By Dr DM Mahajan
Hair fall has been a common problem for Covid survivors. Is it really to do with Covid or something else?
Long-term side effects following Covid-19 infection have caused many devastating symptoms, from loss of taste and smell to brain fog and fatigue. Hair loss has also been reported as a common symptom. Patients who experience hair loss from SARS-CoV-2 infection may notice clumps of hair falling out during their daily combings or while washing their hair in the shower. The phenomenon is known as telogen effluvium. About 90% of hair on our scalp are in a growth phase, called anagen, and about 10% of hairs are in a resting phase, called telogen. On our scalp, anagen lasts for about three years, and then hairs begin transitioning into telogen, which lasts between two and six months. At the end of telogen, our hairs are shed from their follicles and replaced by new anagen hairs. Then, the growth cycle continues.
Are oils or shampoos beneficial in any manner to check hair loss?
Hair loss is a common concern experienced by people of all ages and genders around the world. Coconut oil may help to prevent hair loss due to ultraviolet light damage or grooming habits. Applying certain essential oils to the scalp may boost hair growth. Additionally, pumpkin seed oil, applied topically to the scalp for three months, significantly increased hair regrowth in people with female pattern baldness.
Rosemary oil applied to the scalp may be as effective as minoxidil, Additionally, below are the important essential oils that contribute to increasing hair growth:
- Jojoba oil
- Lavender oil
- Peppermint oil
- Tea tree oil
Additionally, usage of caffeine-based shampoo and conditioner may prevent hair loss as effectively as monoxidil, as it stimulates metabolism and the proliferation of cells. Using shampoo or scalp treatments that contain antioxidants may decrease hair loss and improve the health of the scalp. Women who used either a shampoo or leave-in scalp treatment containing the antioxidant piroctone olamine for an eight-week period had increased hair growth and more improved scalp.
Does diet help?
Modifying diet can have an effect on hair growth and hair health. Diet changes can include eating extra protein. Consumption of protein and amino acid intakes can help reduce hair loss. A diet combined with herbs and vegetables can contribute towards a decreased risk of androgenetic alopecia, or pattern baldness, in males.
Very low-calorie diets can deprive the body of essential nutrients, including those necessary for healthy hair, such as protein, fatty acids, and zinc. Additionally, consumption of multivitamin supplements helps. Some vitamins and minerals that may help include:
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
What can one do to check hair loss?
Before making a diagnosis, your doctor will likely give you a physical exam and ask about your diet, your hair care routine, and your medical and family history. You might also have tests, such as the following:
- Blood test: This might help uncover medical conditions that can cause hair loss.
- Pull test: Your doctor gently pulls several dozen hairs to see how many come out. This helps determine the stage of the shedding process.
- Scalp biopsy: Your doctor scrapes samples from the skin or from a few hairs plucked from the scalp to examine the hair roots under a microscope. This can help determine whether an infection is causing hair loss.
- Light microscopy: Your doctor uses a special instrument to examine hairs trimmed at their bases. Microscopy helps uncover possible disorders of the hair shaft.
Do hair regenerate in older people once fallen or hair volume progressively and permanently declines?
Androgenetic alopecia, which health experts also refer to it as male pattern and female pattern baldness, results from genetic and hormonal factors. Approximately half of all people will experience it at some point. The condition can occur at any age but is more common among:
- Males aged 50 years or older
- Females during menopause
- People with a close relative who has androgenetic alopecia
In males, hair thinning tends to occur from the hairline to the back of the head and resembles an ‘M’ shape. In females, it tends to affect the crown of the head. Early treatment can often slow or stop hair loss.
Dr DM Mahajan is senior consultant, dermatology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi