Hair – Bluffton Icon

By Karen Kier
Pharmacist on behalf of the ONU HealthWise team
Americans spend a significant amount of money each year on hair products and styling.  It has been estimated that over our lifetime, we can spend around $55,000 for hair care.  
Hair has been the subject of numerous books, musicals, and songs.  Broadway hits such as Hair and South Pacific just to name a few.  The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific had the hit song, I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Out of My Hair.  On October 17, 1967 the musical Hair started its off-Broadway run that later lead to a successful Broadway run. Lady Gaga recorded her hit, Hair, in 2011 and it was released on her Born This Way album. The music group America released their number one hit, Sister Golden Hair, in 1975.  
Our hair usually grows about ½ inch every month or six inches per year.  This varies by individual based on age, nutrition, vitamin deficiencies, stress, giving birth, hospitalizations, and disease.  Medications can affect hair growth including promoting growth, as well as inhibiting growth.  Ask your pharmacist if you think your medications could be altering your hair growth.  With correction of certain factors such as stress and vitamin deficiencies, the hair follicles are capable of normal function within 6 to 9 months.  
Normally, we will lose between 50 to 100 hairs per day as part of the normal turnover of hair from the follicles.  Hair growth goes through three cycles and is easily disturbed by disease, hormones and stressors.  There is a difference between hair shedding (telogen effluvium) versus hair loss (anagen effluvium). 
Alopecia areata is hair loss resulting from the immune system attacking and destroying the hair follicles.  Although our bodies are covered with hair including fine hairs, alopecia areata typically affects the head and face.  Alopecia areata can vary from person to person.  
There are three types of alopecia areata.  The most common is patchy alopecia areata. It often presents as small patches of hair being lost on the head about the size of a quarter.  The second is alopecia totalis, which results in complete loss of hair resulting in baldness and loss of eyebrows and eyelashes. The third type is the rarest form known as alopecia universalis resulting in the complete loss of hair over the entire body.  
Some cases of alopecia areata may resolve on their own.  Very few treatments are available for alopecia areata.  Often prescribers will use corticosteroids or other medications known to suppress the immune system to stop the body’s attack on itself.  Some other methods include using medications that stimulate hair growth.  
Recently, the FDA has approved a new and novel approach to managing alopecia areata.  Clinical studies have been evaluating a class of drugs known as Janus kinase inhibitors (JAK inhibitors) for managing alopecia areata.  Three JAK inhibitors have been researched around the world.  On June 13, 2022, the FDA approved the drug baricitinib for severe alopecia areata.  In the clinical studies, approximately 80% of patients had hair regrowth with the new drug.  
Baricitinib may look familiar! This JAK inhibitor has been FDA-approved to manage rheumatoid arthritis (autoimmune).  Interestingly, baricitinib has been given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to manage COVID-19 in hospitalized patients.  
COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2 has resulted in abnormal hair shedding related to the infection and fevers.  Many individuals are not acutely aware of the connection to a COVID-19 infection because it can take 2 to 8 weeks to see the increased shedding of hair.  Fortunately, the hair follicle is not destroyed with a COVID-19 infection so the follicle is able to regenerate a new hair.  The recovery from hair loss from COVID-19 takes 3 to 6 months.  It appears that the recovery of hair is faster after COVID-19 than other causes. COVID-19 infections have been implicated in hair loss resulting from an autoimmune condition known as alopecia areata occurring 1 to 2 months after the infection. 
The CDC has received reports of hair loss related to the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.  Increased hair shedding is the most reported event related to hair loss to the CDC as part of the vaccine reporting program (VAERS).  However, some rare reports of alopecia areata have been reported with the vaccines as well. 
If you are experiencing hair loss of any kind, please consult a dermatologist or your primary care health provider for further evaluation.  
Please contact your healthcare professional or ONU HealthWise for more information about medications resulting in hair loss or are capable of hair regrowth. 
ONU HealthWise is offering COVID-19 including boosters as well as flu shots Monday through Friday from 10 AM to 5 PM. ONU HealthWise will have flu vaccines starting September 1, 2022.   Please call the pharmacy for an appointment or to get more information.  
ONU HealthWise Pharmacy
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