The Real Reason You're Losing Your Hair In Quarantine

Oh, the things quarantine does to your body! None of them good, it seems. You start to pack on the pounds from stress eating, you get flabby and out of shape as soon as you realize nobody can actually see your level of participation (or non-participation) in those celebrity quarantine video workouts, and you may get kind of pale and pasty from staying indoors for days (weeks? months?) at a time. And now, the ultimate indignity... wtf, hair coming out in clumps? Why, why, why? Is this some kind of curse we're all under?

Ok, it may seem kind of a petty thing to complain about at a time when the whole world seems to be going crazy, but if we're all going straight to H-E-double toothpicks, it would be kind of nice to get there with a full head of hair. Now it looks like even that's not going to happen. What gives with this sudden hair loss?

Stress causes hair loss

Perhaps the most obvious reason is stress — we've all been under quite a lot of it. Well, to add insult to injury, it turns out that stress is a leading cause of follicles falling down on the job. There's a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium, which the Mayo Clinic says can happen when a significant stressor basically sends our hair into hibernation. It doesn't fall out immediately, just stops growing, and within a few months of the stressful event (e.g. onset of quarantine), hair starts coming out by the handful when you wash or even comb it. 

Of course, you could also be losing hair due to literally pulling it out of your head — trichotillomania (urge to pull out hair) can be triggered by negative feelings such as loneliness, boredom, and frustration. Any of these emotions sound familiar? The good news is, these types of hair loss are reversible. Get your stress under control (may we suggest a soothing session of puzzle-solving?), and your hair should grow back in time.

Poor eating habits aren't helping, either

Yes, we've all been doing it. Stress eating, cramming down comfort foods, shunning the healthy stuff, going on a baking binge and eating up the results, getting zero exercise that doesn't involve an hourly jog between the couch and the fridge... and yes, our bodies are all paying the price — we expected that. Who knew, though, that our crappy diets could also affect our hair?

Hair health expert Dr. Sophia Kogan, M.D. knew, and she shared with Shape just what's going on with our bodies and our hair. It seems that eating a lot of sugar, fat, and carbs (the holy trinity of comfort foods) disrupts our gut bacteria and leads to less absorption of nutrients (if, indeed, we're managing to consume anything remotely resembling a nutrient). 

One particular nutrient –- iron – is essential for healthy hair growth. Trichologist (hair scientist) Anabelle Kingsley echoes the importance of iron consumption, recommending we change up our quarantine (or post-quarantine) eating habits to mix in a little red meat and dark, leafy greens, and maybe a few other iron-rich items such as dried apricots, beetroot, and blackstrap molasses.

Lack of sunshine can affect your overall health

Kogan also notes (via Shape) that quarantining (combined with some winter weather that just kept hanging in there in certain parts of the country) has led to many people staying indoors for more time than usual. This means that most of us are now deficient in the vitamin D that we usually gain from exposure to sunlight. 

Low levels of vitamin D can lead to halr loss. The best way to remedy this? Get yourself outside again! You don't need to flock to crowded beaches or other danger spots, but an early morning stroll around the block is likely to be safe enough. You can also add vitamin D to your diet by eating salmon, mushrooms, eggs, and vitamin D-fortified dairy products

You probably won't even need to take a vitamin supplement once you've addressed your dietary and outdoor exercise needs. Or even outdoor non-exercise — sitting out on your patio may not do much to get your body back in shape, but it may do your hair some good. Who knows, with enough outdoor time, you could even wind up a sun-bleached blonde!

You could pay a price for skipping your hair care routine

Have you been maybe slacking off a bit on your beauty routines while housebound? Join the club. Once the thrill of wacky dye jobs and new DIY styling wears off, you might just find yourself tempted to skip a shampoo or two. Or three, or four, or... well, no-one's counting, but leaving your hair to do its own thing could actually be causing it to stop growing and start shedding. It's not the chemicals in shampoo that your hair is missing, it's the stimulation to your scalp that comes from rubbing in the shampoo.

While Kingsley tells Shape that no-one should go more than three days between washes, you can actually wash your hair without using shampoo. The Wasteland Rebel! blog gives an overview of a number of different "no-poo" methods, many of which involve substituting other cleansing substances such as baking soda and rye flour. The simplest method, however, is one where you wash your hair using water only — while it may seem pretty radical, it turns out that certain types of hair can do without shampoo very nicely. All types of hair, however, require the scalp stimulation that can exfoliate and promote circulation and allow for new hair growth.