We’ve got all the details on how stress affects your luscious locks and what you can do to treat or prevent stress-related hair loss.
Stress-related hair loss is often linked to certain conditions.
The life cycle of your hair consists of several phases. One, known as telogen, is a rest period that occurs after active growth. When there is a malfunction in
the power the growth cycle of your hair, telogen effluvium can occur.
Telogen effluvium (TE) is a scalp condition usually caused by a sudden change in the number of hairs growing. During TE, your hair will be thrown into the resting phase earlier than usual. This leads to a lot of extra hair loss, especially in the areas at the top of your scalp.
According to the American Hair Loss Association, telogen effluvium is probably the second most common type of hair loss.
TE is usually caused by extreme stress and can affect up to 70 percent of the hairs on your head. TE hair loss often occurs months after the stressful event that caused it, causing the hair to suddenly thin all at once. You may notice more hair in your brush, in the shower drain, or even on your pillow at night.
TE is not permanent. While it may take some time, the condition is completely reversible and your hair will likely grow back over time.
Stress is not the only trigger for TE. It can also be caused by vitamin deficiencies, hormonal changes, and certain medications, among other things.
Alopecia areata (AA) is an autoimmune disease where your immune system is basically at war against your hair follicles. The follicles may begin to shrink, causing hair growth to slow down — or even stop altogether.
Between six and seven million people in the US are affected by AA. Alopecia areata hair loss is generally patchy and can occur anywhere on your scalp.
Common AA symptoms include:
- coin-sized hair loss on the scalp
- hair loss on other parts of the body
- hair strands that are thinner on the scalp
- sudden and significant shedding in a short time
- simultaneous hair loss and regrowth on different body parts
- pitting on your fingernails
In more severe cases, alopecia can also affect the hair on the rest of your body.
While there is no cure for AA, your hair can grow back. Because the disease just slows down follicle production rather than completely “killing” the follicles, they can still be active and bounce back into a growth phase — no matter how much hair you may have lost or how long it’s been.
Because alopecia areata affects the immune system, there are several possible triggers for the condition, including stress, illness, or environmental factors.
Trichotillomania (TTM) is a condition in which people pull out their own hair. TTM, more commonly known as hair pulling disorder, is classified as a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
People with TTM have an impulsive urge to pull hair not just off their heads, but other parts of their bodies as well, including eyebrows, eyelashes, facial hair, and even the hair* down there. * Some people with trichotillomania pull their hair out without even thinking about it, while others may pull more intentionally.
Hair pulling disorder affects about 0.5 to 2 percent of people and can lead to permanent hair loss and thinning if left untreated.
In addition to hair loss, there are other symptoms of trichotillomania:
- breaking or tearing hair
- bite, chew or eat her
- infection, irritation or scarring
- playing with pulled out hair
- feeling extreme relief after pulling
Hair pulling is often a response to stress, but the condition itself can also be cause tension. This creates a vicious circle, as visible patches of missing hair from pulling negatively impact a person’s mental and emotional health. This, in turn, can lead to them pulling out more hair.
Chronic pulling can damage the follicle, which can affect regrowth. Finding ways to manage the condition can help keep the follicle alive and promote new hair growth. Behavioral therapy or certain medications are the most common forms of treatment for TTM.
Stress-related hair loss can be frustrating and, well, stressful AF. However, regrowth is very possible, and with time, patience and some old-fashioned effort, you can overcome your stress hair loss.
Dealing with your stress
Reducing the amount of stress we experience can yield more than just our luscious locks. Finding ways to deal with our stress can positively impact all aspects of our overall physical and mental well-being, including our weight, skin health and anxiety levels.
You can kick stress to the curb by:
- To practice. Working up a sweat is a great way to boost endorphins (the happy chemicals released when you exercise) and reduce stress.
- practicing yoga. Yoga is not only great for stretching and strengthening your body, but it is also a great way to clear your mind and cultivate calmness.
- To breathe. By incorporating some breathing exercises into your day, you can root yourself in the moment and let go of whatever stresses you.
- meditate. Meditation and mindfulness are great ways to clear your mind and ground yourself in the present, relieve stress and enter a state of calm. While it may take some time to get into the groove of meditating, it is well worth sticking to.
- Journals. Writing down how you feel can help you understand your stress, where it comes from, and how to overcome it.
- Do what you love. If you like it, do it! Reading a novel, going for a walk, rocking out to your favorite 00s punk-pop music, or anything that can spark joy can help you reduce feelings of stress or anxiety.
Maintaining a Healthy Diet
How and what we eat can have a major impact on our entire body, including our hair. By following a healthy, balanced diet, you can promote hair growth and prevent future loss.
Getting enough vitamins and nutrients is key to maintaining a balanced diet. Eating foods rich in essential vitamins or taking supplements can help you get your daily dose of hair-healthy nutrients, such as:
In addition to eating well, it’s important to get plenty of that sweet, sweet H. to drink2O. Your body thrives when it’s hydrated, so drinking enough water every day can keep your cells in top shape for peak performance. (That includes the cells that stimulate hair growth.)
Using local treatments
There are many different topical options available to treat hair loss. These are applied directly to the affected area(s) and can potentially stimulate hair growth over time.
Popular topical remedies include:
- Minoxidil. Minoxidil, made popular by Rogaine, is an over-the-counter medication that is applied directly to your scalp, eyebrows, or beard. TBH, researchers aren’t quite sure how it works, but they think it may help the active growth phase grow longer. You can get minoxidil in a variety of forms, including cream, foam, or spray, and there are different product formulations for men or women.
- corticosteroids. Often used in addition to or in addition to other forms of treatment, OTC and prescription corticosteroids are sometimes used to treat hair loss — especially loss caused by alopecia areata.
- home remedies. Castor oil, rosemary oil, and black tea have all been used as home remedies for hair growth. While anecdotal findings seem promising for these DIY growing methods, more research is needed on each of them.
Whether your topical product comes from the drugstore, your derm, or your pantry, it’s important to talk to your doctor before using any topical hair loss remedy, especially if you’re currently taking topical steroids or taking certain medications.
Make style changes
Taking care of your locks can potentially help reduce excessive hair loss and prevent future hair loss.
There are many ways you can be kinder to your hair and scalp, such as:
- avoiding tight hairstyles (ponytails, buns, braids)
- limit or eliminate heat styling
- avoiding hot oil treatments
- be gentle when you comb or brush
- use products without harsh or harmful chemicals
- using scalp treatments (masks or deep conditioners)
- don’t wash her too much
- use a clarifying shampoo every month to eliminate buildup on your scalp
Stress is just one of the reasons why you may experience hair loss.
Other causes include:
- Genetics. Sometimes hair loss just comes down to our genes. If you have a family history of thinning hair or baldness, chances are you are experiencing this too.
- Aging. Your body changes with each passing year – including your hair. Hair naturally starts to thin as you get older, especially after you hit the big 3-0.
- Medicines. Hair loss can be a side effect of certain medications, such as antidepressants or blood thinners. Hormonal medications, such as birth control pills, can also affect hair growth.
- Chemotherapy. Going through chemo treatments can take a toll on your body, including your hair. Alopecia is a common side effect of chemotherapy.
- Disease. Getting sick can compromise our immune system, which can lead to hair loss or hair loss.
- hormones. Hormonal fluctuations can alter our estrogen levels, which can affect our mane and lead to thinning, excessive shedding or shedding.
- Nutritional deficiency. If your body is deficient in certain essential nutrients (such as vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, or iron), you may experience thinning or hair loss.
- Chemicals in hair products. Some hair care products or treatments contain harsh or harmful chemicals that can attack your locks at the root, leading to breakage, thinning and shedding.
- Tight hairstyles. If you often wear your hair in a tight, pulled back style, you are probably putting a lot of strain on your hair follicles. This can lead to stress, tension and damage, and cause hair to fall out.
- Pregnancy. Typically, your locks will thrive as your body prepares for delivery, but sometimes hormone fluctuations, deficiencies, or other underlying causes can cause your hair to shed like crazy during the pregnancy. You can also experience postpartum hair loss after you deliver.
- Changes in weight. Rapid weight loss, certain diets, and weight loss surgery have all been linked to hair loss.
Stress can wreak havoc on your body and mind. Stress-related hair loss can result from overly stressful events or environmental stressors, and is generally related to one of three conditions: telogen effluvium, alopecia areata, or trichotillomania.
There are several treatment options available to overcome stress hair loss. Eating a healthy diet, taking care of your hair, taking topical medications, and more importantly, finding ways to manage your stress can all help keep your locks in check.