While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on all of us, the extreme emotional stress brought on by lost jobs, loneliness from sheltering-in-place, and death of loved ones has disproportionately affected minority communities heavily impacted by COVID-19. New research in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found an abrupt uptick in cases of telogen effluvium, or hair shedding, in low-income, racially diverse neighborhoods in New York City that experienced some of the highest COVID-19 death rates.
Board-certified dermatologists treating patients out of two safety-net hospitals in Brooklyn and Manhattan noticed a 400% increase in cases of hair shedding in people of color approximately three to four months after the shelter-in-place directive in NYC. The timing of the hair shedding correlates to when dermatologists would expect its onset following extreme physiological or emotional stress.
“The surge in cases of hair loss we are treating now is a delayed consequence of the illness and anxiety experienced by these predominantly minority communities during the first wave of COVID-19 in NYC,” said board-certified dermatologist Shoshana Marmon, MD, PhD, FAAD, assistant clinical professor, department of dermatology, New York Medical College, New York City. “Although this condition is usually temporary and gradually resolves on its own, hair loss is one of the most commonly reported complaints among ‘long-haulers’, or people with persistent symptoms following a COVID-19 infection. So it’s important that we follow these patients, in particular, to see if what they are experiencing is in fact temporary hair shedding or something related to ongoing illness or inflammation.”
Hair shedding happens when more hairs than normal enter the shedding (telogen) phase of the hair growth lifecycle. Fever, illness, post-pregnancy and extreme stress are among the conditions that can force more hairs than normal into the shedding phase.
Dr. Marmon is available to provide additional insights on this research and discuss hair loss, what people should know, and what they can do about it. She is a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology with appointments in the Mount Sinai and New York Medical College dermatology departments. She is chief of dermatology at Woodhull and Cumberland Medical Centers in Brooklyn, New York.
The American Academy of Dermatology has resources available to the public that provide additional information about temporary hair loss and hair shedding: