Here’s what to do about your pandemic hair loss…
A recent NY Times article entitled “Losing Your Hair Can Be Another Consequence of the Pandemic” really hit home.
The article reported that doctors were seeing a huge number of patients shedding abnormal amounts of hair. What they believed to be a stress-related phenomenon associated with the coronavirus was affecting both people who had the virus and those who never became sick. Many patients recovering from Covid-19 were experiencing hair loss — not from the virus itself, but from the physical stress of fighting it off. Those who never even contracted the virus were also losing hair, because of “emotional stress from job loss, financial strain, deaths of family members or other devastating developments stemming from the pandemic.”
This is absolutely what I have been seeing in my practice and the hair loss is profoundly stressful and disturbing.
I have discussed female pattern hair loss in several previous articles: I’m Losing My Hair: Is It My Hormones and Do You Suffer From Female Pattern Hair Loss? Finally, here is a helpful article that not only gives you several helpful hair loss prevention tips but also gives you a bonus tip about making sweet potato toast, how great is that?
At any rate, I’ve decided to give patients a primer on what to do if you find yourself suffering from massive hair shedding and don’t know where to turn, aside from a wig store.
Try to figure out what kind of hair loss you are experiencing:
- Is it an autoimmune condition like alopecia areata? This presents as single or multiple bald round patches on your scalp.
- Is it a fungal infection, psoriasis or a contact dermatitis? Is your scalp inflamed, itchy and flaky?
- Is it related to certain medications that cause chronic shedding? Examples include certain blood pressure medications, anti-depressants, cancer medications and drugs used for rheumatoid arthritis.
- Is it nutritional deficiencies? In particular, deficiencies in iron, zinc, vitamin B3 (niacin), and protein are the culprits in this case.
- Are you taking birth control pills? Stopping and starting the pill can lead to hair shedding 3 to 4 months later.
- Overprocessing your hair, pulling your hair back too tightly or heat styling too frequently? These lead to hair follicle trauma and injury.
- Is it hereditary? Androgenetic alopecia refers to female pattern balding which is genetically inherited and one of the most common causes of hair loss in women.
- Is it stress related? When you’re experiencing something stressful or traumatic, something big and life-altering like death, divorce, job shifts, a big move for example—you may experience a temporary halt in hair growth as your body puts its resources toward getting you through that stressful event. The same thing can happen with physical stress and trauma, like having a big surgery, being hospitalized, losing a significant amount of weight quickly or being sick.
Be aggressive about treating it:
I had some pretty serious hair loss in my early 30s related to many different stressors coming together at once. I just finished a grueling obstetrical residency complete with no sleep and high stress, I was getting a divorce, I had just had a baby, I was working full time doing deliveries and was overall in “no mood.” For anything. Except maybe getting a pedicure whilst eating a few king size packages of Reese’s peanut butter cups. Arguably the best candy bar ever made. That, and of course, Butterfingers. And even Snickers will do in a pinch. Please, any of you that think a Mars bar or Almond Joy is an actual candy bar, just……. Stop. But I digress…
Anyway, the point is that I was losing hair like crazy and seeing alarming amounts of scalp with a few pathetic thin wispy hairs hanging on by a thread. It was torture driving my car because that rearview mirror was a constant reminder of how much hair was abandoning ship!!
Now of course I ambushed a few dermatology colleagues who basically were like, “it will get better just give it time.”
Give it TIME? I had no TIME!! I was on my way to Bozo the Clownville.
So I took matters into my own hands and learned the following.
Each of the different causes I mentioned in Step One above need to be treated separately and in different ways, but if your hair loss boils down to female pattern hereditary hair loss (androgenetic alopecia) or is stress related, there are several things you can do to prevent further loss and start regrowing your hair. Word of warning. All of these techniques may take 3 to 4 months to start seeing a response. This is your hair growth cycle. You can’t really do it much faster than that.
- Start topical therapy to prevent hair follicle shrinkage — and block testosterone from killing the hair follicle. I order a special prescription topical formula that includes minoxidil, retinoic acid, finasteride (aka propecia) and spironolactone. This includes several heavy hitters, a few of which are typically given orally. I like avoiding the systemic effects of all these medications by applying it topically. This helps to reduce the risk of side effects. I think this is very helpful.
- Optimize hair nutrition — I love the all around hair nutrition formula called Nutrafol. It covers all the bases, targeting inflammation, supporting normal stress hormone balance and blocking the impact of aggressive androgens. For women in menopause, use nutrafol for men, for women still having periods, use the women’s formula. I would also check zinc, iron levels, and B vitamin levels. I find this very helpful.
- Balance your hormones — If you have crazy female hormone symptoms, or you are menopausal or perimenopausal – you should work with a practitioner to find out what hormone balancing maneuvers will help. Do you need progesterone? Do you have too much estrogen? Too much testosterone? Are you missing everything? Are your adrenals burned out? Is your thyroid out of whack? Lots to unpack there people!! This is a must.
- Consider oral prescription medications — to block the hair follicle shrinking effect of testosterone and DHEA. This is where medications like spironolactone, an androgen receptor blocker (100mg once or twice a day) or Finasteride / Propecia / Avodart (5 alpha reductase inhibitors) for example at about 1mg a day help prevent testosterone from doing damage. Now generally I’m not a drug pusher. Except Benadryl for my children on a long flight. That’s completely reasonable. But…hair loss can be super devastating and the longer you don’t address it, the worse it gets. So, I think in the short run, it is worth it.
- Use medicated shampoo — I give patients a prescription shampoo that helps to clean out clogged dead skin and oil that may suffocate the pores and hair follicle. It contains 2% ketoconazole and salicylic acid. If you can’t get the prescription strength then look for extra strength Nizoral over the counter. Wash once a day. No brainer. Do it.
- PRP for scalp — Take your blood. Spin it out in a centrifuge. Separate out the plasma rich in growth factors. Inject into your scalp. Obviously, don’t do this at home yourself. It kind of smarts. Trust me, “I’m not just the president of Redefining Health Medical, I’m also a client!” This can be life changing in terms of reversing and restoring hair loss. You need 3 to 6 treatments each month and then maintenance twice yearly depending on your needs. I have done this and will continue to do this for maintenance since I’m fully paranoid about losing my hair again. We have seen some amazing results in our clinic.
Redefining Health Medical
PRP Patient Before / After Pictures
On the left is the before / after pictures of one of our patients who had the procedure done at our clinic. As you can see, she obtained an incredible result using this procedure.
- Hyperbaric oxygen chamber — Apparently, people doing oxygen chamber dives for other problems like wounds that won’t heal, chronic infections, tissue injury, toxic exposures found that their hair was like Adonis afterward. No wonder since oxygen helps things grow and thrive. This is wildly expensive, but if money is no object, then this is something to consider. Here’s a video where they use it to help boost hair transplant results. Haven’t done it myself, but would love to!!
- Laser caps and laser treatment — I tried this stuff in my 30s. Wasn’t too impressed, but there is some data to suggest it may be helpful for hair regrowth. It can’t hurt, but may not be the home run the advertisements make it out to be. Here are some examples to investigate.
- Get stress and inflammation under control — Nothing kills hair faster than ongoing stress (emotional, physical, social). Eat right. Sleep right. Decompress. Detox from your digital apparatus. Go for a walk in nature. Get a massage. Meditate. Breathe. Stop eating crap. Eat your veggies. Stop with the sugar. Don’t smoke. Reduce or stop drinking alcohol. I’m such the life of the party, aren’t I??? I’m available for weddings and bar mitzvahs, if you need someone to suck the life out of your special event.
Anyway. Hope this is helpful. Here’s to happy regrowing!! It’s totally possible. So stop worrying and looking at your scalp and start growing your hair!!!
Of course, we are happy to help you out!!!
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For more information about my wellness programs and my practice, check out my website drsadaty.com. Hey Look! You are already here…
Ready for the legal disclaimer? Information offered here is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. As with any health recommendations, please contact your doctor to be sure any changes you wish to consider are safe for you!