Stress is an inevitable part of our lives. Often those stressors are small, like getting caught up in a traffic jam on your way to an appointment. Sometimes though, you run into something that’s so frustrating, so anxiety-provoking that it makes you want to just tear your hair out.
Chronic or prolonged stress can negatively impact your mind and body in a variety of ways. The National Health Institute reports that long-term stress can lead to severe health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes in addition to mental disorders. In addition to these serious health problems, stress contributes to something many of us may not consider: hair loss.
The Link Between Stress and Hair Loss
Studies show that stress can have a visible impact on a normally full head of hair. High levels of anxiety are correlated with hair thinning, slower hair growth, bald spots, and, yes, pulling your hair out.
In some cases, stress halts your body’s production of new hair strands, leaving hair follicles in a state referred to as a “resting phase.” Under normal circumstances, 90% of a person’s hair follicles are growing, 5% are resting, and 5% are shedding. When someone is dealing with severe stress, the percent of hair follicles that are shedding can jump to 50%. The reason this occurs is because hair follicles in the shedding phase are more prone to falling out during everyday activities like brushing, washing, or touching your hair.
COVID-19 Has Caused an Uptick in Stress-Related Hair Loss
While we can anticipate how certain life events impact our stress levels, we can’t predict the emotional and mental fallout of every event. A case in point is the COVID-19 pandemic. Life pre-pandemic had plenty to preoccupy our minds, but stress levels for many individuals have skyrocketed, from having to consistently worry about the well-being of their loved ones and themselves, to job-related stress and feelings of social isolation.
Statistics across many different industries speak to just how much this prolonged stress has affected us. Dermatologists have reported a significant increase in patient visits for stress-related hair loss since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Determining Whether Your Hair Loss is Stress-Related
Like many types of hair loss, stress-related hair loss can occur discreetly – as the scalp doesn’t experience changes to sensation or appearance. The only change you may notice is more hair falling out while brushing or washing your hair.
Some life events are typically associated with hair loss. Hormonal changes, pregnancy, severe illness and injury, financial hardship, poor diets, medication change, and sleep loss are just some of the stressors that might impact hair quantity and volume (or thickness).
While stress may not be the sole cause of hair loss, it can be a significant contributing factor. As such, addressing your stress can significantly slow down hair loss and strengthen hair follicles.
What Can I Do About Stress-Related Hair Loss?
While it is understandable that stress-related hair loss may pique your anxiety, you can take some comfort in the fact that it is a treatable, often temporary condition. Unless other factors are causing your hair loss, shed hairs are eventually replaced by new ones. If you’ve noticed your hair thinning during a particularly stressful period, you will likely see your hair return to its normal thickness and density.
The most straightforward solution for stress-related hair loss is also the most intuitive (and difficult) one: learn to productively manage your stress. Habits like daily exercise, eating a well-balanced diet, and establishing clear work-life boundaries are useful starting steps. If these changes to your routine don’t decrease your stress, you may consider speaking with your doctor or a mental health professional about other solutions.
If your hair loss persists after making these lifestyle changes (or it simply worries you), consider speaking with a medical professional, like a Bosley physician or dermatologist. Our team of trained professionals can create a treatment plan customized to your form of hair loss.
How Do I Mitigate Other Causes of Hair Loss
While lifestyle changes can help address stress-related hair loss, changes in hair thickness and density are typically the results of other causes, such as a genetic predisposition to hair loss. If your hair loss is caused by these factors, stress management techniques alone cannot prevent further hair loss or regrow hair.
Bosley offers a host of different hair solutions that can be tailored by one of our specialists to meet your specific needs. Topical minoxidil, an over-the-counter topical treatment, has been proven to safely slow down and even reverse hair loss. Men who pair topical minoxidil with finasteride, an FDA-approved prescription oral medication, often see reductions in hair loss related to Male Pattern Hair loss.
Chronic and severe stress can impact nearly everything in our lives, including hair density. While some amount of stress is unavoidable, there are steps you can take to proactively address the issue. Consider speaking with a trained mental health professional if your stress is severe. Otherwise, making lifestyle changes, like taking a daily walk or introducing whole foods into your diet, can help decrease your stress. Your mind and body (and hair) will thank you.
And, if you’re interested in jumpstarting your hair growth, go to Bosley to schedule a FREE in-person or video consultation with one of our trained hair restoration specialists.