predisposition for androgenetic alopecia earlier rather than later. “Those patients require different treatment plan that normally includes hair-transplant surgery. Regardless of the cause, hair loss is a confidence killer. Early intervention, treatment and support truly helps with dialing down the emotional stress hair-loss sufferers frequently experience. Reducing their stress is important. Getting started on a hair-restoration plan empowers the patient; it makes them more positive and hopeful.”