By now you probably already know that stress puts a physical strain on the body – whether mental, emotional, or physical, it can cause lethargy, trouble focusing, weight changes and appetite fluctuations, headaches, stomachaches, and more. And now you can add one more physical symptom to that list: too much stress on the body leads to hair loss.
The most common form of stress-related hair loss is called telogen effluvium, which is defined as temporary hair loss caused by stress, trauma, or shock inflicted on the body. In a normal hair growth cycle, anywhere from 80-90% of the hair follicles on the scalp are in the growth phase, while only 10-20% are in the rest phase. When significant stress – either mental, emotional, or physical – is placed on the body, more hair follicles go into the rest phase, stopping hair growth in those areas. Hair loss won’t happen right away – it could take up to three months before you start seeing large clumps fall out while washing, brushing, or styling hair.
Telogen effluvium is triggered by emotional, mental, and/or physical types of stress, such as:
- Emotional and mental stress caused by the workplace, a recent divorce, familial or relationship difficulties, financial struggles, or grief.
- Physical stressors that disturb the body’s hormonal balance, like pregnancy and childbirth, or stopping oral birth control suddenly.
- An acute illness, such as the flu or a high fever. Stress weakens the immune system and makes you more susceptible to illness.
- A serious physical injury.
- A recent surgical procedure.
- Malnutrition, a nutrient-poor diet, or significant weight loss.
Telogen effluvium will resolve on its own, without treatment, once the stress or trauma has passed. A normal hair growth cycle will follow, with follicles in the rest stage resuming growth, resulting in a restoration of typical hair thickness within three months. Just as hair loss triggered by stress will not be visible right away, neither will hair re-growth be immediately apparent afterwards. Completion of a full hair growth cycle is necessary to see results.
There are a number of self-care steps you can take to reduce the risk of stress-related hair loss:
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Malnutrition and a poor diet is one of the leading risk factors for telogen effluvium. The strength of your hair is dependent on adequate intake of calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals – nourish the health of your body and your scalp by filling your plate with leafy greens, whole grains, lean proteins, and good fats. Don’t skip meals, even when stress causes fluctuations in appetite.
- Exercise regularly. All forms of exercise boost endorphin levels, which decrease feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. Pick an activity you enjoy doing and blast your favorite music to get in the mood.
- Take time to relax. Set aside a conscious chunk of time every day to meditate, practice yoga, or simply engage in a task that brings you joy – such as reading a good book or cooking a meal. Your daily “me-time” could also simply be an extra hour for catching up on missed sleep.
- Reach out. Lean on close friends and family for support, comfort, and a distraction from stressful situations – it’s what they are here for! Seek out the person who makes you laugh like no other; laughter has been shown to reduce the stress hormone cortisol and release feel-good endorphins.
If the hair loss itself is causing you to stress even more, remember that telogen effluvium is a completely reversible condition. However, if you find that your hair loss hasn’t ceased within a few months of lowering the amount of stress you experience or after you’ve recovered from a physical trauma, it may be time to seek out a dermatologist. Over time, chronic stress can lead to chronic telogen effluvium, or it may be there is a different underlying cause for your sudden hair loss. If you are concerned about your recent hair loss, stop stressing and call Florida Hair Restoration at 800-842-4735 to schedule a free consultation.