COVID-19, Stress and the Effects on Your Skin and Hair

The coronavirus pandemic has taught us many things, including expecting the unexpected – but COVID-19 stress led to an increase in skin conditions and hair loss concerns. According to Dr. August Natalie, board-certified dermatologist with Forefront Dermatology, “In 2020, I saw a 5x increase in the number of patients coming in concerned about their sudden hair loss, and patients experiencing an increase in rashes, breakouts, and more. While it was certainly unexpected for my patients, as a dermatologist it was somewhat an expected outcome for the general population.”


 How COVID-19 stress can affect skin health

Mild forms of stress have little impact on the body, but when you experience frequent or chronic stress your skin can be directly affected. If you have pre-existing skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne, or eczema, stress can have a double-effect on your skin. First, the skin heals slower, then it can also trigger flare-ups of your skin condition. This happens because of the way your body copes with stress. When you suffer from consistent stress, inflammation is your body’s way of coping. When stressed, your immune system sends out chemicals that cause inflammation and help heal a wound. In people with psoriasis, the immune system over-responds— sending out too many chemicals causing a flare-up.


How COVID-19 stress can affect hair health

Sudden hair loss can happen after any stressful event. With 2020 being a year of the unknown, from job losses to missing family, the hair loss due to COVID-19 stress is becoming more common for many individuals. According to Dr. Natalie, “In a majority of patients, the condition is known as telogen effluvium – a temporary condition that causes an individual to shed more than the typical 100  hair strands we lose in a day. For individuals with longer hair, they may notice handfuls of hair coming out while showering or brushing. ” Telogen effluvium is not an immediate condition, it usually occurs three to six months after the stressor happens and commonly resolves on its own within four to six months. As your hair grows back, you’ll notice short hairs that are all the same length by your hairline. Most people see their hair regain its normal fullness within six to nine months.


“COVID-19 stress is not the only cause of sudden hair loss,” added Dr. Natalie. “Illnesses, including fevers, and yes, COVID itself, can contribute to this phenomenon. COVID-19 patients are seeing the delayed effect of hair loss months after diagnosis. Telogen effluvium isn’t a symptom of COVID-19, rather it is a possible result of the illness, fever, and stress just as it could be a result if you were to have any other illness.”


Is your skin or hair suffering since the COVID-19 pandemic started?

We recommend that anyone with new or worsening hair loss or skin conditions seek out help from a board-certified dermatologist to determine the cause and find a course of treatment that fits your lifestyle and budget. Find a Forefront dermatologist near you today.