For years, it’s been assumed that stress can cause hair loss. When people go through extreme bouts of stress, their hair is liable to fall out.
But, is this scientifically proven or just a myth? More to the point, is your hair loss caused by stress or something else?
We’ll explain all you need to know about stress-related hair loss in this article. It will include the science behind it, symptoms to be aware of, treatment options and much more.
What is Stress-Related Hair Loss?
Stress-related hair loss refers to types of hair loss that are caused by unusual levels of stress in the body. As your brain releases more cortisol (the main stress hormone) it can affect hair growth.
The most common type of stress-related hair loss is known as telogen effluvium (TE). In fact, this is one of the most common forms of hair loss full stop. Your hair goes through three stages as it grows and sheds:
- Growth phase (Anagen)
- Resting phase (Catagen)
- Shedding phase (Telogen)
Telogen effluvium is when more hairs enter the shedding phase from the growth phase. This means you have more hair prematurely shedding than growing. The result of this is thinning of the scalp and noticeable hair loss. High levels of stress can be known to trigger this, which is why people see hair loss while stressed.
Is Stress-Related Hair Loss Permanent?
Stress-related hair loss is not permanent as you’re losing your hair due to a controllable factor. No matter what type of hair loss is triggered by stress, it can usually be reversed if you counter your stress levels and undergo specific hair loss treatments.
Why Do We Experience Stress?
Stress is a natural part of the human body and we’re supposed to deal with it. Scientifically speaking, it’s a reaction to external factors around us, such as:
- Money problems
- Relationship issues
- Poor health
When we’re approached with stressful situations, our body enters its fight or flight mode. It recognises the stressors as potential dangers, so it releases numerous hormones to either defend yourself against the conflict or get away from it as fast as you can. Your body will do this even when you’re not posed with a physical threat at all.
One of the main chemicals released during this process is cortisol - the stress hormone mentioned earlier. As you can imagine, if you’re constantly presented with stressful situations, your body will release more and more cortisol.
That’s when stress becomes a problem. Stress is natural, but it’s not something you should be dealing with all the time. Chronically elevated cortisol levels lead to the slowing down of hair growth as more follicles enter the shedding cycle early. From there, you experience hair loss.
Does Hair Loss From Stress Have Any Clear Symptoms?
Stress-related hair loss is usually spotted when the following symptoms are present:
- More hair loss or shedding than normal - you may see hair on your pillow at night, in your hands when you run them through your hair or in your hairbrush.
- Thinning hair on your scalp - you might be able to see the scalp below and the hair on top of your head gets progressively thinner over time.
- Hair takes much longer to grow back - it seems like your hair remains the same length or takes far longer to grow than it ever did before.
- An overly sensitive scalp - your scalp feels quite itchy and you may develop rashes due to stress.
Ultimately, a lot of these symptoms are listed for other types of hair loss as well. The key thing to consider with hair loss from stress is that it happens gradually.
Look for these signs and then reflect on the rest of your life. Have you been through a tough time lately? Do you feel more stressed than usual?
It’s a good idea to be aware of the signs of stress too, which are:
- A general feeling of tenseness
- Possible feelings of anxiety or depression
- Being overwhelmed
- Feeling physically tired all the time
- Unable to sleep at night
- Unable to turn your thoughts off
- Stomach pains and digestive issues
- Rashes or itchy skin
When you see these stress symptoms along with the hair loss ones listed earlier, there’s a very strong chance you have stress-related hair loss.
The question is, what can you do to treat it?
Are All Hair Loss Conditions Caused By Stress?
No.The most common type of hair loss is called androgenetic alopecia - or male/female pattern baldness. This is not caused by stress as it is largely seen as a genetic issue.
You will be genetically predisposed to androgenetic alopecia and will start losing your hair from a fairly early age. Some people experience the early signs of male pattern baldness in their teens while it doesn’t appear in others until they’re in their twenties or thirties.
Keeping your stress levels low will not prevent this type of hair loss, but living a highly stressful life will make your hair fall out faster!
How To Treat Hair Loss Caused By Stress
You can treat hair loss from stress in a couple of ways. The main concern is dealing with stress - if your body keeps producing an abnormal number of stress hormones, you’ll continue seeing the problem.
Work on reducing the stressors in your life - this will obviously be very individualised depending on what’s causing your stress. General ideas include seeking therapy, exercising frequently, following a healthy diet and practising meditation.
If you can get your stress levels down, your body will eventually recover. There’ll be a reduction in the hair follicles entering the shedding phase and an increase in those going through the growth phase.
Alternatively, if you’d like an aesthetic treatment to help while your hair grows back, then consider scalp micropigmentation.
We offer it at Scalp Nation and have many clients who’ll testify that it brings back confidence and gives the illusion of a thicker head of hair while covering scalp thinning.
Feel free to message us for a scalp micropigmentation consultation - or simply get in touch if you have any questions.