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Stress and Your Hair: What’s Real, What’s Fiction?


Can Stress Cause Hair Loss?Stress comes in many forms. You might feel pressure at work, from your co-workers or boss. You might feel stress at home, due to miscommunication with your partner or from kids who don’t listen to you. Your body can experience physical stress when you don’t get enough sleep or when your diet isn’t as healthy as it could be.

Sometimes, the effects of stress show up in places where they are unwanted, such as on your scalp. While in some cases hair loss is due to genetic causes, in others, it can be connected to the amount of stress in your life.

Stress Can Cause Hair Loss

A high amount of stress can lead to a loss of hair. In some cases, the  hair loss is related to the stress itself. A number of factors, such as emotional or mental stress, or physical stress due to illness, pregnancy or a extreme weight loss, can trigger a condition known as telogen effluvium. When a person has telogen effluvium, more hairs than usual move into the resting phase, or telogen phase. Hairs in the telogen phase are just about to fall out. Since more hair is in this phase, when it does move into the shedding phase, you lose more than you ordinarily would. The result can be a bit alarming and upsetting.

Stress and hair loss can go hand in hand with another condition, trichotillomania. Unlike telogen effluvium, hair doesn’t simply fall out when someone suffers from trichotillomania. Instead, the person pulls the hair out of the scalp. Over time, areas of baldness develop on the head, which can be difficult to cover.

The exact cause of trichotillomania isn’t known, but stress seems to play a part in triggering it or in making it worse. Some people might feel the need to pull on their hair to help them handle feelings of stress or other unpleasant emotions.

Stress and Gray Hair

Stress not only affects the number of hairs on a person’s head. It might also play a part in determining the color of those hairs. The role stress plays in determining hair’s pigment is a little unclear, and stories of people going instantly gray due to high stress situations or shock are usually exaggerated.

How stress affects hair color, if it actually does, isn’t clear. Hair goes gray and eventually white when the number of pigment cells, melanocytes, drops. It’s thought that stress can kill off these cells or prevent them from behaving in the manner they’re expected to. But the specific connection between pigment cells and stress isn’t known.

What Can Be Done

If a person’s hair loss is related to stress, there are a number of things he or she can do to get it under control and slow down or halt the loss of hair. In some cases, the hair loss corrects itself after the cause of stress is removed. For example, women suffering from telogen effluvium due to pregnancy or other hormonal changes, usually see their hair come back several months after the birth or after their hormone settle down again.

It’s usually recommended that a person facing hair loss due to stress talk to their doctor about the loss. A surgeon can determine if the hair loss is really related to stress or if it’s caused by something else, such as male pattern baldness.

If stress is to blame, the best thing to do is learn to manage it. Emotional stress due to work or family strife can be balanced by taking a step back from the job, seeing a therapist as a family or by trying out relaxing activities such as yoga or meditation.

People who have trouble eating a healthy diet due to a hectic lifestyle can try to take control of that area of their lives by hiring a nutritionist and cook to prepare their meals for them. Getting on a regular sleep schedule and aiming for no less than seven hours of sleep each night can also help lower stress levels and improve hair growth.

It can take time to see results after reducing the levels of stress in your life. If the hair follicles are still vital, they need time to regrow the hair. Some people find that using a product such as minoxidil (Rogaine) helps restore hair that was lost due to stress.

Talking to a hair restoration specialist, such as Dr. Kyle Choe in Virginia Beach, can give you some peace of mind when it comes to stress levels and your hair. Find out more about your treatment options and if your hair loss is really connected to stress by scheduling an appointment with Dr. Choe today. Call (757) 389-5850 for a consultation today.

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The Choe Center for Facial Plastic Surgery offers state of the art cosmetic and reconstructive surgical care in a private, comfortable and safe setting. Our center is an AAAHC Accredited Office Base Surgery Center staffed by board certified anesthesiologists and experienced nurses. Quality and highest standards define medical staffs at the Choe Center.
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