It is very common for hair to change in texture and density over the course of your life. Although common, this does not make it any easier to manage thinning hair. If you start noticing an increasing amount of large clumps of hair in your brush or down the shower drain, you may wonder if stress or anxiety is to blame. There is a strong link between stress and hair loss but the good news is that you can take steps to prevent this frustrating symptom from occurring and achieve hair wellness.
You’ve heard that stress can cause hair loss, but is that really true? The short answer is: yes, absolutely. If you’ve been seeing more strands of hair in the drain or are feeling like your full and bouncy ponytail is now, well, thinner than it used to be, you could be experiencing hair loss as the result of stress.
Hair loss isn’t always an obvious bare patch on your scalp (although some people will experience that). It can be something as subtle as your hairline appearing to recede, or running a hand through your hair and seeing clumps fall out. Losing hair can be hugely distressing and heartbreaking for some. Even if you don’t leave the house or have the option to turn off your video during a Zoom meeting, hair loss can impact your mental health and self-confidence.
But you want to be proud of your hair, and, more than that, you want to feel healthy and vibrant. So let’s get to the root of how stress causes hair loss and what you can do to get the full, healthy hair you want.
How Exactly Does Stress Cause Hair Loss?
Stress is your body’s reaction to a threat, which can be real or perceived. Stress raises cortisol, which is a hormone responsible for more than just making you feel like you’re headed for a breakdown, believe it or not. Cortisol gets a bad rap, but the truth is that it’s responsible for so many bodily processes that it would be impossible to live without.
When you experience stress, cortisol triggers the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Cyto-what? Cytokines are proteins that act as messengers between cells. They help regulate many bodily functions, including—you guessed it—inflammation. They can either cause inflammation or fight it, depending on what’s needed.
When cytokines fight inflammation, blood flow is reduced to the skin, which may become irritated, sensitive and red, and hair follicles can essentially be cut off from their nutrient source. When cytokines are out of balance, hair growth is hindered. The good news? This process is reversible.
Increased cortisol production can also trigger your body to produce more sebum, your skin’s natural moisturizer. But while sebum is necessary for healthy hair growth, too much can be a bad thing—it can clog hair follicles and hinder healthy hair.
Other Factors That Influence Hair Wellness
Stress isn’t caused by just one thing. While some people certainly experience a major stressful event that triggers hair loss such as telogen effluvium (when the body experiences a shock and hair falls out a few months later), our entire planet is dealing with an epidemic that has everyone stressed beyond their normal capacity.
Your hair wellness can be affected by all the things that are contributing to major stress in your life. These could include:
- Lack of sleep, which causes inflammation that can affect hair loss.
- Worrying about losing your job, losing a loved one or feeling overwhelmed with managing everything.
- Not getting enough exercise — exercise has an anti-inflammatory effect, and, let’s face it, makes you feel good!
- Too many anti-nutrients in your diet such as sugar, trans fats and alcohol. Diet can be a contributor to low-grade inflammation which can affect hair growth.
Other sucky news? You’re also more prone to inflammation as you age, which makes taking care of yourself all the more important, as even low levels of chronic inflammation can be damaging to your health as well as your hair.
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Types of Stress-Related Hair Loss
Hair loss is never the only symptom of anxiety, but it is a distressing one. Increased emotional or physical stress (as a result of injury, illness or surgery) can cause two different types of hair loss. The more common type is called telogen effluvium which is less severe and occurs when hair stops growing and lies dormant, only to fall out 2 or 3 months later. It takes 6 to 9 months for the hair to grow back. The other type of stress-induced hair loss is known as alopecia areata and involves a white blood cell attack on the hair follicles. With this type of hair loss, the hair also falls out within weeks, usually in large amounts or patches, but can even involve the entire scalp and body hair. Hair may grow back on its own, but treatment may also be required.
Find Out: How Much Hair Loss Is Normal?
How to Relieve Stress
To treat hair loss caused by stress, the best thing you can do is identify what is triggering heightened emotions and learn ways to cope in a healthy manner. These techniques can help you cut out stress in your life when possible so you can get your emotional and physical well being back in check.
Establish a Morning Routine
Start your day off by creating a routine that makes you feel relaxed and centered before rushing out the door. Waking up 20 to 30 minutes earlier to meditate, do yoga or try a new beauty routine can help reduce feelings of anxiety. If you want to give your lashes and brows some extra love, apply a lash or brow serum while you enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. To help with hair loss on your head, apply hair growth serum at your roots and continue with your normal routine. Vegamour’s GRO Hair Serum will help kickstart new hair growth.
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You don’t have to go on an elaborate hike to feel the positive benefits of exercise. Simply walking around your neighborhood for 10 to 20 minutes can get your endorphins flowing and help reduce stress. If you don’t like going to the gym, spending some time in your local park or outdoor space can be a great alternative.
Read: Top Causes of Hair Loss
Watch Something Funny
Laughter truly is the best medicine. If you’re feeling stressed, turn on a show, movie or podcast that will make you laugh. During a laugh, respiration, heart rate, and blood pressure temporarily rise. This causes oxygen to surge through the bloodstream that then results in lower blood pressure and thus helps relieve tension and stress.
Meditation is an amazing tool for chronically stressed people to take back control over their emotions. Meditating early in the morning before you leave the house will help you feel grounded and capable of dealing with situations and people that trigger feelings of stress and anxiety. To start meditating, simply find a quiet and comfortable place and sit with your spine straight and close your eyes. Inhale deeply and exhale slowly. Focus on the way the air moves in and out of your body. Start practicing mindfulness by meditating for five minutes and add time as you begin to feel more comfortable.
If Lowering Stress Isn’t Possible, How Can You Still Support Hair Health?
It’s impossible to avoid all stress, and some of our stress responses are, of course, necessary for our survival (like when you see a car about to hit you and you step out of the way).
So getting rid of all stress isn’t an option, especially in our current times when so many are facing hardships right now. But how can you still support hair wellness while dealing with your daily stress? Below are our top tips for better managing your stress and supporting your hair!
- Watch out for pro-inflammatory foods. Focus on eating nutrient-rich foods and avoiding those with empty calories. Foods that can trigger inflammation may be different for everyone, but most commonly include sugar, dairy, gluten and, for some, nightshades.
- Consider meditating. Meditation can help you get outside of your head and focus your attention on your body to create a more peaceful, focused outlook on life.
- Make self-care a priority. Self-care is essential to give yourself a much-needed break from stress. Get enough sleep. Call a friend. Take a time-out. Know when to say "no." Practice mindfulness. All of these acts of self-care will give your body the tools it needs to better face the day!
- Exercise at least a few days a week. Exercise is going to help you stay in shape (remember, excess weight can encourage inflammation), better manage your stress and get you focused on something other than, you know, work, school and kids for a while!
- Try giving your hair a boost. Give your body all the nutrients it needs for powerful hair growth — our GRO More Kit includes GRO Biotin Gummies for hair and GRO Hair Serum to deliver beneficial nutrients right to your roots!
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Take Care of Yourself and Your Hair
Hair wellness isn’t just about your stress levels — it’s about your entire approach to wellness, from the foods you eat to the products you use to how much quality sleep you get. Know that you are not alone right now, even if you feel isolated. So many are facing unimaginable stress as we continue to navigate our current epidemic. While taking care of your hair, don’t forget to take care of yourself too!
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