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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.”

Does COVID hair loss affect men and women?

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.

Can you stop Covid hair 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.

The best hair growth products for COVID hair loss

Key ingredient: 2% minoxidil, biotin

Why we love it

Hers Complete Hair Kit is easily one of the most convenient options for post-COVID hair loss in women. It contains a combination of science-backed ingredients, like minoxidil 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.

Minoxidil (the serum’s active ingredient) is an FDA-approved treatment for hair loss and hair regrowth, which only adds to this treatment's credibility. Consistent use of the entire system allows you to expect thicker, fuller hair — without the need for pricey salon visits or products.

$40 at Amazon$40 at Target

Key ingredients: 1 mg finasteride, 5% minoxidil

Why we love it

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

Key ingredients: Vegan protein, prebiotics

Why we love it

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$44 at Nutrafol

Key ingredient: Biotin

Why we love it

This vegan-friendly hair regrowth oil contains a biotin-rich blend of plant extracts that are scientifically proven to promote hair growth. It also features a caffeine complex to stimulate dormant follicles and reduce breakage. Using the leave-in serum is just about as simple as it gets — apply a dropper full directly to your towel-dried scalp before styling.

Equal parts nourishing and hydrating, Vegamour's Gro Hair Serum works in just 90 days, based on clinical studies. As a bonus, it contains no sulfates, parabens or toxic ingredients that could inhibit your progress.

$64 at Amazon$64 at Sephora

Key ingredients: Biotin, zinc, collagen complex

Why we love it

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.

$28 at Amazon$34 at Target

Key ingredients: Biotin, riboflavin, zinc

Why We Love It

Another biotin and zinc duo, Hair Hero from Essential Elements is an easy-to-swallow capsule with a comprehensive list of vitamins and minerals. It's designed to make your hair grow faster, thicker and healthier. The formula contains other vital ingredients, like riboflavin, which helps the body metabolize proteins and carbohydrates for energy.

Hair Hero is taken daily, and many users report improvements in skin tone and texture in addition to their hair. It's also gluten-free, non-GMO and free of added soy, peanuts and shellfish. With regular use over several months, you can expect fuller locks that are stronger and more resilient.

$35 at Amazon$35 at Walmart

Key ingredients: Kaolin clay, acacia gum

Why we love it

Sometimes a minor enhancement is all you need to give your thinning hair the body and fullness it deserves. Aveda's Pure Abundance Volumizing Shampoo contains natural ingredients, like kaolin clay, to help thicken each strand while giving your scalp a gentle, exfoliating cleanse. The shampoo also contains acacia gum for extra lift and bounce.

You'll get the best results if you pair it with the brand's conditioner and a volume-friendly styling routine. Techniques like gentle teasing can further accentuate the positive effects of this shampoo. As a bonus, you'll love the distinctive aroma while showering — a salon-worthy pampering in the comfort of your own home.

$41 at Amazon$23 at Walmart$29 at Aveda

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 are the Biotin and rosemary mint - both working to gently cleanse and exfoliate the scalp while moisturizing hair and promoting a healthy environment for hair follicles to thrive. We also love the Mielle hair growth oil.

$9 at Amazon

What should I look for in hair regrowth products?

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.

How we evaluated the best products for COVID hair loss

Our team researched dozens of hair regrowth products and treatments to identify the best of the best. We considered various factors, including ingredients, effectiveness, user reviews, cost, brand reputation and more. After narrowing down our list of contenders, we selected our favorites based on expert guidance.

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. We also evaluated 43 different types of shampoo for thinning hair.

Frequently asked questions

Since post-COVID hair loss is a relatively new condition, here are some of the most common questions people ask.

What’s the best way to treat COVID hair loss?

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, supplements, serums, 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.