Have You Experienced Pandemic-Driven Hair Loss?

Have You Experienced Pandemic-Driven Hair Loss?
(Linda Zhao for Radiant Life)
By Dr. Harwin

For most people, hair loss is a physical and psychological affair. Balding is noticeable, and so are its effects on the sufferer. Men describe hair loss as an unwanted and upsetting experience that can plummet body image. Women report even greater negative consequences including diminished body image, lower self-esteem, and poorer quality of life. Across the board, anxiety and depression are common. Hair loss extracts a significant toll.

The good news is that you don’t have to put up with a receding hairline. There are evidence-based ways to halt the process and restore what has been lost. But before we share exactly how to do this, it’s important to understand why the hair on top of your head is dying. By correcting these problems, you set the stage for regrowth and enhance the chance of successful medical intervention should you decide to follow that path.

Stress: a Little-Known Cause of Hair Loss

If you’ve noticed hair loss during the pandemic, you are not alone. On the face of it, tumbling tresses appear not to share a link with the COVID pandemic. Yet, there are two links: stress and the disease itself.

“We have seen a number of patients with shedding from the acute viral infection, but many more that have had hair loss from stressing about the coronavirus pandemic in general,” says Dr. Christine Shaver, of the world-leading Bernstein Medical hair restoration center. “A sudden increase in hair loss may result from stressors such as job loss, death of a loved one, or major changes in lifestyle. Unfortunately, all of these have been related to the recent COVID epidemic.”

Psychological health is intimately linked with physical health. The strain of the past two years is playing out in our bodies. The lingering high level of stress hormones keeps the hair follicles in their resting phase, meaning growth is stunted.

Calming stress is key for a full head of hair.

Vitamin Deficiencies: a Hair Loss Trigger

Energy-rich junk diets are playing a role in hair loss by triggering the nutrient deficiencies that are common in the U.S. A significant number of Americans are low in vitamins A, B6, and B12, C, D, E, and K, and minerals including calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Certain nutrient deficiencies, particularly calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc, can contribute to hair loss. Dr. Shaver notes that iron deficiency, and anemia in particular, can slow hair growth.

But it’s not just a subpar diet that depletes these hair-healthy nutrients. A study published in the journal Advances in Nutrition notes that “evidence demonstrates stress-induced depletion of magnesium and zinc” and that several studies “demonstrate the effects of stress on calcium and iron concentrations.”

Certain nutrient deficiencies are both stress- and diet-induced. Individually or together, they may lead to increased hair fall—emphasizing the need to eat well.

The Right Scalp Care for Healthy Hair

Your scalp is the “ground” from which your hair grows. It is sensible, then, to imagine that keeping this area healthy may aid the growth of luscious locks. Traditional remedies suggest this is the case.

Birkin hair tonic is a well-loved German product thought to restore scalp health and strengthen the hair. Its primary ingredient is birch sap; in Scottish folk medicine, birch sap is prescribed to prevent baldness. In Bulgaria, massaging the roots of the hair with birch sap is said to boost hair growth. In Romania, it is used as a hair conditioner.

The topical formulation Dr. UGro Gashee® also appears to elicit positive results. A report published in the journal Case Reports in Dermatological Medicine found that this product’s combination of ingredients—including gotu kola, green tea extract, N-acetyl cysteine, turmeric, and vitamin D—promotes meaningful improvement in hair growth.

As opposed to herbal topicals, Dr. Shaver advises that the right scalp care can be found in sensible habits. Avoid applying heat or chemicals to the hair or scalp. As she says, “If it burns or tingles your scalp when applying, then that should be a sign not to use it!” In addition, take good care of your health. Eat well. Wear a hat to limit damaging chronic sun exposure. Quit smoking. Shun the long-term application of tight hairstyles as they can trigger a condition called traction alopecia—balding from the yanking out of hair follicles.

Hair Transplants Can Restore Lost Hair

Hair loss produced by stress and vitamin deficiencies can, once remedied, lead to slow regrowth and, eventually, prior fullness. However, the most common cause of hair loss is androgenetic alopecia, a genetic thinning. This requires a different approach as time will cause further balding, not reverse it.

Hair transplant technology has come a long way since its beginnings. Now an advanced procedure, in expert hands it can restore hair growth and the confidence that comes with it. Transplant candidates can regain their tresses, self-esteem, and poise.

When a candidate is appropriately screened and realistic expectations are set, a hair transplant is an extremely successful way to regain one’s hair. From surgery to full effect takes approximately 12 months. “Although one procedure will look completely natural, often two procedures are needed to achieve a desired fullness,” says Dr. Shaver.

Many people assume that transplants are only for men. But if you are a woman experiencing hair loss, you likely have the option of a successful hair transplant, too. Dr. Robert Bernstein, founder of Bernstein Medical, notes that, “While the majority of hair restoration procedures are performed in men, a woman can be an excellent candidate for hair restoration if she has adequate donor hair.” Eyebrow transplants are also regularly performed.

Seeking the advice and assessment of a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in hair restoration is recommended to achieve a potentially life-changing hair transplant outcome.

Whether hair loss is due to stress, nutrient deficiencies, or the expression of a genetic trait, there is hope. For most people, correcting any underlying causes and, if needed, having an advanced medical intervention like a hair transplant can restore a much-desired head of hair. The key? Don’t wait. Seek professional advice now.