Hair loss. Those are two words that none of us ever want to deal with, yet a reality for many of us. Dealing with shedding strands and weaker hair is all part of getting older, but when the signs begin to show prematurely, it becomes a major concern. If you’ve been under an overwhelming amount of stress and have experienced hair loss, your cortisol levels are to blame for that. Here, we dive into how the hormone affects our everyday life, bodies, and hair, plus how we can learn to manage and reduce our overall stress levels.

What Is Cortisol?

Cortisol is most commonly known as the “stress hormone”. Once our body signals any signs of stress, cortisol is what we get as a response. However, it’s not all bad. Cortisol helps the body transform fat and sugars into energy and it can help the body respond to stress more efficiently when it’s not over-produced.

Cortisol is known casually as the “fight or flight” hormone, and it triggers the sympathetic nervous system response when we feel stressed or threatened. Long-term stress, the kind many of us experienced in 2020, for example, results in high cortisol levels over periods of months, even years. Neurologists report that this is a relatively new development in human history.

Learn: How Forest Bathing Can Relieve Stress

How Does Cortisol Affect the Body?

Cortisol can affect the body in a number of ways. Some people experience more than one symptom of higher cortisol levels and most symptoms depend on what’s causing a higher production of cortisol throughout the body. The main trigger that causes our bodies to release cortisol is stress, aka the flight or fight response. The flight or fight response is how bodies react to dangerous or harmful situations, but also how they react to moments of high-stress. Some of the most common symptoms include weight gain, irritability, high blood pressure, muscle weakness, acne, thinning skin, bruising, and hair loss — which leads us to our next point.

Cortisol’s primary purpose is to prepare the body for a conflict so that we can respond quickly in crisis. Our ancestors relied on the effects of cortisol to get to their feet and run for the hills when faced with a saber-tooth cat, for instance.  Cortisol is still valuable in equivalent modern-day situations: being alert and responsive in a fire or other emergency, swerving to miss a pedestrian and so on. But constant elevated levels of cortisol are toxic to our bodies, and hair loss is an expression of its long-term effects.

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How Does Cortisol Affect Hair?

Studies show that cortisol is directly connected to the function of the hair follicle. When high levels of cortisol are present, the adrenal glands begin to produce fewer hormones that promote hair growth. If those hormones aren’t present, the normal hair function and hair growth can’t prosper. As a result, the hair becomes weaker and begins to shed, and in some cases, the hair loss is a lot more visible and extreme than others. This impact on hair growth can be slowed by reducing cortisol levels in the body. Our GRO+ Advanced Gummies contain full-spectrum CBD (clinically shown to reduce cortisol levels in the body) and hair-loving vitamins like biotin, zinc and others to help restore hair impacted by high stress levels.

Read: How the Stress of COVID-19 Can Cause Hair Loss

How Can I Reduce Stress Levels?

Stress is inevitable, and we’re all going to continue experiencing it day in and day out. However, the good thing is that it’s not impossible to manage your stress and ultimately reduce stress levels. There are plenty of cortisol management supplements available and you can even try an at-home saliva testing kit. Other things that are proven to reduce stress include laughter, exercise, practicing mindfulness, meditation, and getting at least eight hours of sleep each night.

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Victoria Thomas contributed to the reporting for this article.