Women who suffered hair loss after a bout with COVID-19 describe how it hurt their self-esteem

Women who suffered hair loss after a bout with COVID-19 describe how it hurt their self-esteem

Women who have suffered from COVID-19 are reporting sudden hair loss months after their infection. 

It often comes as a shock, and women who have suffered from the loss report devastating effects to their mental health and self-esteem. One expert, who herself has suffered similar hair loss in the past, tells DailyMail.com that while striking, the hair loss if often temporary and does signal deeper health issues.

Tori Cayton, 22, of North Carolina, is one of those women. She told DailyMail.com that her hair loss began in February – months after she was first infected with Covid in December 2021. Hayley Janelle Immel, a realtor from California, said hers also started in February after a December infection. Another, Jill Rohr of Illinois, said hers started in April after she first tested positive for Covid in January. 

Each of the women reported suffering self-esteem issues as a result of their hair loss. Immel said that it harmed her career and even cost her financially as she no longer had the confidence to perform all of her roles as a realtor.

Online support groups are filled with hundreds of women sharing similar experiences. Almost all of which were infected with Covid, recovered, then months later begin to shed their hair. Each managed to tie the sudden hair loss to their previous infection.

Cayton says that she lost around 60% percent of her hair after being infected with COVID-19 in December. She received an outpouring of support from friends and family during the months where her hair was falling out

Cayton says that she lost around 60% percent of her hair after being infected with COVID-19 in December. She received an outpouring of support from friends and family during the months when her hair was falling out

While jarring, the loss of hair associated with Covid and other viral infections is almost always temporary. 

Dr. Yolanda Helfrich, a dermatologist at the University of Michigan, told DailyMail.com that these cases are likely caused by a condition called telogen effluvium, where a person’s hair falls out as a result of a stressful experience. A person will usually have their grow back after a year, though, and it is not a sign of a deeper underlying health issue.

Helfrich also said that women are not more prone to hair loss due to Covid, but they are more likely to report it.

Women will often realize faster that they are losing their hair, and, unlike men, will not chalk it up to the natural aging process. The Facebook support groups viewed by DailyMail.com were overwhelmingly filled with women, and Helfrich said she has never treated a male for the condition.

Cayton said that she first realized she was losing her hair on February 19, when she was getting ready for a wedding and suddenly found a significant amount of hair on the floor.

‘I cried a lot to be honest. And I was very self conscious,’ she said.

Not knowing what was wrong, she consulted a friend who is a nurse, who explained that her recent Covid infection — she was sick for nearly a month, from December 27 to January 17 — was the likely source.

Her hair continued to fall out for months, and she said she eventually ended up losing around 60 percent of her hair. 

The experience, while harrowing, brought Cayton together with her family and friends, she said — describing it as an outpouring of support.

Pictured: A clump of hair that had fallen off of Cayton's head

Pictured: A clump of hair that had fallen off of Cayton’s head

She wondered whether others were going through the same thing she was, and turned to Facebook to find out. The social media site has multiple massive groups, with hundreds to thousands of members each, discussing Covid related hair loss and other long-term symptoms of the virus.

Groups and posts about hair loss in particular are almost entirely made up of women despite telogen effluvium effecting both men and women.

‘I don’t know that I’ve ever had a man complaining of telogen effluvium,’ Helfrich said.

‘Perhaps some of it could be just the fact that women are more likely to have longer hair and so you’re more likely to notice this change. Or perhaps they are just kind of more attuned to their hair.

‘But it is an interesting phenomenon, but not exclusive to Covid.’  

When the condition is triggered by a virus like Covid it forms as a result of all the stress fighting the virus puts on the body. Over time, the body will slowly shed things that are less critical, like a person’s hair.

Another woman in one of the support groups was Jill Rohr, who said her hair not only fell out, but also changed in texture.

Rohr first realized she was losing her hair in April when she was driving, telling DailyMail.com: ‘It just fell out. I’d be driving and look down, it was everywhere. 

‘It felt like syrup when it was wet. Hard to wash, wouldn’t lather, then handfuls after combing. I stopped washing it every day because of it.’

‘… I tried not to freak out. I cried, felt terribly ugly, self esteem dropped. But the group helped cause I knew others were going through the same thing.’

‘… I just kept thinking, this cannot be happening.’ 

Rohr said that the hair loss damaged her self-esteem so much she began to miss out on holidays and other family gatherings. She skipped out on Easter out of fear of her hair getting into food, for example.

She also lost around 60 percent of her hair. Throughout that period she took photos daily of the amount of hair she had lost.

Six months later her hair is finally starting to coming back. It is a lot thinner, she said, and now has ‘random curls’ when it used to be straight.

The same 60 percent figure was reported by Immel, who started to notice she was losing her hair in March after suffering a Covid infection in December.

‘I noticed it all over my clothes, in my car, when I was vacuuming it was just everywhere,’ she told DailyMail.com.

She scrambled to find answers as to why she was losing her hair. She paid $600 out-of-pocket for a panel of blood tests that found nothing was wrong with her. Eventually, she found out from an endocrinologist that her recent Covid infection was the cause.

Immel said that the hair loss she suffered as a result of her Covid infection has greatly damaged her career as a realtor, as she no longer has the self-esteem to go door knocking and perform other duties

Immel said that the hair loss she suffered as a result of her Covid infection has greatly damaged her career as a realtor, as she no longer has the self-esteem to go door knocking and perform other duties 

Immel said that she had looked like she went through chemotherapy, and put in extensions to help maintain her appearance. 

She said that the hair loss caused her to be ‘less active in her career and [lost] a lot of money’ as she no longer had the confidence to door-knock as a realtor.

Immel also said she has not been able to do as much with friends anymore and that it has ‘definitely’ had an effect on her relationships.

Helfrich said that some patients will stop brushing or washing their hair, fearing it will cause more hair to fall out. This is not the case, though, she said. Instead, a person should just understand what is happening and potentially alter their hairstyle to accommodate, as the health risks of telogen effluvium are near-zero.

‘As a woman it’s the hardest thing I have ever dealt with,’ Immel said.

Pictured: A clump of hair Immel shed while in the shower

Pictured: A clump of hair Immel shed while in the shower

The condition can be devastating to a person’s self-esteem, and tear apart their career and social life as a result. 

Helfrich explains that while it may be a tumultuous year, in the end a woman suffering from the condition will recover.

‘I think it is something that is not an overall danger to someone’s health, and the vast majority of people are going to experience regrowth, but as someone who’s previously gone through telogen effluvium myself, it can be very, very distressing,’ she explained. 

‘To experience that dramatic thinning can be devastating.’

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