Losing more hair than usual in lockdown? A doctor explains why that might be

Have you noticed more hair loss than usual in lockdown? Find out why we lose hair, five reasons why you might be shedding more right now, and what you can do.

Human beings naturally lose up to 100 hairs every day. And while it doesn’t leave a physical mark, mentally it can be a strain if you notice the loss. 

You may have noticed a considerable increase of hair shedding during lockdown. And there are a number of reasons for this – the main ones being stress and a change in routine.

Trethowans
Trethowans

To help you understand why that might be, Doctor Aragona Giuseppe, GP and medical advisor at Prescription Doctor, reveals the reasons behind hair shedding and what you can do to help treat hair-loss.

The most common causes of hair loss

There are many reasons why we may shed more hair than usual. The most common causes of hair loss include:

  • Genetics
  • Illness
  • Iron deficiency
  • Lifestyle choices such as smoking
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Chemotherapy
  • Medication (side effects)
  • Rapid weight loss

The three phases of the hair loss cycle

Everyone goes through a hair loss cycle which ends, as already mentioned, in losing some hair – around 100 strands per day. Here are the three phases of the hair loss cycle.

1) The anagen phase

The anagen phase is the growth phase, and it is the time between the start of the hair growth and when the hair reaches its full length.

2) The cCatagen phase

The catagen phase is the transitional phase. It lasts about 10 days and is where the hair begins to get weaker.

3) The telogen phase

The telogen phase is where the hair falls out. The follicle left behind will not grow hair again for around three months, and after that the cycle repeats.

Five reasons why you might notice more hair loss in lockdown

So why would lockdown cause you to lose more hair than usual? Here are five possible reasons.

1) Stress

The stress hormone, cortisol, makes the hair that is already grown move into the telogen part of the cycle much more quickly.

And lockdown, and the uncertainty that came with being stuck in the house, will have caused a lot of stress on many people. This is most likely to be the main cause of any shedding or hair-loss.

Some stress sufferers also develop the habit of playing with their hair, or even pulling it out completely, as a coping mechanism. This is called trichotillomania and this will remove hair or weaken it as well.

Stress can also cause problems with appetite, and if you aren’t consuming enough vitamins and minerals your hair will become weak and fall out more readily.

Reducing the stress in your life is perhaps easier said than done, but it is something to look into more thoroughly, with expert help, if this is an issue.

2) Hair care

The causes of hair loss begin much deeper down than any hair care product can reach – it starts in the very roots and follicles. However, using the wrong shampoo and conditioner for your hair type can cause your hair to look thinner, even if it is not.

During Lockdown many people may have let their usual hair routine lapse. They might also have pulled it into a ponytail or bun more often, which can also cause tension on the scalp and follicles.

A hot shower is also bad for your hair, making it brittle and dehydrated. So when washing your hair, turn the temperature down a little so that you are using warm water instead of hot.

Interestingly, not washing your hair enough can cause hair loss. The build-up of grease and dirt can cause follicles to become weak and even inactive.

Using hot tools on your hair including straightening irons and hair dryers can dry out the strands and lead to hair loss. Don’t use these tools every day, but instead use them two or three times a week. This will help your hair to become stronger.

While hair styles can be expressive of your personality, they can pose a threat to your hair. Over time, mechanical stress on hair strands can damage hair follicles. Hair styles such as buns, ponytails, cornrows and other hair styles which pull your hair back can cause stress on your hair follicles.

It is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatologists to loosen hair styles around the hair line to relieve excessive stress which might damage hair follicles.

3) Smoking

While many people who smoke don’t notice any considerable hair loss, the habit can cause issues and may exacerbate hair loss for some people, particularly if they are already suffering from stress, hormonal changes, or illness.

People who smoke regularly are likely to have increased their daily amount while in lockdown due to boredom or stress. And this may in turn have increased shedding and may be the main cause of any considerable hair-loss.

Smoking can cause issues with circulation, too. Your blood carries vitamins, nutrients and, most importantly, hormones around your body. So it’s understandable that poor circulation can affect the amount of nutrients delivered to your hair follicles and affect hair growth.

This can mean that your scalp is unable to get enough blood to it to form complete follicles and grow hair, and it can weaken the follicles that are already there.

Quitting smoking is an excellent idea for many reasons and if you are particularly prone to hair loss it may help you.

5) Hormonal changes

The male sex hormone known as testosterone, which is present in both men and women, plays a vital part in the maintenance of hair. Testosterone is converted into dihydrotestosterone which can cause hair follicles to become inactive – hair will no longer grow.

When women go through the menopause they will produce less oestrogen and more testosterone. In turn, the testosterone will be turned into dihydrotestosterone, which can effect the hair follicles and cause your hair follicles to shrink.

It is wise to speak to your doctor if you feel that you are going through the menopause. There are drugs and therapies which can ease the symptoms, balance your hormones, and reduce the hair loss you may be suffering.

How can you prevent your hair from shredding?

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, and the stage of your shedding, there are a number of treatments for hair loss.

Wigs, toupees and hair extensions are the simplest treatment for both men and women. Synthetic wigs can be relatively inexpensive, though may need to be replaced regularly. While there are wigs made from real human hair, they are much more expensive and require a high level of maintenance.

Hair transplants are another option, though these are only available from private clinics and can cost upwards of £20,000, depending on the severity of hair loss. Moreover, they are only suitable for people with hereditary baldness and not for people with patches of balding (alopecia areata).

Finally, there are medicines which can be taken to treat hair loss.

For men, there’s Finasteride (Propecia) – a prescription medicine which is taken daily to slow down the hair loss cycle. This treatment is statistically proven to slow down the rate of hair loss and has shown to regrow hairs in some cases. Finasteride is only suitable for men and should not be taken by women.

Alternatively, there’s Minoxidil. Unlike Finasteride, Minoxidil is available over-the-counter and is often sold under the brand Regaine and is available as a foam or a topical solution which is directly applied to the hair. Minoxidil is suitable for both men and women.

Before seeking any treatment for hair loss, it is important to get medical advice from your doctor.

Your doctor will not only be able to provide you with information on hair loss treatments to identify which treatment is most suitable for you, but can also offer practical advice for managing stress and anxiety, which may be attributed to your hair loss.

Photo by Element5 Digital