Over the past week, beauty and fashion entrepreneur, Trinny Woodall, 57, has taken to Instagram to share with her 921,000 followers her recent battle with hair loss, a growing concern, particu
larly for women over 50.
In her second candid video post on the subject, Woodall, who had Covid-19 over New Year's, suspects that her recent bout of hair loss could be a side effect of long-Covid, and she isn't the only one who has suffered hair loss after contracting Coronavirus.
Last year, American actress, Alyssa Milano, shared a picture of her holding a handful of hair she took from her hairbrush, weeks after been unwell with Covid.
While it's too early to conclude if Covid-19 does indeed cause hair loss, hair thinning is a growing concern amongst women for a variety of reasons, from stress to hormone inbalance, poor diet, and pregnancy.
In March, model and influencer, Ashley Graham, went on Instagram to share with her followers her post pregnancy hair loss, a common side effect after having a baby.
Watch: Try These Foods If You Are Suffering From Hair Loss
While Graham was able to make light of it, for many women hair fallout during pregnancy can leave them feeling low, especially if their hair is fine to begin with. So why do some women lose their hair after pregnancy - and what else causes hair to thin?
Anabel Kingsley, Consultant Trichologist at Philip Kingsley explains: "During pregnancy, raised oestrogen levels keep hairs in their anagen (growth) phase for longer than usual. After giving birth, or stopping to breast-feed, these levels drop, returning to normal. This can cause hairs retained during pregnancy to shed in a short period of time, resulting in a type of hair shedding called post-partum hair fall.
"In a study Philip Kingsley conducted, we found that approximately 50% of women experience post-partum hair fall. We don't know why some women experience it and others do not. It is impossible to predict and it can also occur after one pregnancy, but not another," she adds.
Kingsley explains that due to the nature of the hair growth cycle, post-partum hair fall usually occurs 6-12 weeks after giving birth or after stopping breast-feeding and while this type of hair loss cannot be avoided, it's not permanent.
She says, "the loss is only temporary and all hairs lost should grow back as usual. However, it can be made worse by certain factors or continue for longer than it should – and these can often be avoided."
How lifestyle effects hair loss
"Hair carries great psychological importance, but physiologically it is non-essential. This means it is very sensitive to metabolic imbalances. Post pregnancy, you can undergo both mental and physical stress. You may find it hard to eat a balanced diet, or be able to sleep as much as you should - and these can impact the hair adversely. Your nutrient levels, especially iron and ferritin (stored iron), may also have been affected by blood loss during birth," explains Kingsley.
In the case of stress, poor sleep and low iron levels, Kingsley stresses the importance of new mothers focusing on their own health. She says, "it’s difficult to take-care of your own wellbeing when you are looking after a new-born, but it’s very important in terms of hair growth. As your system re-balances, your hair is going to be last on your body’s list of priorities to nourish and it often needs some extra internal support."
Diet and supplements
"Try to eat nutrient rich meals that contain plenty of protein and iron. A palm-sized portion of a ‘perfect protein’ (i.e. one that contains all essential amino acids) at breakfast and lunch is a good starting point," suggests Kingsley.
Examples of 'perfect protein' are: eggs, fish, lean meat, poultry and low-fat cottage cheese. While foods highest in iron are red meats.
Furthermore, Kingsley recommends eating every four hours, at which point the energy needed to form new hair cells drops. She also suggests taking a daily protein supplement and a multi-vitamin containing iron, Vitamin C, Biotin, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D, which can also help to boost hair growth.
Products to stimulate hair growth and minimise loss
As far as topical solutions go, Kingsley says to apply anti-androgenic scalp drops daily and use a scalp mask once a week with stimulating ingredients such as menthol and methyl nicotinate. "These will help to optimize the scalp environment and create a good foundation for healthy hair growth," she says. Try Philip Kingsley Tricho 7.
She adds, "breakage can also thin the appearance of the hair. To strengthen and add elasticity to strands, try using a pre-shampoo conditioning treatment once a week. This can be applied to your hair at the same time your scalp mask is applied to your scalp."
Covid-19 Hair Fall
Telogen effluvium, known as excessive daily hair shedding, is one of the many hair and scalp conditions Philip Kingsley diagnose and treat on a daily basis at their Trichological Clinics in London and New York. It is a form of wide-spread, non-concentrated hair loss on the scalp. Whilst it is normal to lose up to 100 hairs per day, Telogen Effluvium can result in as many as 300 hairs being shed in a 24-hour period.
Actress Alyssa Milano was one of the first to document her 'Covid hair loss,' below
This type of excessive daily hair shedding occurs when the growth phase of the hair growth cycle is cut short by an internal disturbance in the body - i.e. stress, fever, shock, medications, protein deficiency and pregnancy. This causes many more hairs than usual to move from their growth phase into their shedding phase, resulting in excessive daily hair fall. It can be either acute (short-term) or chronic (recurring or continuous) depending on the cause and the severity of the disturbance to the body.
“It makes complete sense that Covid-19 could cause hair shedding,” says Anabel Kingsley. “Due to the hair growth cycle, it is often expected 6 to 12 weeks or so after the period of illness, medication or stress that triggered it."
On a positive note, Kinglsey says long-Covid hair loss should grow back within three months. "Although it can be extremely distressing, rest assured the hair will almost certainly grow back once the underlying issue has been resolved.”