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Stress and Hair Loss

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March 12, 2019 | Published by


Low energy, insomnia, irritability and susceptibility to illness are common symptoms of stress, but one effect of stress we don’t often think of is hair loss. While it can be disconcerting to find your hair thinning during times of stress, thankfully it is often temporary. In this blog we’ll look at the different types of stress-related hair loss and their causes.

The Types of Stress-Related Hair Loss

Telogen effluvium

Telogen effluvium is a type of stressed-induced hair loss that causes the hair roots to prematurely enter a resting state. Shedding is the most common effect of telogen effluvium, which can occur 3-6 months after a physical or emotional trigger such as chronic illness, surgery, anemia, high fever, or child birth. Telogen effluvium can become chronic if it lasts longer than 6 months. Characterizations include receding of the frontal hairline, with no widening of the central part of the hair. Chronic telogen effluvium occurs mostly in women in their 30s and 40s and can last anywhere from 5-7 years.

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is a chronic, inflammatory and autoimmune disease which causes hair loss in the form of patches on the scalp. Autoimmunity, genetic predisposition, and emotional and environmental stress are thought to play important roles in the development of alopecia areata. A common feature is a disruption in antioxidant/oxidant balance, which can occur due to inadequate antioxidant defense or overproduction of free radicals. For most patients, the condition resolves with treatment within a year, but hair loss is sometimes permanent.

Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is a condition in which people pull out their own hair. Trichotillomania is often a psychiatric disorder and is one of a group of behaviors referred to as body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs). These self-grooming behaviors also include nail biting as well as picking, pulling and scraping of the hair or skin. While research shows that trichotillomania can be caused due to issues involving brain structures responsible for movement control, it’s also been found that many intentionally pull their hair in order to cope with stress, anxiety, tension, and boredom. Infection, tissue damage, and repetitive motion injuries are not uncommon among those that suffer from this disorder.

The Stages of Hair Regrowth

The good news is that in most cases of stress-induced hair loss, it is possible for hair to grow back. The four phases of hair growth are as follows:

Anagen phase

The anagen phase of hair growth lasts 2-7 years. During this phase, the cells in the hair’s root rapidly divide, adding to the hair shaft, which makes the hair grow. At any given time, 80-90 percent of the hair on your head are in this phase.

The Catagen Phase

Once the anagen phase of the hair growth process is complete, hair goes into the catagen phase. This phase signals the end of active growth for hair as it detaches from its blood supply. During this time, which usually lasts 2-3 weeks, a club hair is formed. A club hair is the final product of a hair follicle in the telogen stage, and is a dead, fully keratinized hair. 50-100 club hair are shed daily from a normal scalp.

The Telogen Phase

Once the catagen phase has run its course the follicle releases the hair, and the hair goes into a resting period for 3 months. This typically happens to anywhere from 50-100 hairs on any given day. Since these phases of hair growth don’t occur all at the same time, we don’t witness any large areas of hair growth at once during the regrowth process.

Avoiding hair loss and supporting regrowth

Physical traumas (such as infection, physical injury, malnutrition, surgery, extreme cold, extreme heat, dehydration, exhausting physical exertion, exposure to toxic chemicals, allergies, asthma, and lack of sleep) and emotional traumas (such as divorce, separation, serious arguments, loss of a job, financial problems, injury or death of a friend or family member, and significant ridicule or humiliation) are all forms of stress that may lead to hair loss. Managing and minimizing stressors, taking care of yourself to ensure you are in good health, taking care of your hair, skin and nails, and consuming the proper vitamins and minerals are all measures you can take to avoid hair loss and promote healthy regrowth.

References:

Hair follicle. Wikipedia. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hair_follicle

Huang, S. The Anagen Phase of Hair Growth. Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-the-anagen-phase-of-hair-growth-1069411

Jay, K. Does Stress Cause Hair Loss? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/stress-hair-loss

Losing Hair From Stress? What You Should Know About Hair Loss and Chronic Stress. UPMC Healthbeat. https://share.upmc.com/2018/12/losing-hair-from-stress/

Prie, BE et al. Oxidative stress and alopecia areata. NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4564047/

Rodriguez, D. Is Stress Causing Your Hair Loss? Everyday Health. https://www.everydayhealth.com/skin-and-beauty/is-stress-causing-your-hair-loss.aspx


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