Hair loss is stressful in itself, but can stress actually be the culprit of brittle, thin hair? It’s common to think that losing your hair may be the result of a stressful week because we’ve been using phrases like “I’m so stressed my hair is falling out” for decades.
Sometimes these sayings can actually hold no true meaning, but in this case, it’s true. Stress can most certainly lead to hair loss. There’s scientific evidence to suggest that your stress hormone can impact the growth of hair follicles. So, let’s get into what this means and how we can prevent stress from taking over.
What is stress?
Simply put, stress is how we react under pressure. It happens when we are in a situation where we feel out of control. It can be a minor event or a major life change. Stress is unfortunately all around us.
It can be hard to recognize feelings of stress. It often contributes to irritability, fear, overwork, and frustration. You may feel physically exhausted, worn out, and unable to cope.
Sometimes stress is obvious - you have an assignment due at work that you have put off and now it’s crunch time and you fear you may never get it done. Other times it’s less obvious and may appear in a symptom you recognize but don’t know why you feel that way.
Symptoms of stress include:
- Low energy
- Muscle tension, especially in the neck and shoulders
- Racing heartbeat
- Changes in mood
- Clammy or sweaty palms
- Decreased sex drive
- Difficulty sleeping
- Digestive problems
- Feeling anxious
- Frequent sickness
- Grinding teeth
Stress can make life difficult which can lead to unhealthy behaviors that actually make stress worse - like smoking or drinking. To end this perpetual cycle, it’s important to balance your lifestyle with healthy behaviors, too. Exercise is one of the most helpful things you can do to combat stress.
What happens to our bodies when we’re stressed?
When it comes to the biology of our bodies, a number of occurrences happen when we experience stress. That’s because stress affects nearly every bodily system from the nervous system to the gastrointestinal system.
When you find yourself in a stressful situation, your hypothalamus sends signals to your body to release stress hormones. These are the stress hormones you may have hear about - the ones that send you into “fight or flight.” It’s a response designed to protect your body, but when it happens all the time it can be detrimental to your overall health.
How does this affect our hair?
Hair growth involves 3 stages: In growth (anagen), strands of hair push through the skin. In degeneration (catagen), hair ceases to grow, and the follicle at the base of the strand shrinks. In rest (telogen), hair falls out and the process can begin again.
This is the hair growth cycle that keeps the hair on our head regenerating. It’s driven by stem cells that reside in the hair follicle. During growth, stem cells divide and become new cells that generate hair.
When we are stressed and our body releases stress hormones, the new cells have a harder time generating. That’s because our stress hormones can push large numbers of hair follicles into the resting phase.
What can we do about it?
Hair loss due to stress does not have to be permanent. There are plenty of ways to cope with stress holistically that does not include taking medication.
Actions you can take to lower stress include:
- Getting active
- Eating healthy
- Daily ashwagandha
- Connecting with others
- Getting creative
- Set boundaries
- Talk with a therapist
By understanding the biological and psychological affects of stress, you can more easily recognize when you’re experiencing stress. That’s the first step to recognizing and dealing with what may be triggering your hair loss.
Other than adopting healthier habits and trying the above mentioned tactics to lower stress, you can care for your hair from the inside out with certain nutrients and compounds such as omega-3, biotin, and collagen. Our supplements that support hair growth and restoration typically feature one of these ingredients.
Starting a daily supplement routine to either combat stress entirely (check out our newest Primal Stress Relief which is a once-daily ashwagandha supplement) or to combat hair loss (collagen helps to regenerate hair follicles for hair growth) can be extremely beneficial and effective.