It’s an understatement to say the world is under a lot of pressure right now. Modern life was hectic enough before COVID came along, and now, people are facing unprecedented challenges. From worrying about your health to losing a loved one to homeschooling your kids, COVID is seriously stressing everyone out—which can have a big impact on your hair.
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 about it.
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 (1). 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 (2).
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 (3).
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 (4).
- 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 (5)!
- 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 (6).
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 (7).
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 (8).
- 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 (9).
- 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. 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 Biotin Lovestruck Gummies for hair and GRO Hair Serum to deliver beneficial nutrients right to your roots!
Take Care of Yourself and Your HairHair 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 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!