Stress Can Be The Root Of Your Hair Loss – Here’s What You Need To Know

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Katrina Lopez was worried when she started to lose a lot of hair in the shower in April 2020, but the New York-based emergency nurse suspected the stress was to blame.

“My stress was directly related to work and the pandemic and all the tragedies that I saw and how helpless I felt during that time,” she said. She was also mourning the loss of several patients and family members who died from COVID-19. His emotions were “everywhere”.

Lopez is not alone. People have complained on social media about hair loss caused by high levels of stress, including anxieties brought on by the pandemic. But while hair loss can be frightening, experts say a common form of stress-related hair loss that they see increased, telogen effluvium, is usually temporary.

Dr. Caroline Robinson, dermatologist and founder of Tone Dermatology, says one of the most common reasons for hair loss is stress.

“When our bodies are under extreme stress, such as from surgery, the death of a loved one, childbirth, a viral infection or even as a result of the ongoing global pandemic itself, we can undergo a significant change in our hair in relation to the growth phase. to the moulting phase months later, ”she explains. “It’s… a disease called telogen effluvium, and it’s much more common than many realize. “

Telogen effluvium can also be triggered by major physical trauma, extreme weight loss, extreme change in diet, abrupt hormonal changes, or iron deficiency, according to Harvard Medical School.

Dr Michele S. Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said last year she saw an influx of patients seeking treatment for hair loss during their forties.

“The patients literally arrived with bags of hair looking like a full head of hair in the bag,” she said. “They all have similar stories. That they were extremely sick with high fevers and have never been so sick in their entire lives. ”

Anabel Kingsley, a consulting trichologist who specializes in treating hair and scalp problems at the Philip Kingsley Hair Care Clinic, says people often don’t relate their hair loss to stress because it usually doesn’t happen. not immediately.

“Most of the hair loss you experience will show up between 6 and 12 weeks after a stressful event due to the nature of your hair growth cycle,” she says.

Robinson says hair loss can also appear months after the stressful event and can “persist as long as the stressor affects us.”

Dr Samer Jaber, dermatologist at Washington Square Dermatology in New York City, says the condition can be “quite serious,” noting that a patient can lose up to 50% of their hair and it can persist for months .

Fortunately, Jaber adds that stress-related hair loss is usually not permanent.

“Telogen effluvium usually goes away on its own after a few months, although in some patients it can be chronic,” he explains.

Other stress-related hair problems

In addition to telogen effluvium, Jaber says there are two other conditions that can be triggered by stress: alopecia areata, a type of autoimmune hair loss where you have circular patches of hair loss. all over the scalp, and trichotrillomania, which is the urge to pull or pull your hair, which can be made worse by stress.

“Alopecia areata can be treated and trichotrillomania is usually reversible if stopped quickly, although in severe cases trichotrillomania can lead to scarring hair loss,” he says.

Stress can not only lead to hair loss, it can wreak havoc on your scalp in other ways, Kingsley says.

“Stress also triggers and / or worsens the scalp and itchy scalp, especially if you’re already prone to dandruff,” says Kingsley. “This is because stress can affect hormone levels as well as the barrier function of the skin.”

This peeling can lead to more hair loss, while scratching can lead to further irritation.

If you’re stressed, you may also find that your roots become soft and oily faster than usual, Kingsley says, because stress can increase your scalp’s oil production.

How do you treat hair loss?

Androgenic alopecia, or male or female pattern baldness, causes follicles to shrink and hair production completely stops, Kingsley explains, but stress-related hair issues can be resolved.

The best way to deal with stress related hair loss is to find ways to manage stress levels and treat your body well, which can be done in a number of ways:

Reduce stress: “The first priority is to reduce stress through exercise, meditation, prayer or whatever stress reduction technique works best for you,” advises Jaber.

Be gentle with your hair: “It’s so important not to engage in hair practices that exacerbate symptoms by further weakening the hair shaft,” says Robinson. “I recommend adopting gentle hair care practices and avoiding excess heat, coloring or chemical treatment.”

Stick to a nutritionally consistent and healthy diet: “Because hair is a nonessential tissue, it’s often the first thing to suffer if your body lacks nutrients,” Kingsley explains. “Vitamin imbalances, iron deficiency, insufficient protein intake, and low-calorie meals can all contribute to hair loss.”

Consult a doctor or specialist if necessary: “If your hair loss worries you or persists, see a certified dermatologist so they can diagnose and treat you appropriately,” advises Jaber. “Topical Rogaine and vitamin supplements can sometimes be helpful for people with long-standing telogen efluvium.”

Contribution: Adrianna Rodriguez

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