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What to do about hair loss caused by stress from COVID-19

The New You: The COVID-19 pandemic, stress and hair loss

Many people are reporting hair loss as a result of the pandemic. So what can you do? Might seem counterintuitive but the experts say, just try not to worry.

CLEVELAND — There’s no doubt the pandemic has left us all feeling stressed.

“I think a lot of it was just uncertainty,”  said Dr. Shilpi Khetarpal, a dermatologist with the Cleveland Clinic. “It’s a new virus. What is going on? People are also stressed about childcare.”

But as many of us return back to a new normal – there may be something else happening to you that you may think is abnormal; hair loss.

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“It can be very disturbing,” Dr. Khetarpal said. “Stress-induced hair loss is a phenomena we call ‘telogen effluvium,’ which we have been seeing for years. It’s not unique because it’s not just people who are having Covid that are seeing hair loss.”

The dermatologists at the Cleveland Clinic tell 3News they’ve been busier lately because hair loss isn’t always an immediate response to stress. Dr. Khetarpal says hair loss is actually shown on a three-month delay.

“I have had many patients come in and said, ‘Hey, I had Covid before,’ [now] two or three months later, they’re now shedding,” says Dr. Khetarpal. “Other people say I haven’t been sick. I am ok but I am stressed about life. And we’re seeing shedding that’s been going on for months. Definitely an increase in our practice.”

So even if you don’t feel stressed now, your hair could be showing stress you were feeling months ago.

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“We have the growing phase, the resting phase and shedding phase. So at any given time, about 80-90 percent of hair is the growing phase. Five percent resting and the other five percent shedding. During this stressed induced hair loss, up to 50 percent of the hairs can be prematurely shifted to the shedding phase,” Dr. Khetarpal explained.

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So what can you do? Might seem counterintuitive, but the experts say…just try not to worry.

“People stress about the hair so that in and of itself creates a vicious cycle. Stress control is important whether it is through exercise or something else,” Dr. Khetarpal says. 

The dermatologist also recommends her patients eat a well-balanced diet, and make sure they are getting proper nutrition. She also suggests taking a multivitamin daily.

Experts say stress-related hair loss usually resolves itself within 6 months. If it goes on for longer, you may want to seek out medical help.

Editor’s note: The video in the player above is from a story published on Feb. 1, 2021. 

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