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  • 13 June 2024
  • Dr. Ossman Ashraf

Last updated on May 16, 2024

For many, a full head of hair is a symbol of health and vitality. So, it’s natural to worry when you experience hair loss. One culprit frequently blamed is stress. But is there any truth to this, or is it simply a myth? The answer is yes, stress can indeed contribute to hair loss. However, it’s important to understand the mechanisms at play and the different types of hair loss that stress can influence. Here’s insight from Hair Doctors in Sydney into how extreme stress and chronic stress can cause hair shedding and reduced hair growth.

How Stress Affects the Hair Growth Cycle

Hair growth follows a cyclical pattern with three stages:

  • Anagen phase (growth phase)

    This is the active phase where hair follicles are rapidly dividing and producing new hair strands. The growth phase can last for years, encompassing 80-90% of your scalp hair at any given time.

  • Catagen phase (transition phase)

    A short transitional phase lasting a few weeks, where hair growth slows down and the follicle prepares for resting.

  • Telogen phase (resting phase)

    The resting phase, where hair growth stops completely, and the hair strand eventually falls out naturally. This phase typically lasts for around 3 months, with about 10-15% of your scalp hair in this stage at any one time.

Extreme or chronic stress disrupts this natural hair growth cycle by pushing more hair follicles into the telogen phase prematurely, causing increased shedding and reduced hair growth. Research suggests that stress hormones like cortisol can negatively impact the hair follicle stem cells responsible for hair growth. This leads to increased hair shedding, an extended resting phase, and slow hair regrowth, often several months after the stressful event.

Stress Hormone | Hairs Shed Excessively | Hair Follicles in Resting Phase | Hair Follicle Stem Cells | Hair Falling | Hair Regrowth | Hair Doctors Sydney

Extreme or chronic stress floods your body with cortisol, which impacts your immune system, hair follicle stem cells, and hair regrowth cycle.

Types of Stress-Related Hair Loss

There are two main types of hair loss associated with stress:

  • Telogen Effluvium

    This is the most common type of stress-induced hair loss. It typically results in noticeable hair thinning, particularly at the crown of the head, thought to be caused by having an increased amount of the stress hormone called cortisol, which affects the natural cycle of your hair follicle stem cells. The good news is that telogen effluvium is usually temporary. Once the stressor subsides, hair growth typically resumes within 3-6 months, even without treatment to promote hair growth.

  • Trichotillomania (hair pulling)

    This is a less common but more serious condition characterised by an irresistible urge to pull out one’s hair. This can be triggered by stress, anxiety, or boredom. This hair pulling disorder requires professional help, often involving therapy and medication, to manage the underlying emotional issues and prevent permanent hair loss.

What is the Difference Between Stress Related Hair Loss, Alopecia Areata, and Female Pattern Hair Loss?

Here’s a breakdown of the differences between stress-related hair loss, alopecia areata, and female pattern hair loss:

  • Stress-related hair loss

    This is caused by physical or emotional stress, leading to diffuse thinning all over the scalp. It’s temporary and hair typically regrows once your extreme or chronic stress subsides and your hair follicle stem cells recover.

  • Alopecia areata

    This is an autoimmune disease causing patchy hair loss anywhere on the body, not just the scalp. It requires medical treatment.

  • Male or female pattern hair loss

    This is a hereditary condition with gradual thinning in a distinct pattern. It’s a permanent condition where hair follicle stem cells die off, but various treatments like DHT blockers can slow progression and hair transplants can restore permanent hair growth.

Stress Hormone Linked to Hair Shedding and Chronic Telogen Effluvium | Type of Hair Loss | Hair Falling from Entire Scalp | Hair Doctors Sydney

The stress hormone cortisol has been linked to a specific type of hair loss where you have hair falling from your scalp as a whole, rather than in patches or patterns like in female or male pattern hair loss.

How to Identify Stress-Related Hair Loss

Stress-related hair thinning often has distinct characteristics that can help differentiate it from other causes:

  • Sudden onset

    Hair loss typically begins a few months after a stressful event.

  • Diffuse thinning

    Hair falls from all over the scalp, rather than in a specific pattern like male or female pattern baldness.

  • No itching or scaling

    Unlike conditions like scalp psoriasis, stress-related hair loss doesn’t involve scalp irritation.

If you’re experiencing hair shedding and suspect stress might be the cause, consulting a qualified doctor is recommended. They can perform a scalp examination, discuss your medical history, and rule out other potential causes.

How to Treat Stress-Related Hair Loss

The key to tackling this condition lies in managing the stress itself to support the hair follicle growth phase. Here are some strategies:

  • Identify and address the stressor

    If possible, try to eliminate or minimise the source of stress in your life.

  • Relaxation and stress management techniques

    Practices like meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga can significantly reduce extreme or chronic stress levels.

  • Healthy lifestyle choices

    Getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly all contribute to a healthy body and mind, which can benefit hair follicle stem cells and help grow stronger, healthier hair.

  • Consider supplements

    Biotin, vitamin D, and iron deficiencies can contribute to hair shedding. Consult a doctor to determine if supplementation is right for you.
    While there are no miracle cures for stress-related hair thinning, promoting overall well-being and reducing stress levels can significantly improve hair follicle regeneration and health. You can also contact us to explore hair growth treatments.

Choosing the Right Treatment and Hair Growth Products for You

If you would like to support your hair’s recovery or are concerned about your hair loss, speak to the qualified medical professionals at Hair Doctors in Sydney for a personalised and FDA-approved approach to hair growth products, hair loss management, treating hair thinning, and helping to regenerate hair follicles and stem cells affected by chronic stress.

FAQs

How much hair loss is normal?

It’s normal to shed 50-100 hairs per day. However, if you notice significantly more hair coming out when combing or washing, it could be a sign of underlying issues, including stress.

Will my hair grow back after stress-related hair loss?

In most cases of telogen effluvium, hair regrows naturally once the stressor resolves and your stress hormones drop to healthy levels. However, if your hair loss is severe or persistent, consulting a doctor is crucial.

Can I treat stress-related hair loss with medications?

Hair loss can be a symptom of stress, so it is best to deal with the stressor directly. However, there are hair loss treatments that will help promote hair growth and support a faster, healthier recovery for your hair. This can include scalp mesotherapy, which focuses on improving scalp and hair follicle health, and PRF (platelet-rich fibrin) or PRP (platelet-rich plasma) growth factor treatments which use your body’s natural growth factor to support hair health and growth.

Are there any special hair care products that can help with stress-related hair loss?

While no product directly addresses stress-related hair loss, maintaining a gentle hair care routine with nourishing shampoos and conditioners can promote overall hair health. It’s also important to deal with the underlying stressor, practice relaxation techniques, and eat a healthy diet.

When should I see a doctor about hair loss?

It’s advisable to consult a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Sudden or excessive hair loss

    Losing significantly more than 100 hairs daily or noticing patches of baldness warrants a professional evaluation.

  • Hair loss accompanied by itching, redness, or scaling

    These symptoms could indicate an underlying scalp condition requiring medical treatment.

  • Hair loss that persists for more than 6 months

    While stress-related hair loss often resolves on its own, persistent shedding could have other causes.

  • Unexplained hair loss alongside other health concerns

    Hair loss can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. If you experience hair loss with fatigue, weight changes, or other unexplained symptoms, consult a doctor to rule out any medical issues.

Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for managing hair loss effectively. Hair Doctors in Sydney can accurately diagnose the cause of your hair loss and recommend the most appropriate treatment plan.

Dr. Ossman Ashraf
About The Author

Dr. Ossman Ashraf

In 2009, Dr Oz graduated from the University of Dundee, UK with a qualification in Men’s Health and Aesthetic Medicine. He then furthered his qualifications in medical education and is currently the Medical Advisor/Educator for MOSH, Australia’s leading online Men’s Health platform. He is accredited by the London Hair Restoration Academy and specialises in using the most up-to-date micro FUE extraction and DHI implantation techniques for transplant surgery.

For many, a full head of hair is a symbol of health and vitality. So, it’s natural to worry when you experience hair loss. One culprit frequently blamed is stress. But is there any truth to this, or is it simply a myth? The answer is yes, stress can indeed contribute to hair loss. However, it’s important to understand the mechanisms at play and the different types of hair loss that stress can influence. Here’s insight from Hair Doctors in Sydney into how extreme stress and chronic stress can cause hair shedding and reduced hair growth.

How Stress Affects the Hair Growth Cycle

Hair growth follows a cyclical pattern with three stages:

  • Anagen phase (growth phase)

    This is the active phase where hair follicles are rapidly dividing and producing new hair strands. The growth phase can last for years, encompassing 80-90% of your scalp hair at any given time.

  • Catagen phase (transition phase)

    A short transitional phase lasting a few weeks, where hair growth slows down and the follicle prepares for resting.

  • Telogen phase (resting phase)

    The resting phase, where hair growth stops completely, and the hair strand eventually falls out naturally. This phase typically lasts for around 3 months, with about 10-15% of your scalp hair in this stage at any one time.

Extreme or chronic stress disrupts this natural hair growth cycle by pushing more hair follicles into the telogen phase prematurely, causing increased shedding and reduced hair growth. Research suggests that stress hormones like cortisol can negatively impact the hair follicle stem cells responsible for hair growth. This leads to increased hair shedding, an extended resting phase, and slow hair regrowth, often several months after the stressful event.

Stress Hormone | Hairs Shed Excessively | Hair Follicles in Resting Phase | Hair Follicle Stem Cells | Hair Falling | Hair Regrowth | Hair Doctors Sydney

Extreme or chronic stress floods your body with cortisol, which impacts your immune system, hair follicle stem cells, and hair regrowth cycle.

Types of Stress-Related Hair Loss

There are two main types of hair loss associated with stress:

  • Telogen Effluvium

    This is the most common type of stress-induced hair loss. It typically results in noticeable hair thinning, particularly at the crown of the head, thought to be caused by having an increased amount of the stress hormone called cortisol, which affects the natural cycle of your hair follicle stem cells. The good news is that telogen effluvium is usually temporary. Once the stressor subsides, hair growth typically resumes within 3-6 months, even without treatment to promote hair growth.

  • Trichotillomania (hair pulling)

    This is a less common but more serious condition characterised by an irresistible urge to pull out one’s hair. This can be triggered by stress, anxiety, or boredom. This hair pulling disorder requires professional help, often involving therapy and medication, to manage the underlying emotional issues and prevent permanent hair loss.

What is the Difference Between Stress Related Hair Loss, Alopecia Areata, and Female Pattern Hair Loss?

Here’s a breakdown of the differences between stress-related hair loss, alopecia areata, and female pattern hair loss:

  • Stress-related hair loss

    This is caused by physical or emotional stress, leading to diffuse thinning all over the scalp. It’s temporary and hair typically regrows once your extreme or chronic stress subsides and your hair follicle stem cells recover.

  • Alopecia areata

    This is an autoimmune disease causing patchy hair loss anywhere on the body, not just the scalp. It requires medical treatment.

  • Male or female pattern hair loss

    This is a hereditary condition with gradual thinning in a distinct pattern. It’s a permanent condition where hair follicle stem cells die off, but various treatments like DHT blockers can slow progression and hair transplants can restore permanent hair growth.

Stress Hormone Linked to Hair Shedding and Chronic Telogen Effluvium | Type of Hair Loss | Hair Falling from Entire Scalp | Hair Doctors Sydney

The stress hormone cortisol has been linked to a specific type of hair loss where you have hair falling from your scalp as a whole, rather than in patches or patterns like in female or male pattern hair loss.

How to Identify Stress-Related Hair Loss

Stress-related hair thinning often has distinct characteristics that can help differentiate it from other causes:

  • Sudden onset

    Hair loss typically begins a few months after a stressful event.

  • Diffuse thinning

    Hair falls from all over the scalp, rather than in a specific pattern like male or female pattern baldness.

  • No itching or scaling

    Unlike conditions like scalp psoriasis, stress-related hair loss doesn’t involve scalp irritation.

If you’re experiencing hair shedding and suspect stress might be the cause, consulting a qualified doctor is recommended. They can perform a scalp examination, discuss your medical history, and rule out other potential causes.

How to Treat Stress-Related Hair Loss

The key to tackling this condition lies in managing the stress itself to support the hair follicle growth phase. Here are some strategies:

  • Identify and address the stressor

    If possible, try to eliminate or minimise the source of stress in your life.

  • Relaxation and stress management techniques

    Practices like meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga can significantly reduce extreme or chronic stress levels.

  • Healthy lifestyle choices

    Getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly all contribute to a healthy body and mind, which can benefit hair follicle stem cells and help grow stronger, healthier hair.

  • Consider supplements

    Biotin, vitamin D, and iron deficiencies can contribute to hair shedding. Consult a doctor to determine if supplementation is right for you.
    While there are no miracle cures for stress-related hair thinning, promoting overall well-being and reducing stress levels can significantly improve hair follicle regeneration and health. You can also contact us to explore hair growth treatments.

Choosing the Right Treatment and Hair Growth Products for You

If you would like to support your hair’s recovery or are concerned about your hair loss, speak to the qualified medical professionals at Hair Doctors in Sydney for a personalised and FDA-approved approach to hair growth products, hair loss management, treating hair thinning, and helping to regenerate hair follicles and stem cells affected by chronic stress.

FAQs

How much hair loss is normal?

It’s normal to shed 50-100 hairs per day. However, if you notice significantly more hair coming out when combing or washing, it could be a sign of underlying issues, including stress.

Will my hair grow back after stress-related hair loss?

In most cases of telogen effluvium, hair regrows naturally once the stressor resolves and your stress hormones drop to healthy levels. However, if your hair loss is severe or persistent, consulting a doctor is crucial.

Can I treat stress-related hair loss with medications?

Hair loss can be a symptom of stress, so it is best to deal with the stressor directly. However, there are hair loss treatments that will help promote hair growth and support a faster, healthier recovery for your hair. This can include scalp mesotherapy, which focuses on improving scalp and hair follicle health, and PRF (platelet-rich fibrin) or PRP (platelet-rich plasma) growth factor treatments which use your body’s natural growth factor to support hair health and growth.

Are there any special hair care products that can help with stress-related hair loss?

While no product directly addresses stress-related hair loss, maintaining a gentle hair care routine with nourishing shampoos and conditioners can promote overall hair health. It’s also important to deal with the underlying stressor, practice relaxation techniques, and eat a healthy diet.

When should I see a doctor about hair loss?

It’s advisable to consult a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Sudden or excessive hair loss

    Losing significantly more than 100 hairs daily or noticing patches of baldness warrants a professional evaluation.

  • Hair loss accompanied by itching, redness, or scaling

    These symptoms could indicate an underlying scalp condition requiring medical treatment.

  • Hair loss that persists for more than 6 months

    While stress-related hair loss often resolves on its own, persistent shedding could have other causes.

  • Unexplained hair loss alongside other health concerns

    Hair loss can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. If you experience hair loss with fatigue, weight changes, or other unexplained symptoms, consult a doctor to rule out any medical issues.

Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for managing hair loss effectively. Hair Doctors in Sydney can accurately diagnose the cause of your hair loss and recommend the most appropriate treatment plan.


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