As we pay more attention to our hair care, we notice that it goes through different stages of texture, length and thickness. When we’re experiencing high levels of stress, we may notice our hair doesn’t grow as fast or shed much more than normal. This is because your level of stress can directly affect hair loss.
There are other factors to hair loss, such as your environment – including weather and altitude, personal diet, age, hair products, hair tools and hereditary aspects. So whilst stress isn’t the only cause of hair loss, it contributes heavily.
Significant Levels of Stress Can Trigger Hair Loss
When hair is in its healthiest state, the majority of the hair follicles are going through what we call the growth phase or anagen phase. A small fraction of hair (approximately 1-3%) is in the resting stage waiting to be shed also known as telogen phase. This hair typically falls out when brushing, detangling or washing the hair and is part of the natural hair growth and shed process. Read this post for more detailed information of the hair growth process.
This balance can be thrown off when the body experiences a stressful shock or continuous high levels of stress over time. This can cause a significant amount of the hair to shift into the telogen phase.
When this happens, it is referred to as Telogen Effluvium¹. This is a reversible issue if it’s caught in time and dealt with. However, if your stress is not properly addressed, the hair will fall out naturally after a few months, just as all telogen hair does.
Your hair can grow back naturally, but it will be very difficult if high stress levels are retained.
Stress, Anxiety and Compulsive Hair Pulling
It is natural to develop small ticks to deal with the anxiety that often comes as a side effect of stress. Many people run their fingers through their hair or twirl their hair around their fingers multiple times during the day, without realising what they’re doing.
Touching your hair frequently can result in moisture loss and high tension on the hair.
Stress can heighten these habits, and doing this frequently can start to cause damage to not just the hair, but also the hair follicle as it is being constantly pulled.
These habits tend to focus on the end of the hair – which is already the most fragile part – resulting in damage such as split ends, hair breakage and general extreme dryness.
Alopecia Areata: How Stress Triggers the Immune System
There have been links between Alopecia areata and stress ². Alopecia areata is a topic all on its own, so briefly, when alopecia areata occurs, your immune system turns on itself and begins attacking the hair follicle, causing hair loss.
It often presents itself over time as bald patches around the scalp, but can also occur on different parts of the body. Stress can trigger the immune system in different ways that impact more than just the hair follicle.
What To Do About Hair Loss
If you suffer from hair loss, it does not have to be your forever story. There are things you can do to help yourself such as:
- Reduce stress – journal, walk, dance, sing out loud, take a long shower or bath – do whatever positively ignite or calm your soul
- Eat a healthy diet and add supplements such as B vitamins, iron and zinc (get your fill of these vitamins and minerals from green leafy vegetables)
- Gently massage the area frequently with castor oil or a blend such as our Revive Scalp Oil that is packed with oils that promote hair growth and follicle stimulation.
- Wear protective styles that do not pull on your hair and allow your hair to rest without you having to do anything to it. Mini twists are amazing for this.
Stress over time presents itself as inflammation in various parts of the body, not just the scalp. This inflammation can then lead to various forms of diseases which can become chronic.
Did you know stress is one of the number one killers around the world? This is why managing stress is important for your overall health and wellbeing.
Until next time,
Be Well x
1. Malkud, Shashikant. “Telogen Effluvium: A Review.” Journal of clinical and diagnostic research : JCDR vol. 9,9 (2015): WE01-3. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2015/15219.6492