One year of stress and top knots

A year on since the first lockdown, we quizzed hair pros to discover how pandemic stress may have effected our strands… and what to do about it

Whether going through a stressful period, struggling to maintain hair at home or suffering from illness, hair loss can impact us all in many different ways.

After a year of lockdowns, it’s no surprise that the continued stress of the pandemic may be playing a part in our overall hair health. According to research by online beauty retailer, sales of hair care products are up by 11.9 per cent in lockdown, as more of us search for at-home solutions to combat damaged locks while unable to visit salons.  There have been suggestions that those suffering from Covid-19 have experienced some hair loss, but even if you haven’t had the virus, the pandemic may have led to increased hair fall and an irritated scalp for multiple reasons.

“Covid-19 is not solely responsible for hair loss. Any fever related illness comes with a degree of hair loss known as Post Febrile Telogen Effluvium,” says Mark Blake, a  leading globally recognised trichologist. “This type of hair loss is when a high fever disrupts the normal growth cycle of the hair. The symptoms of Covid-19 can go on for months and months, and unfortunately so can the shedding of hair. Once the causative factors are taken away, the hair should gradually return to normal. This may take three to four months after the symptoms subside.” 

Image credit: NIOXIN

The stress of lockdown has also had a massive impact on hair. “Stress causes elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that  prioritises what the body needs to survive. Hair is non-essential tissue that needs lots of energy to grow, but it has to take a back seat when the body is under stress and needs to survive,” explains Mark. “This means that the hair follicles may simply be shut down by the body when it’s in survival mode.”

Similarly, the beauty and health experts at online consultation platform, Etres Vous say: “Stress impacts digestion and your body’s absorption of vital nutrients. Vitamin imbalances, iron deficiency, inadequate protein intake, and meals that contain too few calories can all contribute to hair shedding. Your scalp is your hair’s support system, and so a healthy scalp is key to the production of healthy hair.”

Likewise, at her clinic in South Kensington, trichologist Samantha Stewart has seen an increase of reflective hair shedding. “We discovered that a lot of the patients we were seeing with this type of hair loss had either had Covid-19, or their excess hair fall was a result of the stress that the pandemic was causing. 

“Triggers such as stress and illness can cause an interruption in the growing phase of the hair cycle (Anagen). This interruption causes an increased number of hairs to prematurely stop growing and subsequently shed months later. This is known as Telogen Effluvium. 

I recommend using Hair Gain, as this helps with this type of reflective hair shedding by ensuring it directly targets the molecules within the dermal papilla cells. It’s scientifically proven formula, containing the exclusive AnaGain ingredient, helps re-establish the normal growing phase and decrease the excess shedding.”

Looking for some advice to get your scalp and strands in top condition ready for when lockdown lifts? Four hair experts share their top tips

Zoë Irwin, creative director at John Frieda Salons


“Exfoliating the skin is a completely acceptable thing to do, so really why would you stop at your hair line? Healthy hair is all about creating a healthy scalp. NIOXIN Dermabrasion treatment is an in-salon exfoliation treatment for the scalp. If you think in terms of creating a blank canvas to start with, this is the treatment that will do exactly that.  It’s a must have for any clients after having had such a long break from the salon,”

Robert Eaton, creative director of Russell Eaton


“If someone’s hair is feeling particularly dry or thin, or simply just needing some TLC, the most important thing a client can do is visit their salon for expert advice from their hairdresser. It’s been a really stressful  time for so many people, and that will take its toll on clients’ hair. Very often this isn’t evident straight away – there’s often a two to four month delay before clients may notice problems with hair shedding or thinning.  Prior to lockdown, we were seeing clients, who may have had Covid-19 four months previously, and were only just seeing the effect it had on both their hair and skin.

Practical solutions will always be to make sure clients are always thinking about amazing home care and scalp serums – these are fantastic for nourishing the skin on the scalp. Feeding the hair from within and keeping its environment in the best possible condition is crucial for hair health – this encourages it  to grow stronger, thicker and healthier. ”

Ricky Walters, owner of Salon 64


“Firstly, let’s not forget when we are washing our hair, we really mean we are washing our scalps. The scalp is the bed in which hair grows, but also where natural oils are produced, or in some cases not producing enough. 

For those with a constant flaky scalp, this is very often stress related. With so much disruption going on in the world right now, I predict there will be several flaky heads of hair walking into the salon once we are open. If symptoms persist and do not clear up naturally or get worse, I would consult a GP as this could be a form of psoriasis.”

Katie Hale, head of colour at Charles Worthing Salons


“Keep brushing your hair everyday to help prevent the hair from tangling and creating knots. Brushing also stimulates the scalp, which has many positive benefits to the hair. While working from home, try not to tie the hair back in the same top knot or tight pony tail everyday, as this will only cause further breakage – more so than if you were to use heat. It’s good to allow the hair to rest, but I would still recommend washing and blow-drying but allow the hair to either rest down, or tie it back using a satin scrunchie.”

Searching for a hair hero? Read our round-up of the best hair products to save your strands.