It is impossible to avoid stress: work, relationships, finances, and simply being alive in 2024 can place seemingly impossible demands on our time and mental bandwidth. Fortunately, most periods of stress are short-lived but can leave behind lasting damage to our health and well-being.
But what happens when we endure constant stress that doesn’t go away? The effects of chronic stress on our bodies are well-documented– including high blood pressure, insomnia, and a weakened immune system (among other issues). Chronic stress also wreaks havoc on our appearance, especially our hair.
Can Stress and Anxiety Cause Hair Loss?
Chronic stress and anxiety negatively impact the hair and scalp in multiple ways. They can cause excessive shedding, hair-affecting autoimmune disorders, and behavioral issues that lead to hair loss.
What Does Stress Hair Loss Look Like?
There are several types of hair loss associated with stress. Each looks quite different and has its own telltale signs. These are:
· Telogen effluvium: The most common form of stress-related hair loss, telogen effluvium results in excessive shedding – upward of a hundred strands per day. When we are stressed, our bodies produce too much cortisol (known as the “stress hormone”). This surfeit of cortisol short-circuits your hair’s growth cycle, pushing a larger-than-normal number of follicles into a resting phase where no new hairs are being produced. With more strands shedding and fewer growing, telogen effluvium causes a thinner, less robust head of hair.
· Alopecia areata: This condition occurs when an overactive immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing coin-size bald patches that may grow in size or be accompanied by visible inflammation. The onset of alopecia areata is highly correlated with stress and stressful triggering events… so much so that it is frequently (albeit imprecisely) referred to as “stress alopecia.”
· Trichotillomania: Trichotillomania is a psychological condition where stress compels a person to pull hairs from their scalp, eyebrows, or other parts of the body. This can lead to bald patches in the affected area – and may result in scarring and a permanent inability to regrow hair in those spots.
Is Stress Hair Loss Reversible?
If you reduce and manage your stress, stress-related hair loss may be reversible. Additionally, there are steps you can take to protect your hair while you work on addressing the root causes of your stress.
When you are experiencing stress – whether short term or chronic – do everything you can to minimize its impact and protect your health. We cannot overemphasize the importance of getting a full night’s sleep every night, along with exercising regularly, and eating a well-balanced diet. Develop a calming practice (like mediation, yoga, or mindfulness) and build a supportive network of family and friends to prevent you from feeling isolated. If you need assistance, reach out to a professional therapist who can guide you in finding coping strategies and ways to address your stress.
As for your hair, treat it gently during periods of stress. Wash, dry, and style it carefully. Some common suggestions include:
· Use gentle, natural shampoos and styling products,
· Use the lowest effective heat settings on blow dryers and styling tools,
· Avoid perms and straighteners that contain damaging chemicals,
· Avoid stretching or pulling your hair when washing, drying, or styling your hair,
· Stay away from tight hairstyles like braids, ponytails, rows, or locs (as these also pull on the roots of stressed hair)
When recovering from stress-related hair loss, it can take up to six months or more for your hair to recover its thickness and overall health. In the meantime, we offer treatments and procedures to protect your existing hair and maximize regrowth during times of stress.
HairMD Will Guide You on Your Hair Replacement Journey
The experts at HairMD are here to answer any questions you have about stress-related hair loss and to guide you on your hair replacement journey. Our professionals have performed thousands of successful procedures – both surgical and nonsurgical. We specialize in ARTAS® robotic-assisted procedures that deliver permanent, natural-looking results with minimal downtime. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and to create a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs.