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COVID hair loss: How to spot it and fix it, according to experts

COVID hair loss: How to spot it and fix it, according to experts

When it comes to COVID-19, the list of associated symptoms seems to grow longer with each new strain. By now, we're all well-versed in classic COVID symptoms that seem to never change: dry cough, fever, fatigue and shortness of breath. But one of the more curious additions to the list is hair loss and thinning. Studies suggest that telogen effluvium (TE), a type of temporary hair loss, is a common symptom of COVID infection. With TE, the hair follicles enter a resting phase, which can result in shedding large clumps of hair, thinning hair and slower regrowth. It may happen several weeks or months after contracting the virus and can last several months. However, one board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Amy Forman Taub, tells us, “worsening of genetic hair loss also occurs.”

Yes, COVID-related hair loss can occur in both men and women.

To further understand the correlation between Covid and TE, a recent study followed 806 participants diagnosed with COVID, and found over half (52.7%) experienced hair loss. A further breakdown of those who experienced TE found that age, gender (females appear to experience a higher level of COVID-induced TE), high temperature, and the presence of hair loss prior to infection significantly contributed to the severity of hair thinning and loss.

While hair loss isn’t an inevitable result of the virus, and many people recover without any signs of TE, if you are experiencing COVID-induced hair loss, you have plenty of options for restoring your hair's health.

With a market flooded with hair-growth products, we wanted to get to the bottom of what the best treatments for reversing COVID hair loss would be. We tasked our research team with finding the best products for thinning and shedding hair, then talked with nine board-certified dermatologists to ensure we chose the top products with the best key ingredients. Here are a few proven products we found to help reverse the effects of COVID hair loss.

Best for: All hair types | Key ingredients: Proprietary blend

Pros: Doctor-recommended, clinically proven, award-winning

Cons: expensive, requires a personalized consultation

Board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Glenn Vallecillos told Yahoo Life, "In our practice, we have seen great success with the Harklinikken line, which addresses specific types of hair loss by offering customized, targeted and responsive treatments, based on the patient's unique history, scalp profile and hair loss circumstances." Let me be clear: Vallecillos nor his practice will receive any commission from your order. His practice truly believes in the company's products.

Harklinikken's entire line of "hair gain" products has claimed multiple hair growth and scalp health awards. The Hair Gain Extract is a personalized formulation created for you to target your specific scalp concerns and hair fall. It works by restoring the scalp, strengthening hair at the roots, reengaging thair follicles and ultimately stimulating regrowth. Every order of the Hair Gain Extract is individually formulated for each client’s unique scalp profile, so while the cost is high, the consultation and product are well worth it.

$88 at Harklinikken

Best for: Women | Key ingredient: 2% minoxidil, biotin

Pros: All-in-one kits, industry-leading brand, clinically proven to work

Cons: Can be time consuming to keep up with a four-step regime

Hers Complete Hair Kit is easily one of the most convenient and complete options for post-COVID hair loss in women. It contains a combination of science-backed ingredients, like FDA-approved minoxidil hair treatment and biotin — key ingredients renowned for stimulating hair follicles and promoting volume and shine. This potent formula reverses the thinning process and encourages natural (and healthy) regrowth. The four-part system includes a shampoo, conditioner, minoxidil serum and daily biotin gummies. Each product is designed to nourish, repair and stimulate growth. You can opt for the subscription program, which ships the kit every 1, 3 or 6 months to keep your hair looking and feeling its best. Consistent use of the entire system will deliver thicker, fuller hair within about 3-6 months (which is the norm).

$56 at Amazon
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$28 at Target

Best for: Men with thinning and bare spots | Key ingredients: 1 mg finasteride, 5% minoxidil

Pros: Industry-leading brand and products, includes both FDA-approved hair treatments, Finasteride and Minoxidil, clinically proven to work

Cons: Finasteride and minoxidil have side effects you should discuss with your prescribing caregiver

This powerhouse quartet by BosleyRX is perfect for men suffering from hair loss, as it contains four products targeting different areas of the scalp and hair follicles. The bundle includes reviving shampoo, follicle energizer, prescription finasteride and a topical minoxidil treatment.

The shampoo and follicle energizer work together to control oil, balance your hair's pH level, and facilitate circulation. Finasteride, a prescription-only medication, is the only FDA-approved oral product specifically developed to treat male pattern baldness. Finally, minoxidil helps stimulate hair regrowth to make your thinning hair look and feel fuller.

Managing your prescriptions and ordering refills is simple with the BosleyRx online platform. The platform also offers free personalized advice from certified experts, who may recommend additional treatments or products for the best results.

$55 at BosleyRx

Best for: Thinning and hair loss | Key ingredients: Proprietary blend, Vegan protein, prebiotics

Pros: Physician-formulated, clinically proven results, gentle yet effective

Cons: Fragrance added

Unlike other shampoos, Nutrafol addresses the root of hair loss: your scalp. An unhealthy scalp can't support healthy hair growth and is often an underlying cause of damaged, thinning hair. Not only does this shampoo nourish your scalp with essential nutrients, but it also boasts natural ingredients (like vegan protein and prebiotics) to balance bacteria levels for a healthier microbiome.

Nutrafol is free of toxins, parabens, sulfates and fragrances — none of which you want in your hair care. And users love how it increases shine and luster. It’s gentle enough for your daily routine to promote healthy hair growth and recovery from post-viral hair loss. You can also pair it with prescription treatments or hair regrowth vitamins for an extra boost. If this shampoo doesn't fit the bill, we reviewed 43 shampoos and compiled a list of the best shampoos for thinning hair.

$44 at Amazon
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$44 at Nutrafol

Best for: Women 45 and over | Key ingredients: Biotin, iron, vitamin C, zinc, AminoMarTM

Pros: Clinically proven to promote hair growth, suitable for all hair types

Cons: Recommended for women 45 and over

Viviscal's unique collagen complex promotes new and existing hair growth, while nourishing from the inside out. Biotin, a hair-health superstar, helps the body convert nutrients into energy and plays a vital role in your hair, skin and nail health. Paired with zinc, an essential mineral that repairs hair tissue and ensures the follicle's oil glands work properly — these supplements breathe new life back into your fine tresses.

A three-month clinical trial revealed that Viviscal Hair Growth Supplements increase the number of hair strands and reduce shedding when taken twice daily. The product is also suitable for every hair type and will likely give your skin and nails a healthy boost, too.

$34 at Amazon

Best for: All hair types, including sensitive skin and hair | Key ingredients: Rosemary, mint, biotin. horsetail extract, babassu seed oil

Pros: Budget-friendly, clinically proven ingredients available everywhere

Cons: The rosemary-mint scent may be too much for some

If there was ever a great product that proves you don't have to spend a bundle to get a bundle of hair, it's the Mielle Organics line of hair products. This all-natural, organic shampoo is perfect for sensitive scalps and budget-conscious buyers. The shining stars in this blend of shampoo can be found in the organic rosemary oil, which has been clinically proven to be as effective as the FDA-approved 2% Minoxidil hair growth treatment, and without all the side effects! It's also fortified with hair-strengthening biotin and certified organic hair-helping ingredients, such as mint, coconut and babassu seed oil, horsetail plant extract, chamomile and hops. We also love the Mielle hair growth oil.

$10 at Amazon

The following are some of the most important factors to consider when selecting hair growth products:

  • Ingredients: Certain ingredients, such as biotin, saw palmetto, peptides, zinc and vitamin B3 can help promote hair regrowth. Minoxidil, an over-the-counter hair loss treatment, is also often recommended for regrowth. Finasteride is also available via a prescription from your provider.

  • Budget: You may need to use a product for several months before noticing results (usually 2 to 6 months), so it’s crucial to find one that fits your long-term budget. Consider the price versus how long you need to use the product for the best results.

  • Genetic formulations: Some products are specifically formulated for safety for men and women based on the science of genetics. These formulations may target different areas of the scalp and hair follicles, and have stronger solutions, so they work better for a specific gender.

  • Scalp type: Products with different levels of antioxidants, moisturizers or other ingredients can relieve more sensitive scalps. Always test a product on a small patch of skin to ensure it doesn't irritate your skin.

We started our search by talking with six board-certified dermatologists, trich ologist and a plastic sergeon to better understand which key ingredients to look for, which brands are the best, and any things we should avoid. Using the experts' advice, our team researched dozens of hair regrowth products and treatments to identify the best of the best to help with COVID-hair loss. We considered various factors, including ingredients, effectiveness, user reviews, cost, brand reputation and more.

For products whose effectiveness was backed by clinical trials, we considered the results of those studies when making our final decisions. We also looked for products free of parabens, sulfates and other toxic ingredients that can cause scalp irritation. Ultimately, we chose products that are the most effective, affordable and safe to use.

The good news is that if you do nothing at all, your hair and scalp health are likely to improve within about 6 to 9 months without treatment. You can also make small adjustments to your hair care routine to help improve your hair quality and support faster regrowth, such as avoiding harsh products and heat-styling (think straighteners, curling irons and styling wands) that could further damage the hair and scalp. Also, avoid excess stress, which can trigger hair loss. If you want to be more aggressive and give your hair a jump-start on regrowth, hair regrowth treatments are a great option, such as topical steroids, minoxidil, finasteride, vitamins and supplements, serums and oils and light therapy.

What does COVID hair loss look like?

COVID hair loss looks different from person to person, but the most common symptom is thinning hair or bald patches in areas of the scalp that usually have more dense growth. Your hair may come out in small clusters while shampooing, blow-drying or brushing. You may also notice increased shedding while styling or removing tight hair ties.

How long does it take to reverse COVID hair loss?

Everyone is different, and the amount of time it takes to reverse COVID hair loss depends on how severe your hair loss is. However, with a consistent routine, including good nutrition, regular shampooing and conditioning with specialized products for damaged hair, and treatments like scalp massages and oil applications, you should start seeing initial signs of improvement in as little as 1 to 3 months.

How long until I see results from hair regrowth products in general?

It could take 3 to 6 months or more to see the full benefits of hair regrowth treatments. Your best bet is to tailor your hair care routine to your hair type and avoid using harmful products. Heat can also damage your hair, so limit the number of styling tools you use and opt for natural, air-dry styles instead.

Amy Forman Taub, MD, FAAD, Board-certified dermatologist

Michelle Henry, MD, Board-certified dermatologist and Harvard-trained Mohs surgeon

Glenn Vallecillos, MD, Board-certified plastic surgeon

Jose Diego Mier, MD, Board-certified dermatologist

Jake Woods, MD, Board-certified dermatologist

Andy Goren, Board-certified dermatologist, trichologist and professor