This past year has undoubtedly been one of the most turbulent and stressful times of most of our lives. As a result, a lot of us have noticed hair loss over the past year, but is there really a link between hair loss and stress? And if so, what can you do about it?
The million-dollar question, does stress cause hair loss?
The short answer is yes. Stress can cause hair loss. In fact, after genetics, it's the second biggest cause of hair loss in both men and women.
What's the scientific reasoning behind it?
Hair has a programmed life cycle, starting with a growth phase, followed by a rest period and finally a shedding phase. The rate of growth can be affected by a number of factors, including your health, age and environmental reasons, such as stress levels.
It’s normal to lose around 100 hair strands every day, so it’s no cause for concern if you find stray hairs on your bedroom floor or in the shower. But, if you experience a noticeable difference in the density of your hair, and it just so happens that you’ve been having a difficult time emotionally and experiencing significant stress, it’s possible that it can have a part to play.
When a person is stressed, anxious or unwell, the growth cycle can be prematurely sent into shock and trigger more hair to enter the shedding phase. This can give the appearance of sudden hair loss and consequently cause more anxiety as a result.
However, being stressed-out doesn’t mean you’ll wake up with a huge tuft of hair on your pillow the following day. It can take between three and six months for your hair to shed, meaning people may not be able to link it back to an earlier, stressful event.
So now we know stress can affect hair loss, what qualifies as significant stress?
Any major life event that's causing you to be stressed, so things like losing a loved one or going through a divorce. Significant stress can also be the result of a gradual build-up too - anything that causes severe and prolonged stress (think the last year!) counts and will undoubtedly have contributed to why some people have noticed hair loss.
How do I tell if hair loss is a result of stress or another reason? Does stress-induced hair loss look a certain way?
Stress hair loss tends to be generalised or diffuse as opposed to a particular pattern, and it can happen quite rapidly. Often it is a diagnosis by exclusion of other factors supported by a history of a stressful event.
Other type of hair loss that could be triggered by stress is alopecia areata which is thought to be autoimmune in nature and has a pattern of rounded lesions of hair loss patches.
What can actually be done about stress-induced hair loss?
You'll be pleased to know that trauma-induced hair loss is usually temporary and tends to return once stress levels are reduced. If you're worried about your hair loss and haven't got to the root of the problem (pardon the pun) then it's definitely worth getting in touch with us so we can give you a thorough assessment and plan of action.
Are there any other measures I can take to help keep my scalp and hair healthy?
Eating a balanced diet, taking supplements if you believe you're deficient in a certain area, avoiding very tight hairstyles, chemical processing and excessive heat on the hair can also help. From an emotional side of things, anything you can do to reduce the impact of the stress (e.g., exercise, mindfulness etc) can have an effect, although I appreciate this is easier said than done!