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Stressful times and dealing with hair loss

With our world facing unprecedented challenges, wellbeing matters more than ever. When dealing with stressful events, it is not always easy to stay present and recognize the stressors you may be dealing with. Long-term, or chronic, stress puts people at risk for a variety of health problems. These can include depression and anxiety, as well as problems with digestion and sleep.

Chronic stress has also long been linked to hair loss and we wish to help you understand more about the connection between stress and hair loss and of course, what you can do to change that.

Hair growth involves three stages:
  1. Anagen: In growth, strands of hair push through the skin. 
  2. Catagen: In degeneration hair ceases to grow, and the follicle at the base of the strand shrinks. 
  3. Telogen: In rest hair falls out and the process can begin again. Hair is among the few tissues that mammals can regenerate throughout their lifetime. 

In simpler words, the hair growth cycle is driven by  stem cells that are found in hair follicles. During growth, stem cells divide to become new cells that regenerate hair. In the resting period, the hair is shed. A trigger may cause a sudden, abnormal shift of hairs into the telogen phase all at once. One possible trigger for this sudden shift? Significant emotional stress. 

You may wonder, what qualifies as significant emotional stress? Think major, negative life events, such as, loss of a loved one or divorce. Severe and prolonged stress secondary to the Covid-19 pandemic, for instance, could certainly qualify.

So what can we do about it?

There are a few things that may help to support overall hair health.

  1. Eat a balanced diet and consume enough amounts of protein (0.8 grams/kilogram/day). Hair is made up of primarily protein (keratin), so a sufficient protein is vital to maintain and grow hair.
  2. Avoid very tight hairstyles, excessive heat styling, or chemical-based treatments, as these can contribute to hair loss or cause hair breakage. 
  3. Tending to emotional health and practicing coping strategies, like meditation, may also be helpful to reduce the impact of a stressor.

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