COVID-19's hidden symptom: Hair loss


Hair loss has recently emerged as one of the possible side effects suffered by COVID-19 survivors.

The Belgravia Centre, a leading hair loss clinic in London, reported an increase in patients suffering from telogen effluvium (TE) - a form of temporary hair loss – who had experienced COVID-19 related symptoms in the month prior to seeking treatment. In a six week period across June and July, 64 percent of male patients and 38 percent of women who were diagnosed with TE reported experiencing COVID-19 symptoms back in March.

TE can normally occur after a stressful or traumatic event, fever or severe illness, and it's common for TE related hair loss to present itself around three months after a period of trauma. As well as stress and illness, other potential causes include medication and dietary deficiencies.

"I basically noticed it when I started brushing my hair, I noticed more hair in my hair brush," says Roisin O'Connell, an administrator at the Belgravia Centre who tested positive for COVID-19 around March. "Then when I was showering, I noticed it like at the bottom of the shower. And it seemed like it was falling, like at quite an alarming rate."

She says her ponytail, usually quite thick, has almost halved. Rali Bozhinova, Superintendent Trichologist at the Belgravia Centre says O'Connell was one the many patients who had reported having symptoms of COVID-19 and are now experiencing hair thinning and shedding.


Roisin O'Connell and Rali Bozhinova at the Belgravia Centre, London.

Roisin O'Connell and Rali Bozhinova at the Belgravia Centre, London.


"Usually when the person is diagnosed with COVID, their blood oxygen can be lower so then that means less oxygenated blood that would go into the hair follicle, and less nutrients that would go into the hair follicle as well," Bozhinova explains.

Cortisol is produced by the body under stress, and can affect the hair cycle – pushing an actively growing hair follicle prematurely into its resting phase, causing it to shed after a few weeks. 

One month and a half later after first reporting hair loss, O'Connell says she's still losing hair, but she has started seeing positive signs of it slowing down.

A link between COVID-19 and hair loss hasn't been scientifically proven yet, as experts says it's difficult to isolate a single cause for TE, but growing anecdotal patient experience is showing that many COVID-19 patients also experienced hair loss.