Women Over 40 – Does Stress Cause Thinning Hair?
Does Stress Cause Thinning Hair
Whether you’re feeling exhausted by work or overwhelmed by an emotional event, it’s natural to wonder how stress can affect your body. If you notice more hair than usual on your brush or in the shower drain, you may be concerned about your stress levels. Science supports the notion that significant stress may be linked to a type of hair loss, called telogen effluvium. Stress-related hair thinning can be stressful in itself, but the good news is it’s not permanent. Continue reading to understand the relationship between stress and the hair cycle and how you can improve thinning hair.
Hair Growth Cycle
The hair follicles are constantly cycling through the growing, shedding, and resting phases. The growth or anagen phase typically lasts anywhere from two to seven years. The transitional or catagen phase occurs after the anagen phase and indicates the end of hair growth for a few weeks. Lastly, in the resting or telogen phase, which is roughly three months long, the hair remains in the follicle until it falls due to new growth.
The Relation Between Stress and the Hair Cycle
Many people who suffer from long periods of stress and anxiety will struggle with hair thinning. When you’re stressed, your body is experiencing an increase in cortisol levels. Cortisol is the body’s main stress hormone that acts as a built-in alarm system. This hormone is directly related to the health of your hair follicles. Increased levels of cortisol often push your hair out of the anagen phase and straight into the resting phase. The resting phase is when your hair more easily sheds. Additionally, stress can lead to an itchy scalp, which may cause redness and irritation and contribute to hair shedding. Cortisol is known to cause hair follicle inflammation, which is the main culprit of hair loss.
Hair Loss Due to Stress
Stress-induced hair loss is often caused by a major negative life event, like the loss of a loved one or the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Hair loss typically doesn’t occur until three months after the stressful event, because this is how long it takes hair to cycle through the resting phase. The pattern of hair loss with telogen effluvium is diffuse, rather than bald patches or a receding hairline. Someone with telogen effluvium may notice more hair falling out when they shampoo or a thinner ponytail. The good news is that stress-related hair loss is temporary and should regrow on its own with time.
How Do I Improve Stress-Related Hair Loss?
There are several treatments for stress-related hair loss, but don’t expect overnight results—it’s a long game. Below you will find remedies to stimulate healthier hair growth.
Give Yourself Salon-Quality Scalp Massages
You get the best of both worlds with a scalp massage—improved hair growth and relaxation benefits. Scalp massages are known to expand the cells of hair follicles, which promotes thicker, healthier hair growth. Also, scalp massages may dilate blood vessels beneath the scalp, helping oxygen and vital nutrients reach hair follicles easily. The health of the scalp is an integral aspect of hair care. Scalp massages help remove dead skin cells, oil, and product buildup from the scalp. The removal of scalp buildup is essential as buildup can worsen hair loss.
Scalp massages are also great stress-relievers. Scalp massages may reduce levels of stress hormones, lower blood pressure and increase your mood by releasing serotonin. They can release muscle tension and ease headaches or migraines. Treat yourself to a daily scalp massage by using your fingers or a massaging comb, like the one from Better Not Younger.
Eat Well and Get Enough Sleep
Embracing a healthy lifestyle will work wonders on reducing stress and promoting hair health. Eating a well-balanced diet or taking a daily supplement will nourish your follicles with essential vitamins. Hair follicles are mostly made of protein, so consider consuming a protein-rich diet. Include eggs, almonds, chicken, lean beef, and seafood into your diet for good sources of protein. Additional vitamins that support hair growth include vitamins B and C and iron. An iron deficiency is commonly linked to hair loss. Iron helps boost circulation and delivers oxygen to your hair’s roots, which supports fast hair growth. A nutrient-packed, colorful diet for luscious locks may include spinach, berries, avocados, and fatty fish.
In addition to a well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep improves your well-being. A good night’s sleep is necessary for the protein synthesis of your hair, as well as the release of hair growth hormones. The hormone, melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep cycle has also been linked to increased hair growth.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
It is necessary to activate your body’s natural relaxation response to hit the brakes on stress. The natural relaxation response lowers your blood pressure, slows your breathing, and balances your mind and body. There isn’t one technique that elicits the relaxation response for everyone. It’s important to find the technique that fits your lifestyle and focuses and calms your mind. Relaxation techniques include deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, exercise, and yoga.
Use Gentle Hair Products
Gentle is a keyword in improving stress-related hair loss. Tugging or pulling on the hair and wearing tight hairstyles can lead to breakage and hair loss. To minimize hair loss, try wearing looser hairstyles, detangle your hair with care and take a break from hot tools. In addition to handling your hair gently, you should also use gentle, chemical-free hair products. Many hair products contain additives and harmful chemicals to prolong their shelf lives or create a sudsy effect. Chemicals like sulfates, parabens, and alcohols can damage your hair follicles and worsen hair loss. Instead, reach for products with ingredients like niacinamide, biotin, lactic acid, and essential oils to moisturize and stimulate the scalp.
As much as we try to avoid it, stress is a natural part of life. The body has a “fight or flight” response to stressful events, which may trigger hair loss. For those experiencing stress-induced hair thinning, there are solutions to improve the health of your tresses. At-home wellness practices, a nutritious diet, and mild hair products are the secrets to managing hair thinning due to stress.