Coronavirus Hair Loss: Is Hair Loss a Common Symptom of COVID-19?

Katelyn Hagerty FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 3/12/2021

COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, can cause a wide variety of symptoms. 

Although the most commonly reported symptoms of COVID-19 mostly occur in the respiratory system, some people who’ve been affected by COVID-19 have reported experiencing varying degrees of hair loss.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also confirmed that hair loss is a possible long-term complication of COVID-19.

While hair loss may sound like an alarming complication, the reality is that hair loss is quite a common symptom of diseases that can cause fever.

Below, we’ve explained how COVID-19 may cause temporary hair loss, as well as the effects you may see if you have COVID-19. We’ve also discussed your options for treating hair loss, whether from COVID-19 or other common conditions that may cause you to shed hair.

COVID-19 and Hair Loss: The Basics

  • COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, may cause you to experience hair shedding and temporary hair loss.

  • The hair loss you may experience from COVID-19 is most likely telogen effluvium -- a common form of hair shedding that can occur due to fever or illness.

  • Telogen effluvium hair loss isn’t permanent, meaning your hair should grow back after the underlying cause is successfully treated.

  • There’s currently no evidence that COVID-19 causes or worsens permanent hair loss from male pattern baldness.

  • If you’ve lost hair due to COVID-19, you may be able to stimulate regrowth with topical medications such as minoxidil. 

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Does COVID-19 Cause Hair Loss?

COVID-19 can cause a wide variety of short-term and long-term symptoms. The most common symptoms reported by people affected by COVID-19 are:

  • Fever or chills

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Fatigue

  • Headache

  • Loss of smell or taste

  • Muscle and/or body aches

  • Congestion or runny nose

  • Sore throat

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea or vomiting

These symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus and can vary from mild to severe.

In addition to short-term symptoms, COVID-19 can cause certain long-term health complications that may persist for several weeks or months after the acute symptoms resolve. 

Commonly reported long-term symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, cough, chest pain and joint pain.

Although hair loss isn’t a common symptom of COVID-19, some people have experienced it as a long-term complication.

A study of COVID-19 patients published in November 2020 noted that 14 patients out of a total of 58 reported experiencing hair loss as a long-term complication of COVID-19.

On average, these patients started to experience hair loss approximately 58 days after their first symptoms of COVID-19.

Temporary Hair Loss and Illness

While hair loss may seem like an alarming complication of COVID-19, the reality is that hair loss is quite a common occurrence after illnesses that can cause fever. 

This form of hair loss is called telogen effluvium. It’s a common form of hair shedding that tends to develop as a complication of infections, hormonal changes, surgery, certain medications and illnesses that cause fever.

Telogen effluvium forces your hairs to enter into the telogen, or resting, phase of the hair growth cycle. In this phase, hairs stop actively growing. After several months, the hairs shed from your scalp en masse, causing noticeable hair loss.

If you experience telogen effluvium as a result of COVID-19, you may notice hairs falling out in the shower, on your pillow or while you brush your hair. 

This type of hair loss generally doesn’t cause a receding hairline. Instead, you’ll usually notice diffuse thinning, with a fairly even pattern of hair loss across your scalp. You may find that it’s easier than normal to see your scalp through your hair, especially under bright light. 

Telogen effluvium hair loss isn’t permanent, meaning any hairs you shed after becoming ill with COVID-19 will usually grow back. However, it may take several months before your hair settles down and the affected hair follicles begin to produce new hairs again.

In addition to fever, stress is also a known cause of telogen effluvium. If you’re stressed as a result of the pandemic, whether due to the virus itself or the effects it has on your life, this may also contribute to hair shedding and temporary hair loss.

Other Causes of Hair Loss

In addition to COVID-19, a variety of other medical conditions may cause you to lose your hair, either temporarily or permanently. These include:

  • Male pattern baldness. The most common form of hair loss in men, this occurs due to the effects of the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Hair loss caused by male pattern baldness is permanent, making it important to treat it as early as possible.

  • Alopecia areata. This type of hair loss occurs when your immune system attacks your hair follicles. It typically causes small patches of hair loss and can occasionally result in permanent hair loss.

Several other conditions may also cause you to shed hair. We’ve talked more about these in our guide to the different types of alopecia.

Male Pattern Baldness and COVID-19

While COVID-19 doesn’t cause male pattern baldness, some research has shown that men with male pattern baldness may have a higher risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms.

For example, one small-scale study from May of 2020 found that 67 percent of people admitted to hospital with COVID-19 showed signs of pattern hair loss.

A larger-scale study published in November 2020, which featured medical data from more than 60,000 people, found that extensive amounts of graying hair and hair loss were both linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, which is itself a known risk factor for a worse case of COVID-19.

While these findings are interesting, research is still ongoing into any potential link between hair loss in men and COVID-19 severity. 

How to Treat COVID-19 Hair Loss

If you’ve noticed your hair thinning after recovering from COVID-19, you can talk to a licensed healthcare provider to learn more about your options.

Telogen effluvium hair shedding will typically stop when the underlying cause of the hair loss is treated. After you recover from COVID-19, it may take several months before your hair starts to grow back. 

During the regrowth phase, you may notice small, new hairs that are equal in length. It usually takes six to nine months for your hair to return to its normal appearance.

Since telogen effluvium hair loss isn’t caused by DHT, male pattern baldness medications such as finasteride won’t slow down or stop your shedding.

Minoxidil, a topical medication for stimulating hair growth, isn’t approved for use as a treatment for telogen effluvium. However, your healthcare provider may prescribe it off-label if they think that it may help to stimulate regrowth and restore your hair.

Simple things, such as focusing on hair-friendly habits, may also help to speed up hair regrowth and get your hair back to normal faster. 

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In Conclusion

COVID-19 may cause a form of hair loss called telogen effluvium. This is a common type of hair loss that can occur after stress, infections, surgery or illnesses that cause fever.

Unlike male pattern baldness, telogen effluvium hair loss isn’t permanent, meaning any hair you shed during or after your illness with COVID-19 will eventually grow back. 

In the meantime, focus on recovering from COVID-19 and practicing hair-friendly habits. If your healthcare provider has prescribed medication to improve your hair growth, make sure to use it as prescribed.

10 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

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  2. Can COVID-19 Cause Hair Loss? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/causes/covid-19
  3. Symptoms of Coronavirus. (2021, February 22). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
  4. Miyazato, Y., et al. (2020, November). Prolonged and Late-Onset Symptoms of Coronavirus Disease 2019. Open Forums Infectious Diseases. 7 (11), ofaa507. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7665672/
  5. Hughes, E.C. & Saleh, D. (2020, June 9). Telogen Effluvium. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430848/
  6. Wambier C.G., et al. (2020, August). Androgenetic alopecia present in the majority of patients hospitalized with COVID-19: The “Gabrin sign”. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 83 (2), 680–682. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7242206/
  7. Ramos, P.M., Ianhez, M. & Miot, H.A. (2020, October 24). Alopecia and grey hair are associated with COVID‐19 Severity. Experimental Dermatology. 29 (12), 1250-1252. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/exd.14220
  8. Suchonwanit, P., Thammarucha, S. & Leerunyakul, K. (2019). Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug Design, Development and Therapy. 13, 2777–2786. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/
  9. Ho CH, Sood T, Zito PM. Androgenetic Alopecia. Updated 2020 Sep 29. In: StatPearls Internet. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/
  10. Pratt, C. H., King, L. E., Jr, Messenger, A. G., Christiano, A. M., & Sundberg, J. P. (2017). Alopecia areata. Nature reviews. Disease primers, 3, 17011. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5573125/

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

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