For the past few months, I’ve been experiencing unprecedented hair loss. I noticed it about two months after my university’s campus closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a habit of mine to play with my hair when I work, either just twirling it or running my fingers through it. I quickly realized that every time I messed with my hair, I was pulling out several strands at the same time. Soon I noticed that I’d wake up to strands of hair covering my pillow. It was even more noticeable in the shower when I would wash my hair and dark clumps would wrap around my fingers.

My hair is typically very thick and fairly long, so it’s not uncommon for my hair to shed. But the loss I was suddenly experiencing was not normal at all. 

Experiencing such harsh hair loss was devastating to me, particularly because I had recently undertaken a gruelling process of restoring my hair to a healthy state after years of damage. My hair was healthier than ever when it suddenly started falling out. 

And it wasn’t just me. My sister was also experiencing heightened hair loss and had no idea what was going on. At first, we worried that the hair products we were using were causing our hair to weaken and fall out. But even after changing products, our hair was falling out like never before. Hair loss can also be caused by poor nutrition, hormone imbalance, or many other reasons, but I didn’t believe these to be the cause. 

Eventually, I realized that it was immense stress that was causing my hair to fall out. I’ve experienced stress-related hair loss before, but never for such a long period of time. For example, during my final exams, it wasn’t uncommon for my hair to fall out more than usual, but once that period was over it gradually stopped. That was not the case this time. 

After doing some research, I realized that my experience was not an isolated one. 

Temporary stress-related hair loss is commonly associated with a condition called Telogen Effluvium. This condition makes it so that your hair follicles can’t produce new strands and over time your hair falls out more easily and frequently than before. But recently, more and more people are being afflicted by this stress-induced hair loss. 

Stress-related hair loss has increased in several people due to the tense state of the world right now. It has especially increased since the start of the pandemic and the restrictions it brought. 

People who have been ill due to coronavirus have been experiencing severe hair loss due to the stress of having the virus. But even people who haven’t been afflicted by coronavirus are experiencing hair loss due to the stress of the pandemic. People are suffering from financial problems, personal loss, and an overall feeling of uncertainty. All of these take serious tolls on people, leading to shock hair loss. 

For me, a combination of uncertainty, anxiousness about my grades, and worry for my loved ones led to my hair loss. 

Since the start of quarantine I’d taken up a few activities to manage my stress and I thought they were working. But realizing the extent of my hair loss showed me that I wasn’t taking care of myself as well as I should have been. Ironically, finding out that my hair was falling out due to stress only made me even more stressed. Thus began a vicious cycle. 

In the middle of a global pandemic and having innumerable duties made it hard to see myself as a priority for a while. To be honest, suffering from this hair loss was somewhat of a wake-up call. 

My hair is still falling out at a rate that I’m not used to, but it’s getting better. More than anything, it made me realize how poorly I was taking care of myself. 

It’s been an undeniably hard year for so many of us and sometimes it feels impossible to not feel stressed or overwhelmed.

Just remember that it’s always okay to take time for yourself, make time for activities you enjoy, and take care of yourself and those around you.

  • Apoorva Verghese

    Apoorva Verghese is a Paul Tulane Scholar at Tulane University, studying psychology and anthropology. She serves as an editor for the Intersections section of the Tulane Hullabaloo and her work is forthcoming in the Brown Girl Magazine print anthology. In her free time, she can be found experimenting with her new Nespresso machine with varying degrees of success.