Central Texas women experiencing hair loss after COVID-19

A Waco hair dresser says his clients are having chunks of hair fall out
A Waco hair dresser says his clients are having chunks of hair fall out.
Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 11:17 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Thousands of Central Texans have already lost loved ones due to COVID-19, and now they’re losing something else: their hair.

Waco salon owner Rico Arenas says he has dozens of clients, more than ten percent, who are losing--or have lost--their hair, either while they had COVID-19 or soon after recovering from it.

“It’s pretty devastating that there’s been so many of them,” said Arenas, owner at Agave Hair & Body. “It’s definitely not rare anymore, there’s lot of hair that’s falling out.”

He says they come to see him for help: for a new style, comfort, or advice.

“Most people are unaware of the situation, and so they’re asking me ‘what can you do?’” said Arenas. “At first I was confused...’what was I looking at?’”

He said he’s experienced similar types of hair loss with clients who had undergone gastric bypass surgery.

Finally, he realized it was COVID-related after seeing a pattern.

One of his clients, Laurie Lavender, a nurse, came down with virus in August and had to be hospitalized.

About six weeks later, in October, her long hair started falling out.

“I was losing like everything,” said Lavender. “It became that thin all the way around, I looked like I had chemo, I just want to feel like a girl at times, without any hair you lose your feminine side in a sense.”

Lavender decided to use her hair loss...as her hair gain.

She tried something new: she shaved her entire head and has been having fun with her wigs.

“I’m a bougie girl sometimes, so I’m used to having to try to fix up,” said Lavender. “Fortunately I liked wigs ahead of time, now I have adapted to really loving wigs, trying to change my personality and trying to look a different person instead of looking like I look like my brother.”

Another one of Arenas’ clients, Diane Crespo, already had short hair when she started losing hers while she was hospitalized in the ICU with COVID-19.

“I think about other people, women who have cancer and they lose their hair---mine will come back,” said Crespo.

While Crespo is staying positive because she’s thankful to be alive, she says it’s still hard because some of the virus’ side effects remain.

“I take things in stride, ‘it’s going to be ok,’” she said crying. “It was a lot of faith in God and what he can do, and every day I say ‘it’s going to be a better day,’ and it has been.”

According to Dr. Katie Fiala, the department chair at Baylor Scott & White Dermatology, the women are likely experiencing what’s called telogen effluvium.

“It could be that they had COVID and they had a really high fever or prolonged illness, and that stress on your body can lead your body to go through this hair shedding cycle,” said Fiala. “The good news is people don’t go bald, but they get into this cycle that can last up to six months of shedding, and it can start over again depending on stress.”

She says you don’t have to have had COVID-19 to be experiencing this kind of hair loss right now--the stress of the pandemic alone can trigger it.

“Over the past two years of the pandemic, whether or not we suffered from the COVID infection, the stress of jobs, and the uncertainty, and kids in school...just so many different factors, maybe the death of a loved one, or of a loved one being in the hospital and you can’t be there with them, it’s just back-to-back stressful events that our body is going through,” said Fiala. “So whatever you can do to nurture your body and brain and find rest and joy and try to eat healthy and drink lots of water, all those things are super important as we enter into another year of the pandemic.”

Being gentle to hair and using vitamins can also help with this type of hair loss, she says.

“When you wash your hair use a conditioner afterwards, don’t brush your hair when its wet, don’t towel dry your hair, try not to use many heated dryers and curlers and things that can damage your hair, and really just a multi-vitamin is what we recommend to help strengthen your hair.”

Fiala says it’s a loss that won’t last forever, so the best advice she has it to be patient.

“I hope maybe this interview maybe saves people hundreds of dollars from buying things on the internet that are aimed at growing hair, when really what you need to do is manage your stress, recognize this is time limited, give it time and your hair will grow,” said Fiala.

Lavender said she didn’t want to wait and has been trying IV treatments and using oils to help her hair regrowth.

She believes its helped.

“You don’t have to fully wait, you can help yourself,” she said.

She’s hoping her story will give other women hope and know they’re not lone.

“I just don’t want other women to start feeling defeated,” said Lavender.

Women and men experiencing other symptoms with hair loss like itching, flaking, redness, burning or bald patches should see a doctor to find out what type of hair loss they have, says Fiala.

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