The vast majority of us are stressed out these days. It could be said that many of us are so stressed we feel like tearing our hair out. For some folks, that’s more than just a saying. Hair loss and stress do very much go hand-in-hand.
Types of Stress-Related Hair Loss
There are generally three types of hair loss related to stress:
- Chronic stress-related hair loss
- Telogen effluvium
Chronic Stress-Related Hair Loss
Long-term chronic stress can affect hormone levels, primarily cortisol and other stress hormones. This chronic, unmitigated stress can potentially lead to more hair loss than you might get with just your genetics and aging alone.
Telogen effluvium is a more acute and dramatic type of stress-related hair loss. Indeed, it is possible to get so stressed that your hair falls out. An extreme stress response can cause you to lose most of your hair all at once rapidly. That tends to come with a kind of life-threatening stress or a big psychological event such as a near-death experience, a job loss, the death of a child, or other major stress events.
In this process, your body is diverting its energy from non-essential functions like hair growth to more essential ones as a survival mechanism. As scary as telogen effluvium might be, the good news is that it’s usually temporary and resolved in about six months.
Beyond hormones causing hair to fall out on its own, some people actively contribute to their stress-related hair loss if they have a condition called trichotillomania, which affects about 1 in 50 people.
What happens with these patients is they’re chronically stressed and anxious, and they tend to scratch and pick and pluck their hair out as a nervous habit. Many people pull the hair at the crown of the head, making for an apparent bald spot that can develop over time.
This condition can lead to permanent hair loss because constantly pulling on the hair causes physical trauma to the follicles. They’re breaking the hairs and digging up the follicles, and depending on how bad the scarring is, how much hair loss is related to that can vary.
Other Causes of Hair Loss
While stress can be one cause of hair loss, it’s not the only reason some of us lose some of those luscious locks. There’s a long list of medical conditions that can cause hair loss, including:
- Hormonal conditions. Conditions that change the balance of hormones in the body, such as thyroid disease and polycystic ovarian disease, may cause hair loss or excessive hair growth, depending on how the hormones are disrupted.
- Autoimmune diseases. Alopecia areata is one autoimmune condition that can cause people to lose their hair. Alopecia is the clinical term for hair loss. Still, alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing patterns of patchy, circular hair loss. It can escalate to a condition called alopecia universalis that causes the person to lose all their hair over their entire body. Other autoimmune diseases that can lead to hair loss include lupus, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Infections. Fungal infections of the skin or scalp can sometimes occur in people with psoriasis and eczema, two autoimmune conditions that affect the skin. These infections can trigger hair loss in some people.
- Medications. Certain drugs, such as those used for cancer, arthritis, depression, heart problems, gout, and high blood pressure, can all have hair loss or thinning hair as a side effect. Chemotherapy drugs, for example, are well known for causing widespread hair loss because the medications target fast-growing cells, such as cancer cells. Hair cells, however, are also fast-growing, and this is what causes so many cancer patients to lose all their hair soon after they begin treatment.
- Nutritional deficiencies. Not getting enough vitamins and minerals can also lead to hair loss. For example, anemia, a condition caused by a deficiency of the essential nutrient iron, can cause hair loss in some people.
- Diabetes. People with diabetes may see their hair thin because diabetes affects hormone levels, and chronically high blood sugar levels can trigger hair loss. Those with type one diabetes, which is an autoimmune disorder, are also more likely to have additional autoimmune conditions, including alopecia areata.
- Childbirth. After giving birth, some women will experience hair loss as their hormones shift. This type of postpartum hair loss is common and should correct itself once your hormones stabilize.
- Genetics. Male pattern baldness, also called androgenic alopecia, is a common condition that causes some men to lose some or all of the hair on their heads, often in a recognizable pattern. For most men, it tends to develop in their 30s and increases as they age, but it can start any time after puberty. While this condition is generally associated with men, it does affect women as well, and many women experience hair thinning after menopause.
How to Address Stress-Related Hair Loss
The excellent news with stress-related hair loss is that it’s often reversible. Stress and hair loss don’t have to be permanent. If you get your stress under control, your hair might grow back. Cases related to trichotillomania usually need psychological intervention. However, most cases of telogen effluvium recover spontaneously about six months after onset.
If you’re dealing with stress-related hair loss, try the following eleven strategies to help speed regrowth and conceal thin spots:
1. Eat Right
Eating a healthy diet can help mitigate stress and support proper hair growth. Foods rich in biotin and protein, such as eggs and milk, can support healthy hair and nail growth. Angelos also recommends that some patients try nutritional supplements that contain antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E and omega-3 fatty acids.
2. Get Plenty of Sleep
Stress and anxiety can significantly disrupt sleep, causing insomnia and other sleep disorders that may further shift the hormonal balance in the body. Strive to get a solid 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night and engage in good sleep hygiene practices, such as going to bed and waking at the same time each day, sleeping in a cool, dark room, blocking noise, and keeping electronics out of the bedroom.
Regular physical exercise can help alleviate stress and help you better cope with stressful situations and problems. Establish a consistent routine and do cardiovascular and strength training for the best results.
4. Engage in Relaxation Techniques
Practicing yoga or meditation can help restore calm and soothe a stressed-out mind. Even a few minutes of meditation each day can reduce stress and help you get out of the stress cycle causing hair loss. Make time for hobbies and other activities you enjoy that can help you decompress from life’s stressors.
5. Seek Professional Help
With major stressor events that are causing things like telogen effluvium, it may be helpful to seek professional help from a therapist. A counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist may all be able to assist in helping you find better ways of coping with severe stressors.
6. Be Gentle
Tugging or pulling on the hair or wearing it in a tight ponytail or bun daily can cause breakage and hair loss. Use care when detangling wet hair, such as after a shower or swimming. Damp hair is more likely to break than dry hair, so brush your hair after it’s dry, and again, be gentle. If your hair is very tangled, start at the bottom – gently free the ends and work your way up the length of your hair, untangling as you go a little at a time.
7. Avoid Heat and Chemicals
As much as possible, try to give your hair a break from chemical dyes or heat-based treatments such as blow drying, curling, or flat ironing. These styling treatments can all be complex on the hair, leading to breakage and excess hair shedding. While on the subject of heat, avoid washing your hair in super-hot water. Though hot water doesn’t directly cause hair loss, hot water can dehydrate the scalp and cause temporary inflammation of the scalp, making hair strands weaker and more likely to break.
8. Switch Shampoos
Many shampoos contain chemicals that can damage hair and lead to breakage and excess shedding. Avoid sulfates, polyethylene glycol, and parabens to reduce those issues. Choose shampoos containing agents that can help plump each strand to make the hair appear thicker. While not all products that claim to thicken the hair work, some do. Do some research or ask your hairdresser for recommendations. Generally speaking, shampoos containing keratin, a protein that makes up the hair, can be helpful. In addition, products containing biotin, panthenol, vitamin B5, and amino acids may also help your hair look thicker and more lustrous.
9. Be Patient
For many people, the problem will be resolved in its own time, and patience and relaxation are often the best ways to speed up that process. Unfortunately, there’s no magic cure. But time can be a great healer for many things.
10. Talk to your healthcare practitioner
Talk to your healthcare practitioner if you notice sudden or patchy hair loss or more than usual hair loss when combing or washing your hair. You can start with your healthcare practitioner or contact a dermatologist or hair restoration specialist. Depending on your situation, they may deploy specific hair restoration techniques.
11. Take Supplements
Everyone wants full, shiny hair, smooth, supple skin, and strong nails. Unfortunately, factors like cold, dry winter weather, aging, and sun exposure can lead to a less-than-ideal appearance. Our Hair, Skin & Nails formula counteracts these challenges, promoting glossy hair, youthful-looking skin, and beautiful nails. Hair, Skin & Nails contains Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), a rich source of sulfur, which promotes hair growth. MSM also strengthens hair and increases blood supply to the scalp, encouraging a full mane. Moreover, the formula includes 5,000 micrograms of biotin, a B vitamin that keeps hair strong due to its essential role in natural hair manufacturing. The formula contains the active, most usable forms of other B vitamins, such as B6 and folate, to promote fuller hair. In addition, zinc is included to stimulate hair growth and help maintain its youthful color. To learn more about what you can do to prevent stress-related hair loss, call Doctor’s Nutrition at 1-800-824-0194 today.