Here we explain how the mechanism of stress-related hair loss works hormonally – whether as a result of a single stressful event or an extended stressful period in your life. This is followed by a conclusion and advice on techniques available to you in addressing stress-related hair loss.
Hair loss may accompany a wide array of endocrine (hormonal) disorders. Most patients with endocrine disorders present with diffuse non-scarring alopecia, such as anagen effluvium, telogen effluvium or androgenetic alopecia. We focus on telogen effluvium, as it is a temporary, stress-related hair loss.
What is stress?
When you feel under threat, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which rouse the body for emergency action. Your heart beats faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical responses are there to increase your strength and stamina, speed up your reaction time and enhance your focus—preparing you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand. This can either be triggered by a single event – which doesn’t lead to immediate hair los, or prolonged stressful situations – which does. Our bodies can maintain a fight-or-flight response over an extended time period. Think, important deadlines at work, new job, moving home, bereavement – all these can cause prolonged periods of stress, which is worse than a single event when it comes to hair growth. This continued uphold prevent healthy movement of a hair follicle through the growth stages.
Hair growth cycle during stress
There are 3 phases of hair growth:
- Anagen or growth phase.
- Catagen or transitional phase.
- Telogen or resting phase.
Normally only 10% of the scalp hair is in the telogen phase, but in telogen effluvium this increases to 30% or more. This usually happens suddenly and can occur approximately 3 months AFTER a trigger event. This blood flow diversion, away from scalp, can cause a number of hair follicles spreading diffusely across the scalp, that prematurely enter the telogen (resting) phase of hair growth cycle simultaneously.
Role of blood flow
A stressful event, or a chain of stressful events one after the other, and continuous uphold of the fight-or-flight response – lead our bodies to divert blood to life-supporting organs and muscles. Therefore less blood distributes to non-life supporting systems and areas of our bodies, which includes our scalp. Once normal blood supply is restored, hair follicles enter the growth phase again. Telogen phase usually lasts about 3 months, defining how long it will take your hair to start growing at its normal pace again. Improved blood flow can wake up the derma papillae in the hair follicle – in other words, waking up the hair bulb to start growing hair again.
Hair growth is a long game, but there are things you can do now
We outlined some of the techniques that could help with hair growth in 7 obvious steps for hair growth. Majority of them focus on improving blood flow to your scalp as well as taking hair vitamins and supplements. In specific case of telogen effluvium, you should also consider adding regular mindfulness and meditation rituals. We love soft introductions by Calm App and Headspace App into the world of self-awareness and mindfulness.
While going through a stressful period, there is no better alternative to exercise. Exercise has solid scientific backing as the strengthener for your nervous system and builder of resilience for your body to withstand stress and hormonal changes in your body, that result from stress. There is a plethora of free apps to keep your exercise levels. Try out free Nike Training App or Pocket Yoga, a free Yoga app with more gentle exercises and a selection of High Intensity Interval Yoga (Yes, it’s a thing!) – to keep your activity levels up. In addition, onsider remedies and approaches that improve blood flow to your scalp, similar to our all natural signature hair mask, The Hair Fuel, which can be deployed as part of a combined holistic approach to tackling stress-related hair loss. Another alternative might be derma-rolling, or micro-needling – though sometimes this may need to be administered by a professional.
Hair growth is a complicated notion. It reflects our state of mind: current, as well as past choices and experiences we’ve had. In a big, market of subpar quick fixes, market of wigs and extensions, your focus should lay on long-term approach. Healthy hair growing is a long game and you should treat is as such. A well thought-out, balanced mindset to healthy and beautiful hair is a journey towards a healthier you, that is worth taking.
Links & Sources:
Methods of hair loss evaluation in patients with endocrine disorders: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20806187
British Association of Dermatologists, TELOGEN EFFLUVIUM:http://www.bad.org.uk/for-the-public/patient-information-leaflets/telogen-effluvium/?showmore=1&returnlink=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bad.org.uk%2Ffor-the-public%2Fpatient-information-leaflets#.XKSODeszbyy
Telogen effluvium: a clinically useful concept, with traction alopecia as an example: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/639573
Calm App: https://www.calm.com/
Headspace App: https://www.headspace.com/
EXERCISE TRAINING AND SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM ACTIVITY: EVIDENCE FOR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY DEPENDENT NEURAL PLASTICITY: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1440-1681.2007.04590.x
Nike Training App: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nike-training-club/id301521403?mt=8
Pocket Yoga App: http://www.pocketyoga.com/