Stress is one of the most common factors contributing to hair loss, but it’s not always clear how stress can cause hair loss. Let’s look at some of the ways in which stress affects your body and what you can do about it!
How does stress cause hair loss?
If you’ve ever experienced high levels of stress, you might already know that it can cause hair loss. However, there are a number of other factors that can contribute to your hair thinning and breakage.
Stress is often a contributing factor in hair loss because it’s known to trigger the release of stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine—all of which stimulate the body’s fight-or-flight response which has a number of downstream effects on the body.
Types of Stress-Related Hair Loss
Stress-related hair loss can affect people of all ages regardless of their hair type.
There are a number of different forms of alopecia (or hair loss) such as telogen effluvium. This is the most common type of hair loss caused or triggered by stress. It is a condition characterized by significantly increased shedding as more hair follicles enter the shedding phase of the hair cycle than normal. Telogen effluvium can arise from a variety of causes including medications, febrile illnesses, the postpartum period, surgery, internal medical conditions such as iron deficiency and thyroid disorders, and emotional stress.
Trichotillomaniasometimes referred to as trich, is the inability to control the urge to pull out one’s hair. Stress can contribute to this condition. Individuals with trichotillomania may pull hair from their head or from other areas, such as eyelashes, eyebrows, or body hair. Trichotillomania occurs more frequently in adolescents and young adults. Treatments for trichotillomania focus first on stopping hair pulling often with measures such as therapy including behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy, certain supplements, and the off-label use of certain prescribed medications. Once the hair pulling has been stopped the treatment can focus on trying to regrow hair in the area.
Alopecia areata is a condition that results in hair loss when the immune system targets hair follicles. Patches or larger areas of hair loss can then develop. This can involve the body, face, as well as body hair. Stress can contribute to alopecia areata as well, and the resultant hair loss can then further contribute to stress.
Other Common Causes of Hair Loss
Some other causes of hair loss include:
- Autoimmune disorders, such as lupus erythematosus
- Lichen planopilaris
- Frontal fibrosing alopecia
- Androgenetic alopecia (also called pattern hair loss or patterned balding)
- Many others
How to stop or decrease hair loss from stress
Stress is a common cause of hair loss, which can be devastating. But there are steps you can take to combat stress and its effects on your body and your hair.
If you feel like the stress of life is taking a toll on your physical or mental health, try these strategies:
- Get organized: A cluttered home or office can be stressful, so make sure everything has its place. Strategize and plan your day and week to make it more manageable.
- Get moving: Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel happier and more relaxed. And if you’re not into working out at a gym, try taking walks outside.
- Get outside: Time in nature can help reduce stress.
- Make time for yourself: Do not over-commit yourself and schedule time for yourself, so that you have time to take care of yourself and spend time doing things you enjoy such as hobbies.
- Stay connected: Make time for friends and family members who support you, even if it’s just a quick phone call or text every day. You’ll be surprised how much better it feels to know that someone else cares about how things are going in your life.
Diet and nutrition
Diet and nutrition are also important when it comes to managing stress and protecting hair health. You know what foods tend to make you feel better when things get tough—make sure those foods are always available! If you’re not sure what to eat, consider talking to your doctor, nutritionist, and/or dietitian. And don’t forget to stay hydrated. Taking care of your body will help you feel better and cared for.
Try adding in things to help relax you such as massage and aromatherapy. Consider adding these treatments to your routine or during stressful times.
Work with your doctor such as your primary care doctor if you think you may have anxiety or may need medications to help you manage your stress. Additionally, there are certain treatments and medications that may help you manage hair loss related to stress. To discuss these treatments for hair loss, see a board-certified dermatologist or hair loss specialist to discuss what may be right for you. Medication is another option for managing stress and protecting hair health.
Is hair loss from stress permanent
Although stress-related hair loss is not pleasant, it’s not permanent. While your hair may take a while to grow back, the follicles are healthy and can produce new strands again.
Stress doesn’t cause permanent hair loss. Instead, what happens is that your body produces too many hormones that cause you to lose your hair. These hormones trigger an overabundance of sebum production in your scalp (the oil that keeps your head moisturized).
If you’re constantly under stress and have excess sebum production from it, then it could cause some of the hairs in your follicles to clump together at their roots during their growth phase—called telogen effluvium—and fall out before they have time to reach their full length. This is normal; as soon as things start calming down for you again, most people will notice that their hair grows back within six months (although there are exceptions).
Is hair loss from stress permanent
Although stress-related hair loss is not pleasant, commonly it is the telogen effluvium type of hair loss which usually will grow back on its own and is not permanent. If you are experiencing shedding or other hair loss, it is good to be evaluated by a doctor to rule out any other causes of hair loss such as internal problems, and get a diagnosis before deciding it is due only to stress.
Seek The Experts
Stress can cause hair loss, but it’s not the only thing that can cause your hair to thin or fall out. Hair loss can also be a symptom of an underlying medical condition or condition such as androgenetic alopecia. It may be difficult to figure out on your own what type of hair loss you are experiencing and luckily there are doctors who can help you determine your diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan (if any).
The Greater Seattle area is home to the Root Hair Institute (RHI), a comprehensive hair loss and restoration center. For every type of hair loss, we provide a complete examination, diagnosis, and therapy.
At RHI, we are specialists in various hair loss treatment approaches. Our doctors give patients a specialized, multifaceted approach that is adapted to each patient’s needs and objectives.
If you’re experiencing hair loss and are concerned about what could be causing it, contact us to schedule a consultation!