Mother, 33, reveals she was left with a bald patch 'the size of a fist' due to hair loss triggered by Covid-19 stress after clumps of hair fell out in the shower
A woman has revealed how she was left with a bald patch after suffering hair loss triggered by the pandemic.
Charlotte Hawksley, 33, from Bournemouth, first noticed a bald patch the size of a 10p coin on top of her head in November 2020.
Over the following months she noticed clumps of hair falling out in the shower, until eventually the patch was roughly the size of a fist.
A doctor diagnosed the issue as hair loss caused by stress. There are several types of stress-related hair loss. One of the most common is telogen effluvium (TE), which is when significant stress pushes large numbers of hair follicles into a resting phase, leading the hair to fall out when combing or washing.
Charlotte Hawksley, 33, from Bournemouth, first noticed a bald patch the size of a 10p coin on top of her head in November 2020. Over the following months she noticed clumps of hair falling out in the shower, until eventually the patch was roughly the size of a fist (pictured)
Charlotte, a sales assistant who lives with daughter Evie, 10, said she 'didn't think much of it' when she first spotted the bald patch but eventually had to hide the baldness with hair bands
'The fact it was down to stress makes sense because of the pandemic and my daughter was diagnosed with diabetes,' Charlotte said. 'I didn't feel particularly stressed at the time but in hindsight it does make sense.'
Women around the world have reported hair loss as a symptom of pandemic-related stress.
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Charlotte, a sales assistant who lives with daughter Evie, 10, said she 'didn't think much of it' when she first spotted the bald patch.
She said: 'I noticed a small patch the size of a ten pence and I didn't really think much of it. I've got quite thick hair so it was easy to hide if I just combed my hair over and it wasn't a massive issue.
The sales assistant first noticed a bald patch the size of a 10p coin at the top of her head (pictured) but it grew in a matter of weeks. She said the baldness impacted her self-confidence
Charlotte said the bald patch (pictured) left her feeling self-conscious. Recently the hair has started to regrow, although it is still 'noticeable'
'I noticed that more of it was falling out when I was brushing it and there were clumps of it in the bath when I washed it.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF HAIR LOSS?
It is perfectly normal for people to lose small amounts of hair as it replenishes itself and, on average, people can shed between 50 and 100 hairs per day.
However, if people start to lose entire patches of hair or large amounts of it it can be more distressing and potentially a sign of something serious.
Pattern baldness is a common cause of hair loss as people grow older. At least half of men over the age of 50 will lose some of their hair just through the ageing process, according to the British Association of Dermatologists.
Women may lose their hair as they grow older, too.
Other, more concerning causes of hair loss include stress, cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, weight loss or an iron deficiency.
Most hair loss is temporary, however, and can be expected to grow back.
Specific medical conditions which cause the hair to fall out include alopecia, a disorder of the immune system; an underactive or overactive thyroid; the skin condition lichen planus or Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of cancer.
People should visit their doctor if their hair starts to fall out in lumps, falls out suddenly, if their scalp itches or burns, and if hair loss is causing them severe stress.
'My daughter always pointed out that "mummy was going bald" and it was getting harder and harder to hide.
'A few months later it was the size of a fist, I looked like I had a massive comb over and had to wear a thick hairband to cover it.'
Charlotte said the bald patch left her feeling self-conscious.
'If it had got any worse I would have seriously considered shaving my head,' she said.
'I thought I was going completely bald. I'm not vain and I wasn't panicking because I didn't think there was something more serious behind it but it really affected my confidence and self esteem. It made me really self conscious.
'When we were able to go out again, I didn't want to go on dates or meet new people. People were really shocked when I showed it to them.'
Recently the hair has started to regrow, although it is still 'noticeable'.
Charlotte added: 'It has started to grow back but it is still noticeable. I'm not a vain person but hair is really important.
'I don't know why it has suddenly started to grow back because if anything I'm more stress than before but hopefully it does keep growing.'
It comes as experts continue to investigate the links between hair loss, Covid-19 and pandemic stress.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), Covid-induced hair loss is due to TE – a shedding condition caused by a disturbance in the hair growth cycle.
TE results in a high percentage of anagen follicles (follicles which are actively growing hair), going into their resting phase prematurely across the scalp
TE lasts somewhere between six to nine months before hair returns to its normal thickness and appearance.
'It happens when more hairs than normal enter the shedding (telogen) phase of the hair growth lifecycle at the same time,' the AAD says.
'A fever or illness can force more hairs into the shedding phase. Most people see noticeable hair shedding two to three months after having a fever or illness.
Charlotte said her daughter Evie, pictured, noticed that her mother was going bald
Charlotte was feeling less confident as a result of the hair loss and didn't want to date but hopes the hair regrowth will help her mental health
What is telogen effluvium?
Telogen effluvium is a condition in which a person sheds more hair than normal, and it can be triggered by childbirth.
It is normal for someone to be in the process of shedding about 10 per cent of the hair on their head at one time, because it grows continuously to make sure the total number of hairs remains constant.
Telogen effluvium occurs when that number rises to 30 or more per cent, and the person is losing noticeable amounts of hair.
The condition occurs because of a disturbance to the normal hair growing cycle. It can be triggered by childbirth, trauma or illness, stress, extreme weight loss, medications, or a skin condition affecting the scalp.
Telogen effluvium usually clears itself up within three to six months, but it may take longer for hair to regrow to its normal length.
Source: British Association of Dermatologists
Specialists at the Belgravia Centre in London have also reported an uplift in cases of telogen effluvium since the start of the pandemic.
Nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of male patients and over a third of women (38 per cent) diagnosed with TE at the Belgravia Centre reported having experienced Covid-19 related symptoms, they found last year.
'It's quite common for TE-related hair loss to present around three months after a period of severe trauma, illness or stress, which fits with our findings,' said Rali Bozhinova, superintdent trichologist at the Belgravia Centre.
'The spike in diagnoses shows the extent of stress that the virus places on the body, not only causing temporary TE, but also potentially exacerbating other hair loss conditions which can have long lasting effects if left untreated.'
Another expert suggested Covid-19 could be linked to alopecia areata, which leads to coin-sized bald patches on the scalp.
Alopecia areata can result in total hair loss, called alopecia universalis, and it can prevent hair from growing back.
In these cases, Covid-19 may trigger an auto-immune response, where the body attacks its own hair follicles, switching them off, according to trichologist Iain Sallis, who wasn't involved in the Chinese study.
'Covid, as many other febrile illnesses, have the ability to confuse our auto-immune system,' Sallis told MailOnline.
'Any type of shock be it, physical, emotional or psychological can cause alopecia, so it can most certainly be classed as a possible trigger.'
There is currently a joint effort by dermatologists called SECURE-DERM to look at the effects of Covid on hair loss on a global scale.