It’s often said that we’re “pulling our hair out” from stress. While it’s a common expression, few recognize the profound truth it contains and the impact of stress on hair health. Stress plays a critical role in our hair health, and the connection is far more tangible than most think.
The toll that stress, be it emotional or physical, takes on our hair can manifest in various ways:
Telogen Effluvium – Intense stress events can prematurely thrust numerous hair follicles into a resting phase, leading to increased shedding. This change often becomes noticeable around three months post the stressful incident. Fortunately, as the stress subsides, hair often begins its regrowth process.
Alopecia Areata – Stress can trigger the immune system to mistakenly attack hair follicles, resulting in unpredictable bald patches on the scalp or body. While the exact causes remain elusive, a combination of genetic factors and stress seems to instigate this.
Trichotillomania – Rooted in stress, anxiety, or even sheer boredom, this compulsive behavior prompts individuals to pull out hair from various parts of their body. The act itself might serve as a coping mechanism for the negative emotions they experience.
When we talk about stress, it’s more than just a mental or emotional state; it triggers a cascade of physiological responses that can significantly affect our hair’s health. Here’s how:
Dietary shifts and nutrient imbalance – Stressful periods often influence our dietary choices, pushing us towards comfort foods or reducing our appetite altogether. Essential nutrients such as biotin, iron, vitamin D, and zinc are pivotal for hair strength and growth. Any imbalance can speed up hair thinning or loss.
Restrained scalp circulation – Persistent stress can lead to the tightening of blood vessels, which in turn limits the blood flow to crucial areas like the scalp. With hair follicles deprived of a consistent supply of essential nutrients and oxygen, their ability to maintain robust hair growth diminishes.
Hormonal turbulence – The body’s response to stress often involves a spike in cortisol levels. This surge can offset the balance of other hormones, several of which play crucial roles in maintaining hair health. This hormonal turbulence can disrupt hair’s typical growth and resting patterns.
Overactive immune response – Continuous stress can place our immune system on high alert. In this state, it can mistakenly target hair follicles as threats, leading to conditions such as Alopecia Areata.
Emergence of stress-related behaviors – Chronic stress can manifest in behaviors like Trichotillomania, where individuals cope by pulling out their hair. This compulsive action is both a reaction to and a means of dealing with profound emotional turmoil.
Awareness is the first step. By staying informed on the impact of stress on hair loss, we can navigate ways to manage stress and, by extension, promote healthier hair:
Nourish your body – Opt for a balanced diet. Foods rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins can be particularly beneficial for hair health. Avoid starchy carbs and processed, high in sugar food.
Stay active – Exercise is not only a mood booster but also aids in cortisol regulation.
Embrace mindfulness – Meditation and relaxation techniques can be potent tools against stress. Spending only 10 minutes at the start, or the end of your day can either, set your mindset for the day or ‘detox’ you from the day you’ve had.
Seek expert guidance – If hair loss becomes concerning, dermatologists can offer treatments and advice. Concurrently, therapy or counseling can provide valuable tools and insights for handling chronic stress.
Find out more about the lifestyle habits of healthy hair by reading our blog post here.
Stress might be an inevitable component of our lives, but its impact on our hair health is manageable. Through understanding, awareness, and proactive measures, you can mitigate stress and foster a healthier hair growth journey. If you have concerns about the health of your hair or hair loss, speak to a member of our team by booking your consultation here.