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Increased Hair Loss Tied To Pandemic Stress, St. Louis Entrepreneur Says

If your hair has been falling out in the past year, you’re not alone. A recent study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reports that New York City practitioners saw an “abrupt uptick in cases of hair shedding” since the pandemic took hold in the U.S.

“It’s been astronomical,” said Abra McField, the CEO and founder of St. Louis-based Abra Kadabra Hair & Healing. She hears from people dealing with the problem every day. “It definitely has gone up quite a bit since the pandemic.”

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, McField explained that it’s natural to lose hair — “about 10 to 15% of your head is always in a shedding phase” — but that a healthy body will shed it over time. When you add stress, “it pushes that [process] faster and makes it happen all at once.”

She said that stress from the past year and the initial closure of hair salons led to a particular increase in hair loss within the Black community.

“Normally, minority women put their hair in the hands of professionals completely because our hair is more natural — it’s more dry, it’s coily, it’s kinky, it’s very hard to manage,” McField said. “So we trust the professionals fully to manage it for us … to keep it healthy.”

She continued: “Now we have to manage our hair on top of being a mother, and working and things like that. We don’t know what to do, so oftentimes we’re doing the wrong things, and we just do so much, [like] colors and relaxers and different types of products that cause irritation and affect our scalp.”

To mitigate the effects of hair loss, McField advises a holistic approach, including use of products that contain DHT inhibitors, making sure you’re getting adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals (especially zinc, biotin and vitamins B and D) and most important, addressing the root cause of your stress.

“[Figure] out what is it that’s actually causing stress and try to resolve that. Try to put yourself around people that make you laugh, that love and support you, try to engage in things that are very calming to the body,” McField said. “It’s proven that meditation and breath work really well to calm the heart, calm the blood, calm the mind, which really reduces stress. And then, definitely exercise and getting involved in some activities … that help bring a lot of joy to your life.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio

Emily Woodbury joined the St. Louis on the Air team in July 2019. Prior to that, she worked at Iowa Public Radio as a producer for two daily, statewide talk programs. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa with a degree in journalism and a minor in political science. She got her start in news radio by working at her college radio station as a news director. Emily enjoys playing roller derby, working with dogs, and playing games – both video and tabletop.