Watching your hair thin or fall out can be quite distressing but, contrary to popular belief, it’s not always due to genetics. Stress can cause your hair to fall out too. Whether it’s illness-related, from the demands of regular life, or a change in circumstances, stress can cause reactions in your body that cause physical issues, such as hair loss. You may not notice the issue right away as it takes the body a few months to show signs of hair loss. And once hair loss begins, it’s hard to stop it as the hair must go through an entire cycle in order to grow back again.
WHY STRESS CAUSES HAIR LOSSStress-related hair loss is called telogen effluvium, and occurs when stress causes the hair’s follicles to stop working. They go into a ‘resting phase’, rather than growing. Without the additional stimulation of new hai, your hair follicles move quickly into the ‘shedding phase’.
Sometimes this occurs all over the head, and other times it occurs in certain spots, such as right at the front of the head or at the center of the scalp. On average, a person with telogen effluvium loses 300 hairs a day— compared to the average person, who loses 100 hairs per day.
The hair loss may be temporary, but in some cases, it can be chronic. Typically, the stress ‘shocks’ the system, which is why the hair stops growing. When the issue passes, the hair may go back to its normal phases—unless the stress is ongoing, as with illness-related stress.
SIGNS OF STRESS-RELATED HAIR LOSSAt first glance, stress-related hair loss isn’t completely noticeable. You may notice some thinning, but you may not have large bald spots right away.
As you get further into the phase, though, you may notice that if you tug on your hair that you end up with a handful of hair in your hands, leading to the diagnosis of telogen effluvium. The hairs that come out are those in the telogen, or relaxed phase. They may not look like your normal hair and they typically have a white tip. This is the hair that was in the scalp that has fallen out. They haven’t had a chance to transform and gain the gel-like protective coverage that normal hairs have.
Typically, you’ll see clumps of hair falling out over the course of the day. If you’re so inclined, you can count the hairs, or at least get a good estimate. If it’s more than 100 hairs a day, chances are that it’s telogen effluvium as this is the baseline for what’s normal and healthy.
HOW QUICKLY DOES STRESS CAUSE HAIR LOSS?Stress doesn’t cause immediate hair loss. It actually takes a few months for it to start showing. The hair typically starts falling out when a new cycle starts. As the hair grows in, it starts pushing out the ‘dead’ hair, or the hair that’s lost from the stress.
Because new hair takes between three and six months to grow, it will look as if you have a bald spot or are losing your hair until the new hair grows in fully. If the stress cycles continue, it becomes impossible for new hair to grow in and stay in, making it look as if you’re losing your hair.
HOW STRESS CAUSES A DOMINO EFFECT IN HAIR LOSS
Stress isn’t the only culprit in hair loss. Instead, it’s more like the leading domino in a stack. When your body becomes stressed, you naturally make poor choices. For example, most people eat poorly and don’t exercise when stressed. This leaves the body with less-than-optimal nutrition, which leads to decreased hair. Hair is considered ‘non-essential’, so it’s often one of the first areas to suffer when your body’s lacking nutrients such as protein and iron.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STRESS-RELATED HAIR LOSS AND GENETIC HAIR LOSS
Stress-related hair loss often occurs suddenly and quickly. If your body experiences stress and it disrupts the hair cycle, then hair falls out in clumps a few weeks to a few months after the occurrence. This differs from genetic hair loss, which usually results in hair thinning over time. It may take weeks or even months before anyone, including yourself, notices a difference in your hair with genetic hair loss.
TREATING STRESS-RELATED HAIR LOSS
Treating stress-related hair loss can be simple, as often it just takes time and rest. However, in some cases, medical care is needed, especially if you’re deficient in certain nutrients, such as iron or protein.
If the hair loss is due to stress alone, implement stress-reducing techniques into your life is essential. A few things to try include:
- Seeing a counselor
- Taking regular walks
If managing your stress doesn’t help the issue, it may be time to seek medical attention to determine if there’s an underlying issue. When you talk to your doctor, make sure you talk to them about your dietary habits. Your doctor may have suggestions to help you fulfill your nutritional gaps and give your body the vitamins it requires.
CAN YOU REVERSE STRESS-RELATED HAIR LOSS?
Fortunately, stress-related hair loss isn’t permanent. In fact, when you start noticing the hair falling out, it means new hair has begun. Because it can take months for new hair to show and fill in the thinning areas, you can supplement with a hair restoration product that helps your hair to grow and fill in faster, which will leave you with fuller, thicker hair.
The key to natural hair is to get your stress under control and ensure that you’re getting the proper nutrients to fulfill your body’s needs. When your hair does start growing back, it will be thicker, fuller, and healthier when you supplement with hair products that help hide the hair loss.
Don’t let hair loss affect your self-esteem. Use hair restoration products that restore your hair to its beautiful natural state. Telogen effluvium may seem scary, but it’s common and reversible—and not to mention, its symptoms are treatable while you wait!