In a video shared to Twitter, Alyssa Milano shares her struggles with hair loss after suffering from symptoms of COVID-19. An increasing number of patients are reporting hair loss months after their diagnosis.
Hair loss can be traumatizing for anyone but the experience is particularly painful for women due to the societal norms placed on appearance. The challenging condition may only be getting more prevalent, courtesy of COVID-19.
Hair loss not taken seriously
“Society and medicine haven’t taken hair loss seriously because it’s not life-threatening,” Spencer Kobren, the founder of the American Hair Loss Association, told the Washington Post. “But it’s a disease of the spirit that eats away at a person’s self-esteem, and the social ramifications, especially for women, are profound.”
“The clock starts ticking when puberty hits,” said Marc Avram, a New York dermatologist. “After that, there’s a spectrum when it comes to how much of the hair thins and how long it takes. For some people, it can happen very slowly over 30 to 40 years. For others, it can happen in a compressed time frame very soon after puberty.”
It’s a disease of the spirit that eats away at a person’s self-esteem, and the social ramifications, especially for women, are profound
And it can be undeniably painful, as evidenced by Ayanna Pressley, a U.S. congresswoman who went public with her alopecia diagnosis earlier this year (she did not specify what form of the condition she has). She told the Root that she felt compelled to retreat to the safety of a bathroom stall after wearing a wig to an impeachment vote.
“I felt naked, exposed, vulnerable,” she said. “I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed. I felt betrayed.”
COVID-19 and hair loss
While it may be too early to determine the full effect COVID-19 has on hair loss, it’s a safe bet the virus is only making things worse, as it tends to do to everything it touches. When the body is battling an acute disease, less important biological functions, such as hair growth, are put on the back burner. The flood of stress that accompanies a dire medical diagnosis only makes matters worse, but the condition is usually temporary for COVID sufferers, Sonya Cook, a Toronto dermatologist, told CTV News.
“A few months later, the new hair starts to grow and pushes out those hairs that were in the resting phase… and that’s why you get the shed,” she said.
Although this sort of disease-related hair loss usually resolves itself over time, there is no cure for androgenetic alopecia. There are, however, medications and hormone-blocking treatments that can slow the process. Getting a diagnosis from a doctor to determine the type of hair loss one is dealing with is a good first step on the road to addressing the issue.
While some forms of treatment have proven successful, it is important to remember that sometimes hair loss is just one of the irreversible effects of aging.
“Most people lose elasticity in their hair as they get older,” said Doris Day, a New York dermatologist. “Like skin, the hair ages. And, like skin, it can age more gracefully for some than others.
“But it’s the rare person who will have the same full head of hair at 60 that she or he had as a teenager.”
BDST: 1257 HRS, OCT 19, 2020