When telogen effluvium occurs, the hair loss is rapid. “We all lose about 100 hairs per day on average, but in the case of telogen effluvium, you’re suddenly losing way more than that,” says Dr. Bhanusali. He adds that people tend to notice it when they see large clumps in their hands after washing their hair, see lots of hair in the shower drain, or notice that their brush or comb is filling up much faster than normal. This isn’t a gradual type of hair loss or subtle hair thinning—it’s an acute, intense, sudden shedding that can leave your hair feeling less full overall and often manifests as noticeable thinness and sparseness along the sides of the temples.⁵
It’s unclear if hair loss after COVID-19 correlates with any other specific symptoms of the virus, or how sick you get. “The American Academy of Dermatology has a COVID-19 registry and we hope over time we will be able to extrapolate some data to find associations, but so far there are no clear relationships,” says Dr. Kuhn. “I have seen severe shedding following a mild case of COVID, and mild shedding following severe illness.”
How long does hair loss after COVID-19 last?
Telogen effluvium, whether it’s caused by COVID-19 or another trigger, usually isn’t permanent. “Shedding can occur, however, for three to six months before it stops,” says Dr. Kuhn. With telogen effluvium, the hair growth cycle eventually normalizes and, because there is no damage to the scalp or hair follicles, all of the hair should grow back.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, your hair will likely regain normal fullness after telogen effluvium within six to nine months. Although Dr. Kuhn says, in her experience, it often takes even longer—anywhere from one to two years—for someone’s hair to reach its pre-shed status.
Have any of the COVID-19 vaccines been linked to hair loss?
“There’s no research to indicate that the COVID vaccines trigger hair shedding,” says Dr. Kuhn, who adds that, in her experience, she hasn’t seen any people dealing with hair loss post-vaccine. Dr. Bhanusali underscores the fact that there’s currently no direct data to connect the two.
How to stop hair loss after COVID-19
Most importantly, be patient. “Though losing hair can be scary, I always reassure patients that they won’t go bald from COVID-related shedding,” says Dr. Kuhn. “Typically, the best thing to do is simply wait it out.” In the meantime, practicing healthy hair habits is paramount.
You want to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to minimize the risk of losing any more hair, notes Dr. Bhanusali. That means avoiding heat styling and/or using the lowest temperature whenever you do, minimizing intense chemical processes such as highlighting and straightening, and avoiding tight hairstyles that put tension on the hair.
You can also consider getting tested for nutrient deficiencies to ensure that’s not exacerbating the situation. If you are, in fact, lacking in a certain vitamin or mineral that’s associated with hair health—Dr. Bhanusali notes that vitamin D and iron deficiencies are common—talk to your doctor about how to incorporate more of it into your diet and/or if you’ll need to try a supplement (and if so, what the dosage should be).
And while it’s always easier said than done, lowering your stress levels may also help. “Practicing self-care and engaging in things such as meditation and breathing exercises can be helpful as you deal with COVID-related hair loss,” suggests Dr. Ziering. “Breaking long-term stress can be helpful in helping normal hair function resume more consistently.” That said, lowering stress levels may feel nearly impossible given what’s going on in the world or in your personal life, so if self-care isn’t cutting it, consider talking to a therapist, if you’re able.