Many people experience stress as a result of difficult experiences or the demands of daily life. Mounting bills, a heavy workload or caregiving can stress you out physiologically, affecting the health of your hair.
Seeing bald patches forming on your head can be so distressing that it causes more hair loss. Knowing just how stress is affecting your hair, though, can be the first step you take in solving the problem.
What is Stress?
Stress is an emotional and physical reaction to a perceived threat or difficulty. It’s a natural response and can even help you stay alert through a job interview or score a goal during a football match.
However, prolonged stress can have negative effects on your physical and mental health. You can feel anxious, struggle with insomnia and start to lose your hair.
How Does Stress Lead To Hair Loss?
Stress has been shown to interfere with the hair growth cycle. There are three stages to the hair growth cycle:
1. Growth Phase (Anagen)
In the growth phase, hair strands grow by pushing through the skin. This happens when stem cells in the hair follicle divide to become new cells that regenerate hair.
2. Degeneration Phase (Catagen)
Hair growth slows down in this part of the cycle as the hair follicle at the base of the strands starts to shrink and prepares to go into resting phase.
3. Resting Phase (Telogen)
In the resting phase, the stem cells become inactive. This is when your hair falls out and the growth cycle starts again.
According to a study done on mice, high levels of corticosterone, the stress hormone in mice, can impair the hair growth cycle by putting hair follicles into an extended resting phase.
A particular chemical known as GAS6, which activates hair follicle stem cells for regrowth, was discovered to be inhibited by corticosterone in the dermal papilla, a group of cells beneath the hair follicle.
This disruption to the mice’s hair growth cycle means hair falls out for longer periods while suppressing the growth phase. In humans, stress is likely to have a similar effect on our hair, leading to hair loss.
What Type Of Hair Loss Is Induced By Stress?
Telogen effluvium is a hair loss condition that is induced by stress and can last for a few months or more. It is characterised by increased hair shedding and thinning, and happens when a large number of hair follicles are pushed into a resting phase.
If you suffer from telogen effluvium, you will notice that your hair falls out easily during washing and combing. You are not likely to lose all your hair, although the thinning of your hair will likely be more visible over time.
Ways To Reduce Stress And Prevent Hair Loss
It is possible to recover from telogen effluvium after several months to a year. Here are some steps you can take to prevent and treat hair loss.
1. A Healthy Diet
A healthy diet can lessen hair loss brought on by stress. When you include important nutrients like protein, vitamins B6 and B12, and healthy fats like omega-3 in your diet, they nourish your hair follicles and promote hair development. It may also help to avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol intake while following a healthy diet for your hair.
2. Consume Supplements
With work and family commitments, it can be hard to plan your diet and consume enough nutrients. One solution is taking supplements. Omega-3 fatty acid, magnesium, and vitamin B12 supplements, for instance, can make up for any nutritional deficit that’s causing hair loss.
3. Manage Stress
There are several things you can do to prevent or mitigate stress. You can practise good time management when you have a heavy workload. You can also take frequent breaks between tasks. Outside work, you can exercise or spend time outdoors to destress.
If you have experienced trauma or a difficult life event, you may want to consider counselling and therapy to deal with the prolonged stress you’re feeling.
Professional Hair Loss Treatment
Stress-induced hair loss is one of the most common hair loss problems people face. If you are struggling and need more guidance to treat your hair loss condition, TrichoLab can help.