There is a pandemic phenomenon that’s causing so many people – even those who have not tested positive for COVID-19 – to shed significant amounts of hair – sometimes for months at a time. Dr. Sara Wasserbauer, is reassuring her patients and others the condition is treatable and most importantly, it is temporary.
“I am hearing from so many patients, men and women, who want to know if the excessive amount of hair they are seeing on the shower floor or after brushing their hair will grow back,” says Dr. Wasserbauer, a hair surgeon who operates several practices in Northern California. “I can say confidently in a majority of cases that I am seeing; the answer is yes – this loss is temporary.”
Dr. Wasserbauer explains that, while at this time there is no causal evidence identifying hair loss as a long-haul symptom of the coronavirus, there is no doubt the stress of living through the many ups and downs of a pandemic could trigger hair shedding.
“It is no secret that stress triggers hair loss and the last 12 months were filled with tension, worry, anxiety, suffering, pain and grief,” explains the doctor. “In addition to hair loss, stress can lead to difficulty thinking clearly, disturbed sleep, and fatigue and these symptoms can last for months at a time. It is enough to make you want to pull your hair out.”
Dr. Wasserbauer says while hair loss triggered by stress is not permanent, it takes time for new hair to grow. There are several therapy options available for patients who might want to try to speed up the process.
Hair Shedding Therapies
- Injectable hair loss therapies – Both Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and Exosomes are new players in this category and while both are scientifically “young” their initial results are promising. This process requires injection of growth factors contained either in the patient’s own plasma or from exosome signaling molecules into the scalp. The exosomes are tiny balloons that cells send to each other to communicate typical cell functions like growth. Wasserbauer has witnessed less hair shedding and growth following this therapy in 58%-72% of her patients.
- PhotoBioModulation (AKA Low level light therapy (LLLT)) – Dr. Wasserbauer advises that this an especially good choice in cases where the scalp is visible or patients cannot take medications. Research published in the medical journal, Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, shows LLLT stimulated safe and effective hair growth in both men in women during controlled clinical trials. The therapy works by using light treatments of a precise wavelength and energy dose to invigorate circulation and stimulate hair follicles to actually grow hair. More improved consumer medical devices are expected to make this the treatment of choice in the near future and it has been shown to be beneficial when used in combination with existing therapies as well.
- Oral or topical minoxidil – Minoxidil is the pharmaceutical name for the hair loss drug known as Rogaine. Minoxidil works by improving blood flow to the area where it is applied and potentially increase the rate of hair growth. You could start to see new hair growth within three to six months. While the topical version is sold over the counter, the oral form is used off-label and by prescription only.
Dr. Wasserbauer advises patients should always consult a trained hair loss physician before beginning any type of hair loss therapy. Any sudden loss of hair, whether a large clump or small patch, deserves medical attention. It could be a sign of an underlying medical treatment that requires an expert opinion.