Stress & Hair Loss, and What You Need to Know
Stress, we all deal with it, and it is your body’s way of responding to difficult, potentially harmful situations. Although short bursts of stress are beneficial for us, chronic stress can cause serious health issues, with Hair loss being one of them. Read on to learn how stress and hair loss are related.
In our fast-paced lives, all of us have to deal with stress every now and then. When faced with a tough situation, stress hormones rush into your body, and our natural “fight or flight” response kicks in. This is our body's way of handling any stressful situation, and it may even save your life. But if your stress levels continue to stay high, your body starts to take a toll. Unfortunately, one of the negative side effects of stress is hair loss and even hair thinning for both men and women.
On the bright side, however, hair loss due to stress is mostly temporary and can be reversed. In this article, we explore how stress causes hair loss, types of hair loss due to stress, and how you can combat this issue and stimulate hair growth.
The Hair Growth Cycle
To understand how stress causes hair loss, we first need to understand the different stages of hair growth. Hair growth has four phases. These are:
1. Anagen phase: This is the initial primary growth phase of your hair. It's in this period that the hair grows actively from the roots. It lasts between 2-7 years on average before the hair follicle becomes dormant.
2. Catagen phase: This is the next step and is considered a transition phase for your hair. The hair detaches itself from your blood supply and becomes what’s known as a "club hair." This phase lasts between 2-3 weeks on average.
3. Telogen Phase: This is the resting phase of the hair growth cycle. During this time, the new hair starts growing from the root, while the club hair just rests there. This phase usually lasts around three months.
4. Exogen Phase: This is the final phase of the cycle and is known as the shedding phase of the hair growth cycle and occurs in conjunction with the Telogen phase. The new hair pushes outwards, while the club hair falls out.
Stress and Hair Loss
At any given time, all our follicles are in either of these phases. Usually, 85-90 % of your hair is in the Anagen phase, while 10-15% are in the Telogen phase. Hair loss occurs when more of our hair is in the Telogen phase as compared to the Anagen phase. Stress can often alter this percentage and hence cause hair loss. When faced with a stressful/threatening situation, your body releases stress hormones. These are named Adrenaline, Cortisol, and Norepinephrine. You can read more about your body’s stress response and its effects on you here. All of these hormones prepare you for the worst, but to do so, they make your body shut down the non-vital body functions. Hair growth is one of them. Thus, your body stops providing essential nutrients for your hair to grow, and as a result, more hair enters the resting phase. This process leads to hair loss since more hair strands are being lost than ones being formed.
Types of Hair Loss from Stress
Hair loss can occur due to a lot of reasons. Including illness, injury, iron deficiency, and stress. There are four hair loss conditions associated with stress. These are:
1. Telogen Effluvium
As discussed earlier, hair loss occurs when more hair strands are in the Telogen phase than in the Anagen phase. This causes hair loss and, consequently, hair thinning. In the case of Telogen Effluvium, the thinning is widespread and not concentrated. Telogen Effluvium is temporary, and the effects sometimes reverse itself when the stress levels come back to normal. However, the time for this to happen varies widely from person to person. Given the nature of the hair growth cycle, hair loss due to stress does not occur instantly. It may take weeks and up to three months for hair loss to become evident after your initial stressful experience.
2. Alopecia Areata
Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disorder in which concentrated circular bald patches randomly appear on your scalp. These are often the size of coins, but might be larger. In this case, your body’s immune system attacks your hair follicles resulting in hair loss. This condition can become worse and lead to total hair loss. In that case, the condition becomes Alopecia Universalis. It can be a permanent form of hair loss. Although this disorder may be caused by an infection or trauma, in over 90% of the cases, it is associated with stress.
Trichotillomania is often called the hair-pulling disorder. It is also known simply as Trich. It is a form of mental illness and leads the affected person to have irresistible urges to pull out their own hair. It is an obsessive-compulsive disorder, and those affected might pull hair from their scalp and/or other parts of their body, including their eyelids and eyebrows. The main reasons for Trich include trauma, a chemical imbalance in the brain, and stress.
4. Androgenic Alopecia
Androgenic Alopecia is a common genetic occurrence in both women and men. In each case, it may be referred to as female pattern baldness or male pattern baldness, respectively. It is characterized by the “M” shaped receding hairline. It is caused by dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Your hair follicles may be sensitive to DHT, which may cause them to shrink with each hair growth cycle. Stress significantly increases the testosterone levels in the human body due to the production of Cortisol.
Treating Hair Loss from Stress
Usually, hair loss from stress can be treated easily, since it is only temporary. In the case of chronic baldness or severe mental illness, however, you would need professional help. But if your hair loss was caused by stress, bringing your stress levels back to normal will help treat your hair loss. Next, we will discuss a few ways to manage your stress so that you can regrow your hair.
Improve Your Diet
Often associated with stress is some form of an eating disorder. Maybe you’re eating too little or consuming large amounts of processed food. In either case, you won’t be providing your body enough nutrients to function properly. Apart from maintaining a balanced diet, you should include essential vitamins know to promote and regrow hair such as biotin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B-5, vitamin B-6, folic acid, vitamin B-12, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and more. All these vitamins help the keratin (the protein cells that make our hair strands) in our hair for strong, healthy hair.
1. Veggies & Fruits:
As part of a balanced diet, you could increase your intake of spinach and dark leafy greens to accommodate any iron deficiency you may have as a lack of iron could be the cause of hair thinning. Carrots and leafy greens in general are a great source of Vitamin A which helps the scalp produce sebum oil which is a natural moisturizer for hair.
Citrus fruits and berries can be fantastic sources of Vitamin C & anti-oxidants and are needed for the production of collagen which is used to bind capillaries to hair shafts that strengthen hair, prevent weak hair strands & breakage, and stimulate hair growth.
Avocados allow your body to attain Vitamin E which assists with oxidative stress and nourishes damaged hair follicles while beans and nuts contain the omega-3 fatty acids that are needed to preserve and strengthen hair and reverse hair thinning.
2. Proteins, Seeds, & Beans:
Eggs contain biotin which is widely known to help stimulate hair growth while seeds such as flaxseeds and chia seeds have vitamin B, vitamin E, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Seafood such as shrimp, oysters, salmon, and fatty fish, along with seeds also contain Omega-3 fatty acids which directly target and reverse hair thinning. The zinc found in shrimp and oysters also promotes hair growth and development.
Soybeans and kidney beans contain zinc, iron, and folate which are all minerals & nutrients our body uses for hair growth.
Green tea, Nettle, and Basil are all herbs that packed with vitamins and nutrients that can actually be ingested as a tea to stimulate hair growth, nourish the scalp, prevent hair breakage and you may want to incorporate this into your diet.
(You may also be interested in seeing our previous posts on our comprehensive list of Herbs that contain essential vitamins that promote hair growth and combat hair thinning here: The Best Herbs you should use right now for Natural, Healthy, Hair Growth Part 1 and Part 2)
4. Water: Yes that's right, simple water. To further improve your diet to recover and strengthen your hair, you should also keep yourself properly hydrated. For men, around 15 cups of water (8 oz) are recommended per day. For women, around 12 cups of water are recommended per day. However, most of this water can come from food. So drinking eight glasses of water daily is a good rule of thumb to promote good blood circulation.
If you're a busy individual or don't have the time to prepare natural foods/oils on your own, you may want to try a vitamin supplement such as SugarBearHair vitamins. These vitamin supplements contain over 13 vitamins designed to specifically nourish your hair growth and promote overall healthy hair restoration with proven ingredients. These vitamins are also vegetarian gummies that are safe, easy to chew, and do not contain any dairy or gluten so feel free to check them out here: SugarBearHair Vitamins.
Another dietary vitamin supplement that you may want to consider is Biotin Vitamins made with organic virgin coconut oil. The vitamins are vegan certified and gluten-free. (If you have a sensitive stomach or if pregnant, you may want to ask your doctor before taking just to make sure it's okay to take.) Some individuals see very noticeable results in as little as 30 days. Just a heads-up: Biotin Vitamins may grow back hair all over your body, not just your scalp, so keep that in mind!
Stress Management Activities:
Apart from your diet, you can do some other things to help you reduce stress and stimulate hair growth. These are enlisted below:
Working out fills your body with endorphins, which are the body’s “feel-good” hormones. Exercising regularly will not only reduce stress, which will, in turn, help treat hair loss, but will also make your lifestyle healthier. Here is a good list of exercises to get you started.
Breathing exercises and meditation can help a lot with stress reduction. Here is a good guide to some breathing techniques to help you cope with stress.
Sometimes having a productive outlet of all your emotions helps a lot to reduce stress. Creative hobbies, like writing and painting, may help you calm down while hobbies such as volunteering and gardening, can also help you feel gratitude calming your nerves and help you feel more satisfied.
There are several topical medications you can use for stress hair loss treatment. You can also opt for topical corticosteroids after consulting with your doctor for stress-related hair loss treatment. Apart from medications, you can also use Castor oil to help stimulate hair growth. One of my personal favorites that I use is 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Black Castor Oil for more information. Feel free to read our review here of why using a few drops can help nourish your scalp back into promoting healthy hair growth.
Hair loss can sometimes be your body's wakeup call regarding your overall personal health. Sometimes it may just be a consequence of aging, or the stress from personal problems may have taken a toll, which can leads to hair fallout as well. Stress comes in many forms and can cause unexpected health complications. However, properly taking steps to manage stress, having a well-balanced diet, and getting the proper vitamins & nutrients can make an incredible difference in recovering your hair naturally. Hair loss is certainly treatable, and by managing your stress levels, you can take one significant step towards having natural healthy hair.
We hope this article gave you an insight into stress and hair loss and how you can cope with stress-related hair loss. Keep checking out our website for more content to help you maintain healthy and lustrous hair!