What is Telogen Effluvium and How to Treat It
When Deb Jones began suddenly losing handfuls of her thick hair after each wash, she couldn’t believe it. Her hair grew so thin that she hid it beneath hats and thought she would eventually go bald.
What she was experiencing was telogen effluvium — a type of hair loss with a sudden onset and alarming amounts of shedding.
Telogen effluvium (or TE) is the second most common form of hair loss after androgenetic alopecia. It’s typically triggered by an event that puts extreme stress on the body (in Deb Jones’s case, it was a bout of COVID-19).
It’s usually temporary, lasting on average roughly 6 months, and (good news for Deb) won’t lead to baldness.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the two main types of TE, symptoms, triggers, and some possible telogen effluvium treatments.
Types of Telogen Effluvium
Telogen effluvium can be split into two different types of hair loss: active telogen effluvium and chronic telogen effluvium, defined by their duration.
In 95% of cases, telogen effluvium resolves on its own. If it doesn’t, it may turn into chronic telogen effluvium. Interestingly, in many cases (especially with females) telogen effluvium can co-present with androgenetic alopecia, meaning many women will have two types of hair loss.
Acute Telogen Effluvium
This type of hair shedding doesn’t usually last longer than 6 months. It generally begins 2-3 months after the trigger (we discuss these below) before resolving on its own within 6 months.
Chronic Telogen Effluvium
You may have guessed it. Chronic telogen effluvium lasts longer than 6 months and mostly presents in middle-aged women. Hair continues to shed in greater volume for a long time — sometimes even for years.
We don’t know enough about telogen effluvium to understand why this occurs but it shouldn’t lead to complete balding.
What Are the Signs of Telogen Effluvium?
The defining characteristic of telogen effluvium is diffuse thinning all over the scalp.
Though it affects both males and females, it may have a higher incidence rate in females. A lot of women notice their ponytails becoming significantly smaller.
Unlike androgenic alopecia, the onset of telogen effluvium hair loss can be sudden and alarming with clumps of hair falling out in one go.
In severe cases, hair loss can also occur in other areas of the body, such as the eyebrows or the pubic region.
|Signs of telogen effluvium
|Things that won’t generally happen with TE
|Thinning all over
|Sudden hair loss over weeks or months
|Gradual hair loss over years
|Scalp rash, itching, burning, flaking, or pain
|Improves after a few months
|Bald spots over time
What Causes Telogen Effluvium Hair Loss?
When the body experiences severe stress, it doesn’t care about hair. It diverts energy from hair production and puts it all into self-preservation mode, protecting vital organs and recovery.
You can think of it as stress ‘shocking’ the hair follicles into hibernation — or the resting phase (telogen phase) of the hair growth cycle.
More hairs than usual get pushed into this phase when the body is under stress. The stage also lasts longer than usual.
When you have hundreds of hairs prematurely entering the resting phase, it means you’ll eventually have hundreds of hairs falling out — far more than the 50-150 hairs you would usually shed each day.
Here are some of the leading causes of telogen effluvium — but remember, telogen effluvium is rarely caused by one trigger alone. Several of these factors may be at play at the same time and in about 33% of cases, the cause is never known.
Physiological and Emotional Stress
The overriding cause of telogen effluvium can be severe stress. It may be stress brought on by traumatising events like the death of a loved one, a divorce, or a big career change. Or it can be physiological stress — things like childbirth, severe illness, or surgical trauma.
It’s natural to overlook a stressful event as a cause of telogen effluvium because the hair loss typically becomes apparent about 3 months after the stressful event has occurred.
Here are some medical conditions that may lead to telogen effluvium:
- Hepatic failure
- Chronic renal failure
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Lymphoproliferative disorders
- Systemic amyloidosis
- Chronic infections like HIV
- Seborrheic dermatitis
Sudden hormonal changes may be behind short-term telogen effluvium. The most common example is when women experience dramatic changes to their hormone levels after giving birth.
Some cases of telogen effluvium may be caused by the following dietary deficiencies:
- Essential fatty acid
- Vitamins B6 and B12
Crash dieting and chronic starvation may also contribute to telogen effluvium.
The following medications may cause telogen effluvium:
- ACE inhibitors
- Oral contraceptives
The signs of telogen effluvium from medication usually start to show about 3 months after you began the new treatment. Dose changes can also trigger TE.
Telogen Effluvium Hair Loss Treatment Options
The best telogen effluvium treatment is patience. In most cases, TE is temporary and your hair will regrow on its own within 6-12 months.
If you’d like to speed up the process or you need treatment for chronic telogen effluvium, there are treatment options available to you.
Reduce Stress & Anxiety
The first thing to do if you have telogen effluvium is to make sure the trigger — the stressor — is gone.
If it’s physiological stress, your hair loss should start to improve as you begin to recover from the event.
It may be harder with ongoing, severe emotional stress. Here are some popular stress management techniques:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
- Exercising (even just gentle walks)
Hair Loss Medication
Many people choose to accelerate their recovery from telogen effluvium by trialling shampoos and ointments.
But rather than gimmicks, hair loss medication like The Hairy Pill® uses real science to address the root cause of hair loss.
The Hairy Pill® contains active ingredients that can help put the handbrake on hair loss while accelerating new growth.
Adjusting Your Diet and Addressing Deficiencies
As with many parts of a healthy lifestyle, a nutrient-rich diet may help promote hair regrowth. A well-balanced, nutritious diet is one that contains plenty of lean proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats.
Experts agree that nutritional supplements (such as zinc, calcium, iron, selenium, folic acid, and amino acids) may help treat TE.
However many other supplements (such as biotin or protein powders) are only effective as telogen effluvium treatments if you’re addressing a related deficiency.
If you believe a deficiency is causing telogen effluvium, it’s important to confirm this with your doctor. They can find out your vitamin and mineral levels through a simple blood test.
What Does Telogen Effluvium Regrowth Look Like?
As your body recovers from telogen effluvium, you should start to notice regrowth, with your hair usually returning to its normal levels of thickness within a year.
Here are some signs that your TE is improving:
- Your hair fall lessens
- Short, fine new frontal hairs (flyaways or baby hair) appear
- Your hair gradually thickens
How much your hair regrows depends on a variety of factors, including age, genetics, hormone levels, and general health.
Middle-aged men and women may experience less regrowth than younger people since the total number of active follicles reduces with age.
Talk to a Hair Loss Doctor Today with The Hairy Pill®
Concerned about your sudden hair loss? You may be able to put an early end to the hair loss and start restoring your hair to its natural state.
The Hairy Pill® provides a personalised treatment for telogen effluvium and other hair loss. The underlying technology has been clinically proven and could be the help you’ve been looking for to get your hair back on track. Get started today.