Hair loss is emerging as a surprising, but perhaps not wholly uncommon, symptom of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to list hair loss as a symptom of COVID-19, photos of large clumps of hair and patchy, thinning hairlines are plastered across patient support group Facebook pages and social media.
Doctors say the hair loss is likely linked to the stress and trauma of battling COVID-19. Telogen effluvium, a condition where hair stops growing after someone endures trauma, is likely the underlying cause of this hair loss.
Dr. Patrick Angelos, author of “The Science and Art of Hair Restoration: A Patient’s Guide,” told Insider four ways to help people, including COVID-19 survivors, reduce hair loss after an illness or trauma.
Wash your hair carefully to avoid tugging out clumps, and do not blow-dry
The way you wash your hair can actually help you keep more of your hair, according to Angelos.
“It’s less stressful on the follicles to wash and comb your hair forward, toward your face, instead of toward the back of your scalp and neck,” Angelos said.
A shorter haircut may also alleviate the pulling on the follicles and reduce the amount the falls out.
“Long hair weighs more, so on its own, it can put more traction on the follicles,” Angelos said.
In addition to cleaning your hair properly, avoiding heat tools like a blow dryer is important because this can make the hair more brittle and likely to fall out.
Treat other underlying medical issues that might be contributing to the hair loss
Issues like hormonal imbalances, low thyroid, and iron or iodine deficiency can all exacerbate any hair loss you are already experiencing due to the stress of COVID-19, according to Angelos.
Getting medical treatment for them can help the restoration process go faster.
“Avoid overuse of supplements and medications,” Angelo added. “Since supplements such as testosterone, human growth hormone, whey, and DHEA can cause thinning and hair loss, especially avoid excessive use of these.”
Nourish your nutritional needs and avoid fad diets
Nutrition can go a long way in keeping your hair healthy and hairline intact. Angelos recommends avoiding fad diets that cut out key nutrients.
“It’s really important to eat a healthy balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat,” Angelos said.
Avoid environments where people are smoking
Smoking or being around people who smoke isn’t just harmful to your lungs, it can be damaging to your hair.
Angelos recommends anyone with hair loss, especially those who have had COVID-19, avoid areas where people are smoking.