How Does Stress Cause Hair Loss – Three Proven Ways

How Does Stress Cause Hair Loss – Three Proven Ways

Stress can have various negative effects on us, but did you know that it can cause hair loss too?

Being in the lock down or quarantined due to the spread of COVID 19 has taken away people from the hectic day to day work. However in some countries people still go for work regardless of the pandemic. Nevertheless stress can occur to any given person, regardless of the situation.

So does stress cause hair loss? In short yes, it does cause hair loss. The experts point out that there are three ways in which stress can cause hair loss. This also includes chemical reactions in our body which cause more of the hair follicles to go into the shredding phase or the resting phase of the natural hair cycle. This will result in increased hair fall than usual.

In this article I will discuss the facts that I found out on hair loss due to stress and how you could minimize such hair fall.

How does stress cause hair loss

There are a couple of ways in which stress could affect your hair negatively. Depending on the underlying condition, the impact to the hair would be different.

As you know, I’m not a professional in the field. However I would be using technical terms to describe the medical condition but describe it in layman terms, so that the information is clear and understood.

Both severe physical and emotional stress can cause the following types of hair loss.

1. Telogen Effluvium

Telogen phase or the resting phase, which is also known as the shredding phase is a stage in the natural hair cycle. In this phase the hair follicles would stay dormant for a period of one month or more, and roughly about 15% of the hair strands in our head will be at this phase at any given time.

In telogen effluvium, more of the hair follicles are signaled to be dormant by our body. Therefore more hair strands are forced into the resting phase than normal. [1] [2]

These dormant hair strands would remain dormant for 2 to 3 months from the beginning of the underlying illness, and then starts to fall off. 

Telogen Effluvium can occur due to various other reasons such as pregnancy and other illnesses. And this is considered as the second most common type of hair loss found in people.

The experts point out that the hair loss from telogen effluvium is reversible, given that you deal with your condition and manage the stress. They point out that hair will start to grow back in 6 to 9 months after resolving your problem.

2. Trichotillomania

This is another type of hair loss which occurs due to a trauma or stress. Trichotillomania occurs as a result of a mental disorder, social anxiety, stress etc. [3] [4]

Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania refers to a situation where a person knowingly or unknowingly pulls his hair which will eventually cause hair breakage or hair loss.

This is not highly common among the individuals, and the person who is suffering from this condition would pull out the hair to overcome the stress or the social anxiety that he is suffering from.

The experts point out that this condition could be due to genetics and a person could develop the symptoms even at the age of 13 and above.

According to the experts, the negative point of this condition is that it can lead to permanent hair loss if the circumstances are severe and the hair follicles are damaged.

Therefore if you are suffering from this condition, or if you know someone suffering from trichotillomania, then direct him/her to a psychologist or a specialized doctor as soon as possible.

3. Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is another type of hair loss among people suffering from high stress levels. [5] [6]

According to the experts this is an autoimmune disease, where the immune system of a person attacks the hair follicles. The reason for targeting the hair follicles is still unclear.

Luckily most of the time, this attack on the follicles will not kill the follicles, but severely damage it causing the hair to fall and cause bald patches. Although there is no specific cure for this condition, experts believe that hair may grow back with time.

This condition could occur at any given age and the experts believe that alopecia areata is caused due to physical injury, genetics, and even high stress etc. The statistics indicate that there are roughly 6 million people in US suffering from alopecia areata.

Does stress increase Dihydrotestosterone 

Generally an increase in testosterone will lead to an increase in DHT, since the body automatically converts some of the testosterone into DHT naturally. 

Stress will increase the level of cortisol or the stress hormones in the body and reduce the level of testosterone. Therefore the experts point out that stress will not increase the level of DHT in the body.

Further according to the dermatologists, the level of DHT in the body has no impact on the androgenic alopecia or genetic baldness. The genetic baldness is determined by the responsiveness of the hair follicles to the DHT. Or whether the genetic receptors could trap the DHT which will shrink the follicles.

Therefore if your body is responsive to DHT, then there is a risk of triggering genetic baldness, irrespective of the level of DHT in your body.

There is a theory that is pointed out by the experts that stress could trigger genetic baldness. So if stress does not cause an increase in testosterone and then DHT, then I doubt whether it could trigger genetic baldness. I even could not find any solid researches to establish a relationship between stress and genetic baldness.

Is hair loss from stress temporary

The nature of the hair loss from stress varies according to the underlying condition, severity and the type of hair loss that a person is facing.

A person who is going through excessive stress is more likely to suffer from telogen effluvium, which is a non-severe and a common type of hair loss. This condition is temporary and the hair will be back to normal with time.

When it comes to alopecia areata and trichotillomania, which are not highly common among the individuals, the severity of the condition has to be analyzed by a trained professional or a doctor. Whether the hair loss is permanent or temporary could only be determined by examining the severity of the condition.

If you see bald patches in your head or if you are pulling out hair or at least know someone who does pull their hair, then please consult a doctor as soon as possible.

If you see bald patches, then you could consult a trained dermatologist and if a person is pulling his hair, then he/she must be consulted by a trained psychologist.

How to prevent hair loss due to stress

The best way to prevent hair loss due to stress is by managing the stress effectively. To manage your stress I highly advise you to follow the following instructions. Due to the spread of COVID 19, and being in the lockdown, I can imagine that your stress levels are rising.

1. Do light exercises

Exercising can reduce your stress level immensely. Light exercising sessions restricted to maximum 45 minutes could help you to feel energetic, active and to reduce stress.

Do not do intense exercises if you are new to exercising, since it would increase the level of stress and cortisol (stress hormone) in your body.

If you can go out for a brisk walk, then do so. But if your in lockdown in your home, find some home workouts like aerobic, yoga or any other exercise which would make you feel happy and active. 

Light exercises

Believe me, light exercises in the morning could help you to get rid of stress.

2. Drink water

Being tied up at work or being busy with day to day activities, could make you forget to take adequate water. If your body is dehydrated, the level of stress will also increase.

So measure your water intake. Drink at least 3 liters of water per day. Especially during the summer season or if you are living in a tropical country.

3. Find a hobby

Find yourself a nice little hobby which will ease your stress and take your mind away from stressful activities. Watch some movies, listen to songs, read a book, play a video game.

A hobby will reduce your stress by relaxing your mind.

4. Sleep well

Sleep deprivation is another reason for the increase in stress level among most individuals, especially due to the busy lifestyles.

You need to track your sleep. The experts recommend that a healthy adult should sleep at least for 6 hours a day. There can be exceptions where you would sleep less in some days, but always try to get at least the minimum requirement on every other day.

Avoid caffeine intake at night. Coffee can affect your sleep pattern by keeping you awake at night.

5. Eat a balanced diet

A balanced diet is crucial to fight against hair loss. The diet should consist of more proteins followed by carbs and healthy fats. Inclusion of iron rich food is also better.

Further there are various benefits of including vitamins in your diet. The importance of vitamin A,B,C,D and E are crucial to fight against free radicals, develop collagens, and promote healthy skin.

Vitamin rich food

A balanced diet may not help against stress, but it can promote healthy hair growth. 

6. Treat your hair with oil

I have already emphasized in one of my previous articles, on the benefits of applying oil on your scalp and massaging it. 

You can use olive oil, castor oil, coconut oil or even sesame oil for this purpose. It would help to keep the scalp moisturized, and improve blood circulation to the scalp. 

This can help to overcome your stress and even help to minimize the adverse effect of stress on your hair.

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