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Stress & Hair Loss in Women

a woman detangling her hair knots

Stress & Hair Loss in Women

Are hair loss and stress-related? The clear answer is yes. Three kinds of hair loss are linked to increased stress levels which are as follows:

  • Alopecia areata: There are a lot of factors that are responsible for causing alopecia areata and high stress is one of them. When alopecia areata occurs, the immune system of our body starts attacking the follicles of hair resulting in hair loss.
  • Telogen effluvium: In this kind of hair loss, hair follicles go into a stable, i.e. resting phase due to high level of stress. All the affected hair starts falling out suddenly within a few months even if someone simply combs or washes his/ her hair.
  • Trichotillomania: This type of hair loss is tempting desire to pull out hair from any part of the body like eyebrows, scalp, etc. There are different kinds of uncomfortable or negative feelings that make a person pull the hair. It could be tension, frustration, stress, boredom, or loneliness.

Both hair loss and stress could be temporary things in your life, if you can reduce your stress, hair loss can reduce/ hair growth can start. During hair combing or washing, if one sees sudden hair loss or higher hair loss than usual, consult a doctor. Unexpected hair loss can be a sign of a medical condition that might ask for treatment. Once doctor consultation is done, your doctor might advise hair loss treatment or at least options to treat it.

Relation between hair cycle and stress

On average on a usual adult scalp, approximately 100,000 hair follicles are there (this can vary depending upon the colour of hair). There is a cycle between rest and growth that every hair follicle has to go through, and at any point in time, the majority of them are in the growth cycle (known as anagen). 

Whenever any hair follicle goes to the resting phase (known as telogen), the hair starts falling. And as discussed in the telogen effluvium type of hair loss, there is a sudden transition from the anagen phase to the telogen phase, causing a sudden hair fall in patches. There could be many reasons for this sudden shift, and emotional stress is one of them. Even science supports the fact that emotional stress could be a big reason for telogen effluvium kind of hair loss. Here are a few things that one should know about this so-called stress-related hair loss.

Signs of telogen effluvium

Hair loss can be temporary, diffuse, or abrupt when linked to telogen effluvium.

Abrupt onset: The onset for this type of hair loss is abrupt, but one catch is there. After this problem starts, there is no hair loss for about the first three months. Reason? Whenever hair follicles transition to the telogen phase from the anagen phase, the whole cycle takes around three months to complete and to shed that hair. Usually, stress is one of the several causes of this type of hair loss, other causes include giving birth, extreme illness, and medications

Diffuse thinning: This hair loss type follows a diffuse pattern. If the hair loss is patchy or part line has widened, the diagnosis is usually for alopecia areata or another kind of hair loss. The ones who experience telogen effluvium might see a thinner ponytail, or shed hair at a faster and sudden pace, and could be during the shower, combing, around the house, or on the pillow. Generally, on average, it is very normal to shed 100-200 hair per day, and this number can vary depending upon hair care routine or upon the individual. Although in this hair loss type, one can shed up to 50% of scalp hair, this usually does not result in complete baldness

Temporary: So what’s the good news about this hair loss? This type of hair loss is not permanent and is temporary, which means your hair can return to its original density. This process is not that fast, and usually takes months to complete (but not more than 6 months), i.e. before hair fall stops, and then takes a few months to years to grow back that same kind of hair.

In some cases, your hair does not get back to its usual density. Moreover, anyhow hair density doesn’t stay at the same level with age and usually decreases with time, and in some, this hair loss can be chronic and can last for a few years as well.

How to prevent telogen effluvium?

There is no scientific or proven path to stop this telogen effluvium, and usually gets cured on its own, but there are some things that one can do to overall improve the health of hair. One of the methods is stress management, others could be taking a balanced diet, avoiding heat styling on hair, avoiding chemicals, meditation or stress buster techniques.

Take Away

The key takeaway from this article is that hair loss and stress are definitely related to each other. If one takes excessive stress, the person usually has hair fall which could be of various types. This hair loss can easily be temporary if one stops taking too much stress, and have a life with that beautiful hair with proper diet and exercise in their daily routine.