It's long been assumed that stress can lead to hair loss and graying. Here, we examine the connection between them.
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You might already know that stress is not good for your body. A range of maladies that include diabetes and cancer have been linked to chronic stress. It may even take a toll on your skin, contributing to breakouts and fine lines. So it won't surprise you that emotional stress can also wreak havoc on your hair, which may manifest as either stress hair loss or gray hair.
So, what exactly is the correlation between stress and strands? Keep reading for explanations and advice.
Can stress cause hair loss?
Generally speaking, stress interferes with the normal hair growth cycle. Blame cortisol, aptly known as the stress hormone, which is released when we're feeling frazzled. Cortisol interrupts hair growth, explains Jodi LoGerfo, DNP, a doctor of nursing practice certified in dermatology and a hair-loss specialist. But exactly how depends on the individual, their genetic predisposition to hair loss and other factors. In other words, not all hair loss from stress is created equal, and stress can play a different role in each scenario.
Telogen effluvium hair loss
One type of stress-related hair loss is known as telogen effluvium. This is a sudden, extreme and rapid hair shedding that occurs from all over the scalp, says Helena Kuhn, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. This sudden hair loss usually starts three months after a stressful event, which could be either physical - think childbirth - or emotional, such as the death of a loved one or a breakup.
Signs of hair loss
Whatever the stressor, it can throw off the hair growth cycle. On average, 85 percent of hairs are in the growth phase, while roughly 10 to 15 percent are in the telogen (or shedding) phase. When this natural cycle is disrupted, a larger percentage of the follicles transition to that shedding phase, Dr. Kuhn explains. Telltale signs can include seeing more hair in the shower or in your brush or noticing that your hair feels thinner. Happily, "this type of hair loss is not permanent and generally resolves on its own within one to three months," she says.
Cortisol and hair loss
Spikes in cortisol can play a role in another kind of permanent hair loss, known as male and female pattern hair loss, says William Gaunitz. Gaunitz is a certified trichologist - a provider who specializes in hair disorders - and the founder of Advanced Trichology in Tempe, Arizona. He adds that stress can also decrease the availability of key nutrients needed for healthy hair growth, such as iron, vitamin C, vitamin D3 and zinc.
Does stress cause gray hair?
"There's a correlation between stress and gray hair," says Gaunitz. Melanin - the pigment that gives hair its color - is produced by stem cells known as melanocytes. These cells naturally diminish over time, which is why people gray as they age, but this happens much faster when you're under excess stress, he explains. Blame it on the body's release of norepinephrine, a hormone that reduces the number of melanocytes much more quickly and dramatically. This type of change is, alas, permanent and irreversible, he says.
How to prevent hair loss
While it's much easier said than done, tamping down stress in your life is key. Some tips for stress-induced hair loss include:
Practicing stress-reduction techniques, such as mindfulness
Getting enough sleep
Ejercitarse con cierta frecuencia
Seguir una dieta saludable
These are all very important, says Dr. Kuhn. If you’re dealing with hair loss from stress, take heart in knowing that it’s likely temporary and your hair should return to normal.
How to regain stress-induced hair loss
Topical minoxidil is a first-line treatment for telogen effluvium, says Dr. Kuhn. With any new topical treatment, consult your health care provider for any concerns they might have. Another option is a thickening shampoo, which can help make your strands feel at least temporarily thicker while they're growing in. Topical sprays and fibers can be a good, fast fix on occasion. However, Dr. Kuhn advises against using them regularly, as they may have the potential to clog the hair follicle and prevent regrowth.
How to get rid of gray hair
For those experiencing grays: Since there's nothing that can be done to reverse graying once it starts, your best bet is to either embrace it or conceal it. (In fact, gray hair has become trendy in some circles, even among 20-somethings.) If you want to camouflage it, a permanent dye will offer complete gray coverage.
Vitamins for stress and hair loss
While many hair growth vitamins and supplements* claim to help with hair loss, it's important to look at the evidence. A 2021 review of more than two dozen studies on this topic came up with a few nutritional factors that did seem to show promise. Omega-3 and omega-6 with antioxidants made the list, for instance, and so did zinc. Among the more exotic entries were pumpkin seed oil and capsaicin - a chemical isolated from chili peppers. As with any plan to start a new supplement, talk to your doctor first to see if it's the right fit for you.
Este contenido es solo para fines informativos y no constituye un asesoramiento médico. Consulte con su proveedor de cuidado de la salud antes de tomar alguna vitamina o suplemento y antes de comenzar o cambiar alguna práctica relacionada con el cuidado de su salud.
*Estas declaraciones no han sido evaluadas por la Administración de Medicamentos y Alimentos. Estos productos no están hechos para diagnosticar, tratar, curar ni prevenir ninguna enfermedad.