Dermatologist: COVID can impact hair, skin for weeks following initial infection

Most problems seem temporary, though Dr. Alexis Young cautions It can take 18 months for hair to grow back

COVID cases have declined dramatically, but one type of specialist is still seeing plenty of COVID patients each day. The dermatologist. That's because the impact of the virus on our hair and skin can arise several weeks after the initial infection.

DETROIT – Hair loss can start months after an illness, so some patients aren’t even making the connection to their COVID infection.

But the virus can cause various issues for our skin and hair, which is catching some people off guard.

The stress of fighting COVID took a significant toll on Ashly Soto’s hair.

“I was just getting clumps of hair coming out of my skull,” said Soto. “I was stressed out. I am a female. Losing hair is a big thing.”

Dermatologist Dr. Alexis Young says she’s seen a jump in cases of hair loss. The medical name is Telogen Effluvium. It happens when an illness or other stress forces more hairs than usual into the shedding phase of the hair growth cycle.

“About 90% of the hair is supposed to be in the growth phase, and 10% in the shedding phase, and in this situation, more hair is actually in the shedding phase,” said Dr. Young.

Dr. Young is also seeing COVID-related skin issues.

“Flaring of acne, Rosacea, Seborrheic dermatitis, which is like dry, flaky skin.”

Dry, flaky skin is what’s bothering patient Nicole Ladas.

“Now I’m just very mindful to make sure my hands are dry and just use the hand cream as well to keep your hands as hydrated as you can,” said Ladas.

The good news is most of the problems seem to be temporary, though Dr. Young cautions as It can take 18 months for the hair to grow back fully.

“It does not scar the hair follicles, so there’s full capacity to regrow hair,” Dr. Young said.

“It’s going to grow back, like, I’m not going to go bald because of it, so it is great,” Soto said.

COVID related rashes have been widespread in children who generally suffer more rashes. In some kids, a rash was actually their only symptom.

The bottom line is COVID can impact the skin and hair, and it’s important to share with your doctor if you’ve had COVID, in case there is a potential connection.

Patients suffering from long COVID are still experiencing skin problems even months after their initial infection, often due to ongoing inflammation. Some examples are hives, scaly rashes, or a problem called COVID toes which causes swollen and discolored toes.

About the Authors:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.