Hair-loss product sales soar from the tress stress of the COVID mess
You can add one more thing to the plagues of 2020—hair loss.
Visits to hair-loss product sites and search queries about hair loss reached record highs in August as product sales soared nearly 30 percent year over year. That’s in part because hair loss is a lagging effect of COVID-19, generally coming two to three months after onset of the disease for men and women alike, says Shilpi Khetarpal, a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic.
“It’s not just from the infection,” Khetarpal says. “It can be from any psychological or emotional stress. So given the stress of the pandemic, and COVID-19, I’m seeing about 20 to 25 people a week. I would say only a fourth of them actually had COVID at some point. The rest of them are just dealing with increased stress from the pandemic itself.” That includes stress from the economic effects, she says.
Whatever the trigger, traffic to hair-loss product sites in August reached its highest point in at least two years, according to SimilarWeb. The increase “appears to be both pandemic-related and a result of increased marketing efforts from all sites analyzed,” says SimilarWeb’s lead beauty industry consultant Alisha Kapur. “Search volume for phrases related to hair loss is up 22 percent year over year.”
Google Trends data, which began in 2004, shows U.S. searches on “hair loss” actually fell to an all-time low in March, when people presumably had bigger things to worry about. But they surged to an all-time high in August, falling only slightly so far in September.
Paid search traffic for the four top hair-loss supplement or treatment providers—GetRoman.com, Forhims.com, Hum Nutrition and Ritual—is up 134 percent year over year. And Roman also appears to be investing heavily in display ads, with 12 times as much traffic from display as it got in July, according to SimilarWeb.
Roman has been the runaway beneficiary of the hair-loss surge, with traffic to its site up almost 38 percent in August vs. last year, according to SimilarWeb. A spokeswoman for Roman says the direct-to-consumer brand's hair-loss treatment sales are currently running 300 percent ahead of last year's pace. But Roman has been putting all of its TV money into erectile dysfunction drugs, not hair loss, according to iSpot.tv.
Numerator, whose mobile panel tracks online and offline purchases, finds sales of hair-loss products soared 29.3 percent in August vs. a year ago.
Category leader Rogaine has seen an increase in consumer search and purchase over the past 12 months and that has “accelerated during the pandemic,” says a spokeswoman for the Johnson & Johnson brand. She attributes that to consumers placing a stronger value on health and wellness, too.
The market has shifted to e-commerce as “hair loss treatment tends to be a more private purchase,” she says, so Rogaine and Women’s Rogaine have shifted focus to digital, omnichannel and direct-to-consumer marketing and away from traditional channels. Indeed, like Roman, Rogaine hasn’t advertised hair-loss products on TV in the past year, per iSpot.tv.
While it’s hard to quantify how many of the nearly 6.7 million people who’ve contracted COVID-19 in the U.S. subsequently have suffered hair loss, the effect is real, Khetarpal says. It’s not so much a symptom as a consequence, she says.
The phenomenon is called telogen effluvium, a non-scarring hair loss that’s temporary and caused by a shock to the system, which also can include surgery, other major physical or psychological trauma, extreme weight loss or a change in diet. Post-partum hormonal changes or menopause also can be a cause.
The hair loss can last up to six or nine months, she says, and generally resolves on its own, though Minoxidil, the active ingredient in Rogaine, can aid recovery or prevent the hair loss, Khetarpal says. Supplements that include vitamin D, iron and biotin also can help, she says.