IMPACT OF STRESS ON HAIR HEALTH: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

by Dr. Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand on December 14th, 2020
Worried woman checking her hair in mirror at home

What some women may not realize is that hair loss and stress are very much related issues. Anxiety and stress affect the mind but also the whole body. Mental health can often result in a range of effects, and as a Board-Certified Dermatologist, one of those effects I often see is hair loss. It is critical to also discuss the effects hair loss can then have on a patient’s physical and mental wellness, since the stress caused from losing one’s hair can exacerbate the hair loss even more.

Long-term stress can affect hormone levels in the body, especially cortisol and other stress hormones. In turn, hair loss is affected by those fluctuations in hormone levels. Chronic stress can potentially lead to more hair loss in comparison to what you might experience with just your genetics and aging alone.

There is more than one type of hair loss related to stress.

Alopecia areata is a condition that causes the hair to suddenly fall out in large clumps and affects approximately 6.8 million people in the USA.  The condition occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles with stress and anxiety having a known effect on the various functions of the body, including the immune system. Hair loss may be limited to the scalp but can occur throughout the body and can become, permanent if not treated.

I am seeing more and more hair shedding due to stress, which is known as telogen effluvium. The good news is that hair loss due to stress is reversible. Nonetheless, this can be very difficult emotionally. Telogen effluvium occurs when a substantial amount of anxiety and stress can cause the hair follicles to resume a resting phase which can, over a prolonged period of time, cause the hair to either fall out in clumps or weaken significantly in structure, causing it to break and look dull and lifeless.

Both males and females of all ages take pride in their hair and their confidence often suffers when their hair is not in a good condition. The link between self-esteem and hair is well-known across cultures, with it being common knowledge that a healthy self-esteem forms a vital part of good mental health. Studies have even shown that stress and anxiety can contribute to a number of hair loss conditions.

I like to provide coping mechanisms for my patients experiencing hair loss due to stress to help decrease the anxiety than can result with losing hair or thinning hair.

Incorporating daily exercise, proper sleep habits – like keeping your cell phone and laptop out of the bedroom – and taking nutraceuticals like Viviscal Supplements daily can help provide structure and routine.

For women experiencing hair loss, it’s important for them to be aware that hair growth is a slow process.

We know that on average, hair grows ½ inch per month and only 6 inches in a year. It is critical during this time to try and optimize hair health and patience is key. Some potential signs of hair growth are fine baby hairs that may develop around the forehead and the nape of the neck. The best way to combat hair loss or hair thinning is seeing a Board-Certified Dermatologist. We can help evaluate the root cause of your hair loss and develop a customized regimen.

by Dr. Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand 

A picture of Dr. Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, a double board-certified dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand is a double board-certified dermatologist specializing in cutaneous laser surgery and the dermatologic care of patients with a special interest in Cosmetic Dermatology, Laser Medicine, Acne, Hair Loss, and Melasma. Beyond her practice, Dr. Houshmand is an international speaker, trainer, author, and medical news correspondent and an internationally recognized leader in cosmetic dermatology. ​Dr. Houshmand is fluent in English, Spanish, and Farsii and enjoys traveling, barre, and spending time with family in her spare time.