With the pandemic outbreak, our stress levels have been shooting up the roof. With so much negativity and distress in our surrounding environment, our bodies are taking too much time to get accustomed to the new normal. In this process of adjusting, re-adjusting, and adapting to the environment, our bodies are responding in their ways to the new changes.
One of those ways of responding to the stress grappling us currently is increased hair fall. Sounds relatable? That’s because too many women have been going through the same problem because of the increased amount of stress in recent times.
The interaction of the stress-tress cycle
Stress is a normal reaction of the human body to any unexpected and harmful changes in the environment. A response that is mediated by the hypothalamus of the brain that puts the human body into the flight-fight mode. During stressful situations, our bodies produce the hormone cortisol to equip the body to deal with the new changes in the environment.
The growth cycle of our hair follicles is also ruled by a variety of factors including hormonal changes, diet, and stress. The growth cycle of hair is divided into four phases:
1. Anagen phase: This is the growing stage that takes about two to seven years to complete.
2. Catagen phase: In this stage, the hair begins to shrink. This phase is comparatively shorter and lasts for only about two weeks.
3. Telogen phase: Having a duration of three months, in this phase, your hair is in a resting stage.
4. Exogen phase: Being the final phase, this is the stage where your hair starts to shed, and new growth of hair follicles begins.
The cortisol produced during stressful situations interacts with other hormones ruling the hair growth cycle and freezes your hair in the telogen phase, that is, the resting stage where your hair stops growing following which it starts to shed.
This explains that when you have stressed for long, it might become evident through increased hair fall. Professionals opine that losing more than 100 strands of hair in a day may be considered abnormal and irregular.
Stress-related hair loss
Hair loss commonly called alopecia is both common in men and women. To be specific, there are three kinds of hair loss particularly related to stress.
It is the second most common type of all sorts of hair fall. Evident from its name, this occurs when your hair gets stuck in the telogen phase which is the resting phase of the growth cycle of the hair. This causes a change in the number of hair follicles growing at a time, drastically leading to increased shedding of hair.
More commonly known as the hair-pulling disorder, this is an impulse control disorder falling in the spectrum of obsessive-compulsive disorders. People start pulling their hair from different parts of their bodies like the scalp, brows, or eyelashes to calm themselves down.
Trichotillomania develops due to heightened anxiety, stress, trauma, depression, etc. In this, the sufferer may get trapped in a vicious cycle of stress, where the hair fall may be causing increased stress which on the other hand is triggering more hair-pulling behavior.
This is an autoimmune disorder where the body starts attacking its cells as it fails to distinguish between its own cells and foreign cells. In alopecia areata, bald patches on the scalp may develop. This autoimmune response is also a result of the stress reactions of the body.
How to deal with stress-related hair loss?
If you are shedding more than 100 hair strands in a day, and have been in a condition of chronic stress for a long time, know that this stress-related hair loss is reversible and you will get back to your normal volume and your growth cycle may be restored once the stress is managed effectively.
The best way to prevent stress-related hair loss is to treat the root of the problem. Hence, it is important for you to manage your stress levels.
1. Practice meditation: Meditation sounds boring and cliché but it has been scientifically proven to alleviate stress. It helps in getting rid of intrusive thoughts and allows you some space to reflect and calm down.
2. Practice Yoga: Like meditation, through different postures and gentle body movements, the impact of stress on the body is decreased.
3. Exercising: All of us are aware of the benefits of exercising. With the release of endorphins and other happy hormones, exercise puts us in a worry-free state.
4. Therapy: Seeking professional help in coping with stress is one of the most necessary steps to take care of your wellbeing. By now, you must have understood that the body and mind are intricately related. Problems in one may manifest in others, so seeking help from an experienced therapist will give you the opportunity to explore your problems and find supportive ways to cope with them.
A healthy diet rich in protein, vitamin B, C, and E has shown to improve hair growth and prevent hair loss. Good food is the way to a happy head!
Consult a dermatologist:
If everything fails, you may consider checking in with a dermatologist. Proper treatment and medications may help you in dealing with stress-related hair loss. Consequently, you may also find out that the reason for your hair loss may not be stress particularly but other factors like lifestyle changes, underlying medical issues, etc.
There are plenty of home remedies available to prevent hair loss. Starting from oiling your hair once or twice with a week with coconut oil, or castor oil or a mix of two would be helpful. Some people recommend hair masks and putting onion serum or oil in hair that boosts hair growth.
Stress-related hair loss is temporary and not permanent. Once stressors are removed from your environment and life, your hair growth cycle will come back to its normal pattern. The duration for the hair growth cycle to return back to its normal pattern will differ from individual to individual. Following a healthy hair care routine and managing your stress levels through engaging activities may be the way out.