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Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, can cause a wide variety of symptoms.
Although the most commonly reported symptoms of COVID-19 mostly occur in the respiratory system, some people who’ve been affected by COVID-19 have reported experiencing varying degrees of hair loss.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also confirmed that hair loss is a possible long-term complication of COVID-19.
While hair loss may sound like an alarming complication, the reality is that hair loss is quite a common symptom of diseases that can cause fever.
Below, we’ve explained how COVID-19 may cause temporary hair loss, as well as the effects you may see if you have COVID-19. We’ve also discussed your options for treating hair loss, whether from COVID-19 or other common conditions that may cause you to shed hair.
COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, may cause you to experience hair shedding and temporary hair loss.
The hair loss you may experience from COVID-19 is most likely telogen effluvium -- a common form of hair shedding that can occur due to fever or illness.
Telogen effluvium hair loss isn’t permanent, meaning your hair should grow back after the underlying cause is successfully treated.
There’s currently no evidence that COVID-19 causes or worsens permanent hair loss from androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness).
If you’ve lost hair due to COVID-19, you may be able to stimulate regrowth with topical medications such as minoxidil.
COVID-19 can cause a wide variety of short-term and long-term symptoms. The most common symptoms reported by people affected by COVID-19 are:
Fever or chills
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Loss of smell or taste
Muscle and/or body aches
Congestion or runny nose
Nausea or vomiting
These symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus and can vary from mild to severe.
In addition to short-term symptoms, COVID-19 can cause certain long-term health complications that may persist for several weeks or months after the acute symptoms resolve.
Commonly reported long-term symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, cough, chest pain and joint pain.
Although hair loss isn’t a common symptom of COVID-19, some people have experienced it as a long-term complication.
A study of COVID-19 patients published in November 2020 noted that 14 patients out of a total of 58 reported experiencing hair loss as a long-term complication of COVID-19.
On average, these patients started to experience hair loss approximately 58 days after their first symptoms of COVID-19.
While hair loss may seem like an alarming complication of COVID-19, the reality is that hair loss is quite a common occurrence after illnesses that can cause fever.
This form of hair loss is called telogen effluvium. It’s a common form of hair shedding that tends to develop as a complication of infections, hormonal changes, surgery, certain medications and illnesses that cause fever.
Telogen effluvium forces your hairs to enter into the telogen phase of the hair growth cycle. In this phase, hairs stop actively growing. After several months, the hairs shed from your scalp en masse, causing noticeable hair loss.
If you experience telogen effluvium as a result of COVID-19, you may notice hairs falling out in the shower, on your pillow or while you brush your hair.
This type of hair loss generally doesn’t cause a receding hairline. Instead, you’ll usually notice diffuse thinning, with a fairly even pattern of hair loss across your scalp. You may find that it’s easier than normal to see your scalp through your hair, especially under bright light.
Telogen effluvium hair loss isn’t permanent, meaning any hairs you shed after becoming ill with COVID-19 will usually grow back. However, it may take several months before your hair settles down and the affected hair follicles begin to produce new hairs again.
In addition to fever, stress is also a known cause of telogen effluvium. If you’re stressed as a result of the pandemic, whether due to the virus itself or the effects it has on your life, this may also contribute to hair shedding and temporary hair loss.
Currently, there isn’t any scientific evidence to suggest that any form of COVID-19, including the recent Omicron variant, causes permanent hair loss.
Permanent hair loss can occur for several reasons. The most common cause of permanent hair loss in men is male pattern baldness, in which the hair follicles miniaturize and lose the ability to produce new hairs due to the effects of androgen hormones.
Another potential cause of permanent hair loss is scarring, which can occur as a result of fungal infections that affect your scalp.
Telogen effluvium -- the type of hair loss that’s linked to illness and fever -- doesn’t permanently damage your hair follicles, meaning your hair will eventually grow back once the root cause has been treated.
COVID-19 doesn’t cause male pattern baldness. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, a variety of studies suggested that men with male pattern baldness may have a higher risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms.
For example, one small-scale study from May of 2020 found that 67 percent of people admitted to hospital with COVID-19 showed signs of pattern hair loss.
A larger-scale study published in November 2020, which featured medical data from more than 60,000 people, found that extensive amounts of graying hair and hair loss were both linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, a risk factor for more severe COVID-19.
While these findings are interesting, more recent research seems to suggest that there’s no link between male pattern baldness and COVID-19 symptoms.
For example, using data from the genome-wide association study (GWAS) data, a more recent piece of research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology noted that there’s no evidence for a genetic correlation between male pattern baldness and COVID-19.
Put simply, COVID-19 doesn’t appear to cause male pattern baldness symptoms like a receding hairline or bald patch at your crown, and there doesn’t seem to be any link between balding and severity COVID symptoms.
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If you’ve noticed your hair thinning after recovering from COVID-19 infection, you can speak to a dermatologist or your primary care provider to learn more about your options. If you've experienced hair loss after Covid vaccine, we also covered hair growth treatments.
Telogen effluvium hair shedding will generally stop when the underlying cause of the hair loss is treated. After you recover from COVID-19, it may take several months before your hair begins to grow back, with full regrowth taking place over six months to one year.
If you’ve looked into treatments for hair loss, you’ve likely seen mentions of medications such as finasteride (sold as Propecia®) and minoxidil (sold as Rogaine®).
Finasteride is a medication that works by reducing the production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), an androgen hormone that your body produces as a byproduct of testosterone. DHT can attach to receptors in your scalp and damage your hair follicles, causing male pattern baldness.
Because acute telogen effluvium hair loss isn’t caused by DHT, finasteride won’t do anything to stop hair loss that occurs as a result of COVID-19.
However, it may help to reduce the severity of male pattern baldness if you’re experiencing this type of hair loss as a result of genetic factors.
Minoxidil is a topical medication that works by stimulating blood flow to your scalp and moving your hair follicles into the anagen, or growth phase, of the hair growth cycle.
Minoxidil isn’t approved for use as a treatment for telogen effluvium. However, your healthcare provider may prescribe it off-label if they think that it can help to stimulate regrowth and restore your hair.
In addition to using medication to stimulate hair growth, simple hair care habits may help you to reduce the severity of COVID hair loss. Try to:
Eat a balanced, nutritious diet. Eating a balanced and healthy diet can help to reduce your risk of experiencing hair loss due to nutritional deficiencies. There’s also evidence that certain diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, may help with long COVID.
Our guide to what you should eat for hair growth shares readily available foods that you can add to your diet for healthier hair.
Take steps to limit stress. Stress can cause or contribute to telogen effluvium. Try to limit your exposure to stressful situations and use relaxation techniques to stop yourself from feeling stressed or anxious.
Use a hair loss prevention shampoo. The right shampoo can help to limit hair fall and keep your hair looking and feeling its best. Our Hair Thickening Shampoo contains saw palmetto to prevent hair loss while promoting volume and moisture.
Our guide to How to Make Hair Grow Faster For Men lists other tips that you can use to keep your hair thick and healthy while promoting optimal growth.
Generic for Rogaine®, this FDA-approved over-the-counter version of topical minoxidil is used for regrowth on the crown of the head.
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If you’re looking for something effective but don’t want too many steps in your routine, this once-a-day pill could be right for you.
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COVID-19 may cause a form of hair loss called telogen effluvium. This is a common type of hair shedding that tends to occur after exposure to an external stressor, such as high fever, infection or injury.
Unlike male pattern baldness, telogen effluvium hair loss isn’t permanent, meaning any hair you lose during or after your illness with COVID-19 will eventually grow back.
If you’ve noticed excessive hair loss after recovering from COVID-19, or if you’re starting to get a receding hairline or bald patch around your crown, it may be a signal that you’re beginning to develop male pattern baldness rather than just hair shedding.
You can get help for hair loss by talking to your primary care provider, or by using our range of hair loss treatment products for men.
You can also find out more about your options for dealing with hair loss in our guide to the best treatments for thinning hair.
You can keep reading by checking out our blog on hair loss after the COVID-19 vaccine.