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How Stress Impacts Female Hair Loss

Stress affects everyone in similar ways, but there are some ways that it affects women differently. Women are more likely to report physical and emotional symptoms of stress than men. Those symptoms range from headache to upset stomach and even stress-induced hair loss. Stress is a societal issue, but how does it impact female hair loss specifically? Read on to learn how stress impacts female hair loss and find tips to combat stress — including what products you can use to combat stress-induced hair thinning.

The Connection Between Stress and Female Hair Loss

Stress can be categorized as acute if it's short-term and goes away quickly, or chronic if it's long-term and ongoing. And acute and chronic stress can lead to a host of health problems, including hair loss.

"Since the body sees hair as an accessory and not a necessity, when your body is under stress, your hair is usually one of the first signs," said Tonya Fairley, a certified trichologist and hairstylist.

Stress triggers the release of a hormone called cortisol into your bloodstream. Cortisol is your body's main stress hormone and can lead to hair loss as well as an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure. It's best known for producing the “fight or flight” response, which is why stress often feels overwhelming.

"Stress elevates your hormone levels and increases cortisol. Elevated amounts of cortisol can influence DHT, which can influence hair loss," said Fairly. "Your follicles that carry the hair need to be properly nourished starting from the inside (your gut) out."

Shop: GRO+ Advanced Collection With Hemp for Thinning Hair

Telogen Effluvium

Hair loss triggered by stress is referred to as telogen effluvium. TE (which is more commonly reported by women) is a temporary form of hair shedding characterized by a general thinning of the hair. It’s commonly found at the top of the head but can localize on any part of the scalp or can spread evenly over the entire head.

Telogen effluvium (TE) gets its name from the telogen phase, which is a resting phase in the hair growth cycle. In this phase, hair is being formed in the follicles but is not actively growing.

TE triggered by multiple factors, but generally speaking, any stress on the body can lead to this type of hair loss.

Read: This Dry Shampoo Was Formulated With Thinning Hair in Mind

Causes of Telogen Effluvium in Women

If you've noticed the abrupt onset of diffuse thinning or hair loss, here are some of the possible triggers of TE or stress-induced hair loss.

Postpartum Hair Loss

Most women experience some form of excessive shedding after childbirth, which is caused by falling hormone levels. During pregnancy, an uptick in hormones like estrogen and progesterone can lead to longer, fuller locks.

Once a mother gives birth, her hormones undergo another serious change, this time in the opposite direction. Lower hormone levels can throw hair growth hormones out of whack, setting the stage for TE to temporarily take over your scalp, causing things like a receding hairline and patchy hair loss. The crazy ups and downs put stress on your body, which is already probably overtired and depleted of vital nutrients, especially if a new mom is breastfeeding.

Poor Nutrition

Unfortunately, how and what you eat not only impact your body but also your hair. Things like nutritional deficiencies (in particular a deficiency in iron, zinc or vitamins B-6 and B-12), anemia or thyroid issues can lead to TE.

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Stressful or Traumatic Life Changes

Women are not immune to the effects of stressful events in their daily lives, especially those that have a huge impact. Events like losing a job, experiencing the death of a loved one or ending a relationship can all bring on extreme stress and trigger TE.

Severe Illness or Underlying Medical Conditions

An illness, such as a severe Sars-Cov-2 infection, or an underlying medical condition, such as thyroid disease or an iron deficiency can also result in telogen effluvium.

Also: What Causes Hair Loss? Every Trigger Explained

Birth Control

Birth control affects every woman differently, and for some women, hormonal contraceptives can come with challenging side effects, including hair loss. Most hormonal birth controls contain synthetic versions of estrogen and progesterone, which essentially trick the body into thinking it's pregnant. And a side effect of pregnancy is hormonal changes.

Unfortunately, these hormonal changes can potentially trigger — you guessed it — TE.

Read: Experiencing Hair Loss on Birth Control? Here's What You Can Do

How to Address Female Hair Loss Caused By Stress

There's a lot more you can do to help manage stress. Most cases of stress-induced hair loss or TE will gradually resolve on their own without treatment once the underlying stress has passed. However, there are some easy ways to address hair health from the inside out, improving the overall appearance of your hair and invigorating new strands.


Meditation can be an effective way to combat stress, according to research. And it also has countless other benefits that can benefit your hair and your overall health. Carve out some time each day to rest in a quiet spot and engage in meditation to help reduce stress.

Prioritize Nutrition

Creating and maintaining healthy hair starts on the inside with a balanced diet. A whole diet based on whole foods can potentially deliver all the fiber, fat, protein and carbohydrates your body needs to perform at its best.

And if you're aiming to lose weight, avoid crash dieting, which causes a very sudden drop in calories and nutrients, and can cause TE. Instead, follow a nutritionally sound diet that provides you with the appropriate amount of calories to encourage weight loss.

Get Quality Sleep

Poor sleep quality or not enough sleep has a potential link to hair thinning and loss. Make adjustments to your current sleep routine as needed, such as setting a regular bedtime, avoiding blue light and having a comfortable sleeping environment, to allow you to get the quality and quantity of sleep you need. The CDC recommends at least seven hours of sleep per night for adults age 18 to 60.

Encourage Healthy Hair With a Nourishing Serum

A stressful event could cause thinning hair, but that doesn't mean it's doomed to stay that way forever. Your hair just needs a little extra TLC to get it back on track. In addition to our other hair wellness products, try supplementing your hair care routine with a nourishing hair serum like our GRO Hair Serum. It features clinically proven vegan phyto-actives such as mung bean, curcumin and red clover, which have been shown to significantly increase hair density and reduce shedding, supporting the appearance of longer, thicker, fuller-looking hair.

The ingredients in GRO Hair Serum have been clinically shown in some subjects to inhibit DHT, extending your hair’s growth phase while strengthening your roots. The result: increased hair density by up to 52%. For an extra boost, we've taken the original formula and added full-spectrum hemp oil to create our GRO+ Advanced Hair Serum with CBD. Check out this before and after from a customer who used GRO+ Advanced Hair Serum.

See a Doctor

If you're concerned about an excessive increase in hair loss or hair shed, seek medical advice. Medical issues such as an overactive or underactive thyroid gland, anemia (iron deficiency), hormone imbalances or autoimmune disorders can be the culprit behind sudden hair loss and often require prescription medication or a doctor's supervision to treat. Your doctor could request some blood work to accurately assess your hormone levels and any nutritional deficiencies.


Stress Less for Healthy Hair

The bottom line: Stress affects your entire body, including hair growth. By reducing your stress levels, getting the right nutrition on a daily basis, practicing mindful stress reduction techniques and consistently caring for your hair, you will see improvements in not only your hair health but also your overall health. A holistic approach to self-care is key to a healthier, happier you!


Photo credit: sushantphotographyy/Pexels

Disclaimer: Information in this article is intended for general informational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to constitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician.