quarantine related hair loss

There’s no shortage of issues associated with this new world we’ve all found ourselves in during the pandemic, and believe it or not, hair loss may be one of the most common. According to a survey of 1,000 adults conducted by Wakefield Research for HairClub, nearly two in five Americans have experienced hair loss as a result of quarantine-induced stress.

“This is happening during the pandemic because COVID has upended and drastically changed every aspect of our lives in shocking and unparalleled ways,” explains Bridgette Hill, trichologist and colorist at the Paul Labrecque Salon and Skincare Spa in New York City. But why exactly is lockdown affecting our locks? And what can you do about it? Here’s what you need to know about hair loss during quarantine.

The Stress & Hair Connection

A laundry list of factors can contribute to female hair loss—everything from hormonal changes to dietary deficiencies to, you guessed it, stress. Stress increases cortisol, a hormone that directly affects the function of the hair follicle. It ultimately triggers miniaturization, a shrinking of the follicle that leads to hair loss, explains Hill. Not to mention that higher stress levels also impact other factors such as diet, sleeping patterns, and exercise routines, all of which further impact the delicate hormonal balance in our body and can exacerbate stress-induced hair loss, she adds. 

Plus, if you have any kind of underlying condition that might have eventually caused hair issues down the road (think vitamin and mineral deficiencies, autoimmune disorders), stress can kick those into effect. Hill likens those conditions to the ammunition in a loaded gun, and stress to the finger on the trigger: “Once the trigger is pulled, it sets off those conditions,” she says.

What Does Stress-Related Hair Loss Look Like?

In short, stress-related hair loss is characterized by sudden, rapid shedding of the hair, typically three to four months after the traumatic or intense event, explains stylist and HairClub hair health expert Shab Reslan. It’s also worth noting that you’ll see this shedding (technical term: telogen effluvium) across your entire head, rather than in just one concentrated area on the scalp. According to Hill, the following are a few tell-tale signs that your hair loss might be stress-related:

  • You seem to leave trails of hair on your pillow, and lose strands from running your fingers through your hair, without brushing.
  • You notice large amounts of hair in the drain while shampooing, more so than normal. 
  • You’ve noticed a sudden decrease in the density of your ponytail over the last three to six months. 

How To Deal With Hair Loss During Quarantine 

Now for some good news: “If the hair loss is truly stress-induced, it will only be temporary. Once the body regulates the cortisol and hormonal disruptions, the hair cycle should return to normal,” says Hill. In the meantime, there are a few key things you can do. First, let’s consider the root (pun intended) of the issue. While it’s much easier said than done—particularly these days—the more you can reduce your stress levels, the better. Find whatever it is that helps you chill out—painting your nails, tie-dying socks, calling a friend—and do it. 

Two, address the problem from the inside, out. Both experts we spoke with note the importance of a proper intake of the vitamins and nutrients essential for healthy hair. To that point, both say supplements can be a good option; a few good ingredients to look for are saw palmetto extract, vitamin A, vitamin D, and B vitamins, says Hill. One to try: Nutrafol Women ($88; amazon.com). But as always, talk to your doc before starting any kind of supplement. Similarly, don’t underestimate the importance of a healthy, balanced diet.

On the topical front, give your scalp a little extra TLC. “Scalp hygiene will affect the quality of your hair. If the follicle opening is clogged, it’s difficult for new hair to grow out,” explains Reslan, who adds that the fact that many women have been shampooing less frequently during quarantine also isn’t helping hair loss matters. To that point, Hill recommends applying a pre-shampoo scalp oil to open the follicles, encourage cell turnover, and increase circulation. She likes the detoxifying René Furterer Complexe 5 Stimulating Plant Concentrate ($50; dermstore.com). Bonus points if you take the time to give yourself a scalp massage as you apply it.

Follow that by using a shampoo dedicated for thinning hair, like Foligain Stimulating Shampoo for Thinning Hair ($19; amazon.com). And if you really want to amp it up a notch (and have the funds to do so), you can try an at-home laser treatment. Reslan is a fan of the HairMax LaserBand ($799; dermstore.com), which increases cellular energy to stimulate hair follicles and increase density, and only needs to be used for three minutes, three times per week.

Finally, re-think your go-to quarantine style. The lockdown go-to of a high bun or ponytail might be quick and easy, but repetitively pulling strands in a particular direction and securing with any type of elastic causes stress on the hair fiber itself. This may lead to breakage and shedding, says Hills. Consider experimenting with loose braids or pulled back looks that use clips or pins instead.

TL; DR: Quarantine-related hair loss is a real thing. But, just like this crazy situation we’ve all found ourselves in, take heart in knowing that it won’t last forever.

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