If you’re feeling stressed and have noticed more hair on your brush, sheets, or in the drain, there could be a link. In fact, at Honest Hair Restoration with offices in Bradenton and Tampa, Florida, one of the most frequent questions patients ask Martin Maag, MD and our hair restoration team is: Is my hair loss caused by stress?
With a variety of personalized hair restoration treatments, our practice helps patients with many types of hair loss, including those with stress-related causes, enjoy a fuller head of hair again. To help you understand the link between stress and hair loss, we’ve created this guide.
Take a moment to learn more about how stress and hair loss are connected and the ways we can help restore your hair.
How is stress linked to hair loss?
When your body gets stressed, it releases “stress hormones,” primarily adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones are designed to get you ready to face a threat.
For example, adrenaline gets your heart and blood pressure going and boosts your energy. Cortisol pumps glucose (blood sugar) into your system and helps your brain use it more efficiently.
These responses are perfect for running from a predator or figuring out the best way to escape an oncoming threat.
But the same stress hormones also shut down non-essential body functions so you can stay on the run or fight without being distracted by hunger, reproduction, and other functions, like sleep.
That’s where the link between stress and hair loss comes in. Humans may enjoy the look and feel of their hair, but from a biological perspective, your hair isn’t necessary.
And in today’s world, stress doesn’t disappear. That means when you experience chronic stress, your body keeps pumping out more and more stress hormones. Among other things, this affects your immune system, mood, digestive system, sleep, and hair growth.
Researchers have found one of the cortisol hormones, called corticosterone, specifically affects the way your hair grows. As your stress levels rise, you produce higher levels of this hormone.
However, not everyone who experiences stress loses their hair. These studies discover that for some people, elevated corticosterone levels cause hair to thin or make existing hair loss worse.
Scientists have linked two specific types of hair loss to stress: telogen effluvium (TE) hair loss and alopecia areata (AA) hair loss. Here’s a closer look:
Stress and telogen effluvium (TE) hair loss
Your hair grows in a three-phase cycle made up of growth, transition, and rest. Your hair sheds during the resting phase.
When you’re stressed, your body may keep your hair in the resting phase longer. As a result, you can experience telogen effluvium hair loss. This is because your hair not only sheds more easily, but it also stops growing new hair.
If you’ve experienced ongoing stress or go through a significant and stressful experience, such as the death of a loved one or another unexpected and stressful event, it could trigger TE. Signs of TE hair loss include:
- Hair loss that comes on suddenly
- Losing hair all over your head instead (compared to pattern baldness)
- Having thinning hair or hair loss that comes and resolves once you aren’t stressed
It’s important to note that you don’t experience TE hair loss at the same time you undergo stress. Because your hair cycle takes about three months, TE hair loss is often delayed until the cycle completes.
Stress and alopecia areata (AA) hair loss
Alopecia areata (AA) is a type of autoimmune condition that affects about 6 million American men and women. This stress-induced AA hair loss occurs when your while blood cells attack your hair follicles and causes specific types of hair loss, including:
- Losing your hair in clumps
- Losing hair in round patches
- Losing body hair in addition to hair on your head
With AA hair loss, your hair may grow back and fall out over and over. There’s no cure for AA, but medications can help manage hair loss.
Do treatments exist for hair loss triggered by stress?
Absolutely! However, because everyone’s different, it’s important to see a hair-loss expert for an evaluation to learn which treatment will be most effective for you.
At Honest Hair Restoration, our board-certified physician reviews your medical history, lifestyle factors related to hair loss, and examines your scalp to create a medically based, effective hair restoration plan. Understanding the root cause of your hair loss is key, so Dr. Maag may recommend additional tests, like bloodwork.
Some of your stress-related TE and AA hair loss hair restoration treatment options include therapies such as:
- Custom-blended, prescription-strength medications
- Noninvasive, low-level laser cap therapy
- Hair transplantation with follicular unit extraction (FUE)
- Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy
Learn more about the link between stress and hair loss and how we can help restore your hair by scheduling a consultation online or over the phone with the hair loss experts at Honest Hair Restoration.