Pandemic-related stress may be causing people to lose their hair. A D.C. dermatologist has reported seeing three times more patients than usual for the condition.
“Telogen effluvium, also known as stress-induced hair shedding, is one of the most common forms of hair loss that we see in the dermatologists’ office, and there’s been a massive uptick since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Adam Friedman, interim chair of the department of dermatology at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
“For women, typically 180 to 200 hairs a day is normal loss, where in a telogen effluvium, it can be up to 400 or 500 a day,” he said.
The condition is most commonly triggered by a single incident of stress, a shock or traumatic event. Shedding then begins two or three months later and continues for four to five months, before normal hair growth resumes.
“We see this very commonly, actually, after women deliver babies, and three months after the delivery they will shed for several months and the hair does come back,” Friedman said.
However, an apparent return to normalcy may take awhile.
“Hair grows about 1 centimeter a month, so it will take some significant time to see some change even once the shedding has stopped,” he said.
Although stress-induced hair shedding is one of the most common forms of hair shedding, doctors can’t study the condition well, because they can’t usually predict when a catalyst may occur.
“As well as we can’t develop any therapeutics for it because we can’t collect patients who we know will be going through a cycle in a reliable manner,” Friedman said.
In a very small subset of patients, the condition can appear routinely with the change of seasons.
To help keep their hair in a growth phase versus an accelerated death phase, Friedman uses a very low dose of oral minoxidil off-label that’s typically used to help control blood pressure.
Other hair-related conditions treated by dermatologists include breakage and shrinking or thinning over time.
Hair breakage can leave a person with frizzy, unhealthy-looking hair, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, which has tips for healthy hair care on its website
The website also states that despite the saying, “Hair never needs 100 brush strokes a day. That’s a myth.”
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