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Hair Loss, Thinning & COVID: What You Should Know

Over 46 million women are affected by hair loss annually. With the recent influx of people reported to have experienced hair loss after COVID, it is expected that numbers will continue to increase. Losing a little bit of hair everyday, up to 100 hairs per day is totally normal, but anything outside of that may indicate that there is an issue. 

There are several different causes of hair loss in women. According to  American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), hair loss in women is usually concentrated at the crown of the head and especially noticeable around the area where the hair is parted whereas, men are more likely to develop visible hair loss along the hairline.

Hair loss can be summed up in two main categories - temporary and permanent or hereditary. For example, hereditary hair loss (androgenetic alopecia), is not in your control and can not be reversed with any medication or treatments. Temporary hair loss conditions, such as, stress related or hormonal hair loss can be reversed if caught in the early stages. In this blog, we will identify the common characteristics and causes of hair loss in women.

1. Genetics

When we think of hereditary hair loss, male pattern baldness usually is at the top of the list. However, people of all genders are susceptible to hereditary hair loss. In women, the hair loss is usually concentrated at the crown of the head, and men's hair loss is along the hairline which can lead to baldness.

Although you can’t prevent this type of hair loss entirely, there are treatments available—such as over-the-counter minoxidil or finasteride—that can slow it down and make hair stay fuller longer. 

2. Childbirth

Postpardum hair loss occurs after pregnancy once estrogen levels go back to normal. Some women experience very mild shedding, but others experience intense shedding for a few months. This type of hair loss (technically, hair shedding) is called telogen effluvium, and it can occur months after a stressful or major life event like childbirth. AAD reports that postpartum hair loss is temporary. So you don’t really have to do anything to treat it.

3. Changes in birth control

Many birth control medications are known for having side effects that can negatively impact our hormones which can cause issues with weight, mood, energy levels or hair. Going off hormonal birth control or changing to a different type of hormonal contraception can also cause hormone-induced shedding.This is another form of telogen effluvium, which means that it falls in to temporary category. You can rely on volumizing products and hair extensions for fullness while you wait for your hair to regain its fullness.

4. Medications

Some "medications can cause chronic shedding," Dr. Schlosser says. In particular, those used to manage high blood pressure, cancer, arthritis, and depression are known to cause hair loss issues, according to the Mayo Clinic.

If you think your medication may be causing hair loss, check in with your doctor. This was the case with reports of COVID hair loss In many cases, this type of hair loss is temporary. But if your hair loss becomes chronic, your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medication that doesn’t cause this side effect.

5. Intense emotional or physical stress

When you're experiencing something stressful or traumatic—not your average day-to-day stress, but something big and life-altering like a divorce, a death in the family, a significant job change, or a big move—you may experience a temporary halt in hair growth as your body puts its resources toward getting you through said big event.

When you have these conditions, your body halts hair growth, and then things get restarted and all these hairs that have been halted start to get pushed out at the same time." The same thing can happen with physical stress and trauma, like having a big operation, being hospitalized, or even losing a significant amount of weight very quickly.

6. Wearing too-tight hairstyles too often

This can cause traction alopecia, Dr. Schlosser says. "Classically, this happens when people wear tight braids chronically, but I’ve seen it with tight ponytails too," she explains. It can cause progressive thinning of the hairline, and if you do it for long enough, the hair loss may actually become permanent. It's considered a scarring process, which can damage the hair follicle beyond repair.

To help prevent and treat hair loss due to traction alopecia, Dr. Schlosser advises never wearing one hairstyle for too long, and trying not to pull too tightly if you can help it. According to Ganesa Robinson, Craniel Prostheses Specialist, Weave Got the Look, "We have to reprogram our thinking about beauty when it comes to our hair. Many of us are guilty of enduring pain in exchange for the latest hairstyles, and beauty treatments because we learned that 'beauty is pain,' so we would deal with it. Now we know better, we know that this can lead to traction alopecia and breakage."  

Women should discuss hair loss more often and seek medical treatment 

Dr. Lenzy, a Board-certified dermatologist and clinical associate at University of Connecticut, Farmington, Conn., believes that the cause for most of the hair loss for Black women is a condition called Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA) which is a disorder that causes inflammation and destruction to the hair follicles that can cause scarring and even permanent hair loss.

Dr. Lenzy urges women to start the conversations and encourages women to  seek help from a Dermatologist, Trichologist, or physician. "
Suffering in silence will not solve the problem nor will it help. Covering the hair loss or thinning hair up with wigs, weaves, or braids is not the answer either. Often that can compound the problem and make already damaged hair worse." 


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