Unchecked stress can harm your body in many ways: unwanted weight gain or weight loss, high blood pressure, and hair loss.
At this point, I bet you're wondering: Does stressing about stress hair fall (telogen effluvium) also cause hair fall.
In this article, we will explain to you why stress causes hair fall, how it's different from male pattern balding, and most importantly – how to reverse stress hair fall.
Telogen Effluvium: Stress and hair loss
Stress-induced hair loss is medically known as telogen effluvium.
If you are experiencing telogen effluvium (stress hair loss), this is what is happening: situations that worry you, make you tense, and are stressful put your body in a state of shock. When your body is in shock, hormone production goes haywire in a way that your body produces more harmful hormones than good ones. One such example is - your body produces more stress hormones called cortisol and fewer hair growth hormones causing severe stress hair loss.
Here is a step-by-step scientific guide to telogen effluvium:
Telogen Effluvium Symptom 1: Stress disrupts hormones in your body
Cortisol creates a hormone imbalance in your body. It blocks hair growth hormones which means that there are more bad hormones (cortisol) in your body than good ones required for your hair's health.
Telogen Effluvium Symptom 2: First signs of hair thinning
Excess cortisol forces your hair strands into a telogen or a resting phase. Your hair strands do not receive enough nutrition or blood supply in the telogen phase. Hair thinning also results as a sign of early baldness.
At first, your hair becomes weak and thin, and then, eventually, your hair falls out.
Telogen Effluvium Symptom 3: Hair thinning leads to hair loss
You will know if you have telogen effluvium if your daily hair fall is more than the standard 100 strands. Typically, only 10% of your hair is in the telogen phase, but with high stress and high cortisol, 30% of your hair retreats to the telogen phase. This is also considered as one of the stages for baldness.
With Telogen effluvium, you lose three times more hair daily, that is, approximately 300 strands.
How long does telogen effluvium last?
Telogen effluvium lasts 100 days. You will know that you are recovering from telogen effluvium when your hair starts to grow again.
Does thinking cause hair to fall?
Thinking everyday thoughts that do not worry or stress you out does not cause hair to fall as far as you are not stressing. The leading cause of stress hair loss (telogen effluvium) is the stress hormones known as cortisol.
Cortisol disrupts hair growth hormones and prevents healthy hair from growing. This results in weak hair growth, leading to severe hair loss.
Pro tip: While thinking, be conscious of your body's reaction to your thoughts. If you are tense and distressed, it is evident that your thoughts are causing you stress which will lead to hair fall.
Does stress cause balding?
No, stress does not directly cause balding. While stress does cause hair fall, known as telogen effluvium, hair loss is not so drastic that it leads to balding. Hair lost due to telogen effluvium regrows, unlike hair loss due to balding.
Difference between telogen effluvium and balding
Telogen effluvium is a cause for your hair to fall:
Stress is the only cause of hair loss due to telogen effluvium. Stress hormones called cortisol reduce hair growth hormones. Not only will your hair not grow, but your stands also become weaker, and your hair starts to shed.
Male pattern baldness is a cause for hair fall:
Caused by excess DHT production and hereditary, balding can be genetic or environmental. This means that if the men in your family have a receding hairline, the chances are so will you? Environmental factors vary from lousy lifestyle, poor diet, and low water quality. Use DHT blocking shampoos to promote hair growth.
Is stress-induced (telogen effluvium) hair fall permanent?
Stress does make your hair fall, but it does not contribute to male pattern balding. This means that hair loss due to telogen effluvium is not permanent.
Once you start balding, it is challenging to regrow your lost hair because your hair follicles have become inactive, and new hair strands will grow through them.
How to reverse telogen effluvium? Hair fall control
Keeping your stress in check will help you prevent chronic telogen effluvium. Meditating, exercising, and ensuring stress levels in check act as hair fall control methods to reverse stress-induced hair fall.
Here are some techniques to reverse telogen effluvium:
1. Exercising reverses telogen effluvium and controls hair fall
Exercise releases endorphins – happy hormones. It would help if you had more endorphins than cortisol.
2. Talking about stress controls hair fall & reverses telogen effluvium
Talk about whatever is stressing you out. You could talk to friends, family, or even a therapist. This way, if you are reeling in stress, they can share the burden or even have your back.
3. Meeting nutritional needs reverses the telogen effluvium to control hair fall.
4. Mindfulness reverses telogen effluvium
Stress and anxiety can often lead us into a downwards spiral and overthinking. It releases more cortisol in your body. More cortisol means more hair fall. Mindfulness reduces stress by focusing on awareness, focus, acceptance, and observation.
5. Meditation reverses telogen effluvium
Meditation can put your mind and body in a deep state of relaxation. You could either start your day with meditation or take short meditation breaks throughout the day to keep your stress in check.
6. Mild shampoos reverse the telogen effluvium
Telogen effluvium already makes your hair weak, so it's best to protect your hair from harsh chemicals. Opt for mild shampoos like sulfate-free shampoos and silicone-free conditioners. Here is a list of 5 toxic ingredients you want to avoid.
Signs you're recovering from telogen effluvium
Hair growth is a sign that you are recovering from telogen effluvium:
You will know that you're recovering when you start noticing new hair growth. Hair fall control during telogen effluvium can happen in a year, usually without medication.
Thicker hair shows that you have started recovering from telogen effluvium:
While recovering from telogen effluvium, you will notice that the remainder of your hair that hasn't shed off is now becoming thicker and slowly gaining its volume.
- Jo Lewin R.N., April 2018; Is telogen effluvium reversible?-https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321590
- Shashikant Malkud, September 2015; Telogen Effluvium: A Review- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4606321/
- Harvard Medical School, April, 2019; Telogen Effluvium- https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/telogen-effluvium-a-to-z