Tag Archive for: Stress

Does Stress Cause Hair Loss?

“I was so stressed I was losing my hair.” 

“All these bills have me pulling out my hair.” 

“This new job has my hair falling out.”

People often joke around about how stress causes hair loss, but for many people, it’s no laughing matter. Stress can cause you to lose hair. And when you’re trying to keep as much hair on your head as possible, managing stress becomes a top priority. 

Stress: The Good and the Bad

When you feel your heart rate rise because you’re running late or you start to sweat during a work presentation, what you’re feeling is stress. This emotional and physical tension is part of the body’s natural response to potentially dangerous or new situations. 

Known as the body’s stress response or the “fight-or-flight” response, stress can be positive. This emotion keeps you alert and driven, pushing the body to work harder and think faster. Stress works well for short periods, giving you enough energy to power through a challenging event. Long-term (chronic) stress, however, compromises your well-being – and may cause you to lose your hair. (01)

The Physiological and Psychological Effects of Chronic Stress

The stress response comes from your body’s autonomic nervous system, the same system responsible for your heart rate, vision changes, blood pressure, and breathing. 

During a stressful situation, you may experience the following: 

  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Faster breathing
  • Sweating
  • Tremors

With chronic stress, you can see these additional symptoms: 

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach upset

Chronic stress can lead to health problems like high blood pressure, skin conditions, obesity, and heart disease. (01)

Why Stress Causes Hair Loss

To understand why stress causes hair loss, you first need to know the basics of hair growth. Hair grows in a cyclical pattern, with new hair growth to replace older hair once it falls out. Every healthy strand of hair typically grows in three primary stages: 

  • Anagen Phase
  • Catagen Phase
  • Telogen Phase

Anagen Phase 

The anagen phase is also known as the “Growth Phase.” During this phase, a strand of hair grows from the hair follicle. As it grows, sebaceous glands condition and lubricates the hair. Hair grows at an average rate of six inches a year for most people. At any given time, about 80% of hair is in the anagen phase. This phase of rapid growth usually lasts about 2 to 8 years. 

Catagen Phase 

Unlike the anagen phase, the catagen phase lasts only briefly. The catagen phase lasts about ten days, though some people may have hair that remains in the catagen phase for up to 4 weeks. This phase accounts for about 1 to 2 percent of a person’s hair. It is at this point that growth stops, and the hair follicle shuts down to rest. (02

Telogen Phase

Hair falls out of the follicle during the telogen phase. The telogen phase is aptly named the “resting phase” because the hair follicle shuts down for a short rest. During this phase, the follicles no longer supply nutrients, which causes the air to fall out. 

The hair that’s lost is usually hairs that are at the very tail end of the telogen phase, called the exogen phase. Approximately 15% of hair is in the telogen phase at any given time. The scalp sheds an average of 100 hairs a day. With about 100,000 hair follicles on the scalp, the daily loss of 100 hairs is negligible. (03)

Hair Loss and Stress 

Hair growth is determined by the stem cells within the follicles. Chronic stress affects the adrenal glands. A recent study published in the journal Nature– with support from the NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), showed how the hormone corticosterone is impacted by the adrenal glands, which respond to stress. (04

Stress increases corticosterone levels. Corticosterone prevents the stem cells within hair follicles from activating hair growth. Instead, hair follicles remain in an extended resting phase – in the telogen phase. 

Telogen Effluvium

Telogen effluvium is the primary condition responsible for hair loss during stress. Stress can cause a greater than usual amount of hair to suddenly shift to the telogen phase all at once. During telogen effluvium, many strands stop growing, and hair follicles become dormant. Fortunately, hair typically regrows within 6 to 9 months. (05)

Signs of Telogen Effluvium 

With telogen effluvium, hair loss is often abrupt. However, hair loss may begin only a few months after experiencing significant stress. Hair follicles prematurely enter the telogen phase, and the follicles may take up to 3 months to start regrowing hair. 

Unlike other hair conditions, like alopecia areata, the hair loss pattern typically experienced by individuals with telogen effluvium is diffuse hair loss. In other diagnoses like female pattern hair loss or alopecia areata, hair falls off in a patchy pattern, or they may experience a widening of the hair part. In telogen effluvium, hair loss occurs throughout the head resulting in an overall thinning rather than bald spots. (05)

Other Hair Loss Conditions Caused by Stress

Telogen effluvium is the second most common type of hair loss for men and women, but it’s not the only hair loss condition due to stress. Chronic stress may also indirectly cause the following conditions:

Alopecia Areata

Although alopecia areata (AA) is an autoimmune disease, It results in hair loss. In alopecia areata, the immune system mistakenly targets hair follicles, causing patchy hair loss throughout the scalp. Stress may be a trigger for the immune sustain, resulting in further hair loss. There’s no cure for AA, but some prescription hair medications can help manage hair loss. (06)

Trichotillomania

During a bout of trichotillomania, known as “hair pulling disorder,” an individual may feel compelled to pull or tug at their hair. People with trichotillomania have episodes of the disorder during times of significant stress. Trichotillomania causes patches of bald areas where the hair pulling occurred. (07)

Does stress cause male pattern baldness? 

Male pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia, is not caused by stress. The condition is caused by genetics. Unlike telogen effluvium, androgenic alopecia is not temporary. With early treatment, however, individuals with androgenic alopecia can slow hair loss or regrow hair. 

In general, hair loss can be caused by a variety of factors. Finding the reason for your hair loss is an important step in addressing the issue. Our hair specialists at Happy Head are licensed dermatologists who can help you determine the best approach to your hair loss. Contact us to learn what Happy Head can do for you.

Resources: 

(01) https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003211.htm

(02) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499948/

(03) https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejm199908123410706

(04) https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/how-stress-causes-hair-loss

(05) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4606321/

(06) https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/alopecia-areata

(07) https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/trichotillomania

REJUVENAGING® with Dr. Ron Kaiser Podcast Featuring Dr. Ben Behnam

 

Dr. Ben Behnam was recently invited to participate in the inspirational podcast Rejuvenaging, hosted by Dr. Ron Kaiser.  Dr. Kaiser is a psychologist, keynote and TEDx speaker, and author of the triple award-winning book Rejuvenating the Art and Science of Getting Older with Enthusiasm.  He likes to think of his podcast as a mental gym, a place for information about wellness, positive psychology, and, what he likes to call, goal-achieving psychology.  During the podcast, Dr. Ben and Dr. Kaiser discussed healthy ways to cope with hair loss, from both a physical and psychological perspective.  If you didn’t get a chance to tune in, here are some highlights that you won’t want to miss.  

The First Step in Coping with Hair Loss is Realizing that You’re Not Alone

Whether you’re male or female, if you’re in life’s second half-century, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re experiencing some type of hair loss.  According to American Hair Loss Association, 85 percent of men and 50 percent of women lose a significant amount of hair by the age of 50.  So when you look at the numbers, you’ll find that most people are experiencing some sort of hair loss by age 50. 

Dr. Ben defines hair loss in two ways:  thinning and balding.  When someone’s hair is thinning, you can see their scalp through the remaining hair.  When people are balding, hair is completely missing, and you can see their heads.  

Female Hair Loss No Longer Carries a Stigma

A couple of years ago, no one talked much about female hair loss. It was taboo. But now, over 50 percent of Dr. Ben’s patients are women with hair loss issues. Hair loss is becoming much more accepted in society.  When women talk about their hair loss, it’s good because putting the conversation out there benefits both men and women.  

It’s Important to Identify the Underlying Reason for Your Hair Loss

There are different reasons why people lose their hair.  Three common reasons include nutritional deficiencies, anxiety, and genetics.  Treating hair loss means understanding the cause.  

Common nutritional deficiencies Dr. Ben often finds in his patients are low Vitamin D, iron, and biotin.  Those vitamins are necessary for hair growth.  Vegetarians who don’t get enough protein in their diets also tend to experience issues with hair loss.  When Dr. Ben finds that patients are lacking vitamins or protein, he supplements their diets with additional proteins and collagen. He also adds Vitamin D and iron.  

Many times, Dr. Ben’s patients have already seen another doctor and are on medication for hair loss, but their hair still isn’t growing.  By the time they go to him, he doesn’t need to add another medication.  He’s just helping with lifestyle changes, so the medication works better.  Without the proper foundation, hair loss medication can’t work.  What you eat affects how you look.    

Hair Loss and Mental Health are Closely Intertwined

Anxiety can lead to hair loss in a few different ways.   One, when people are anxious, they are more likely to pull on their hair.  Physical manipulation will lead to more hair loss. Unfortunately, patients can also experience a lot of different stressful situations that can lead to hair loss.   One example is an 18-year-old patient with alopecia who did not go on birth control and could not use condoms for religious reasons.  She got pregnant and had to make difficult choices.  She hid her pregnancy from her parents and experienced great stress from the ordeal.  In situations like this, where stress is a hair loss trigger, Dr. Ben offers support by giving referrals to a therapist.  

Diagnosing Hair Loss Requires a Specialist

When someone experiences alopecia, Dr. Ben uses a holistic approach to treatment.  He looks at mental status, home life, stress levels, metabolic, and other health issues.  He believes that he should look at everything when he’s making a diagnosis and developing a treatment plan.  

Seventy to 80 percent of men are relatively easy to diagnose.  They don’t have nutritional deficiencies, mental issues, or any factors that would cause alopecia. They have clear-cut cases of male pattern hair loss.  But then there’s that 20 percent that doesn’t fall into that category.  Women are also a bit more challenging to diagnose.  Every case is different, and he believes that you have to evaluate each case individually.

People with Androgenetic Alopecia Can Regrow Their Hair

Depending upon the cause of your hair loss, treatment is available to help regrow your hair. People who experience male and female pattern hair loss tend to get good results with available medications.  Medications used include Finasteride, which is Propecia, a prostate medication that’s used to block testosterone.  Dr. Ben has seen excellent results with patients who use Finasteride.  Rogaine, which is a topical product sold over the counter, is also called Minoxidil.  Minoxidil is an oral medication used to control high blood pressure.  Since Minoxidil dilates the blood vessels, more oxygen reaches the scalp and causes hair growth.  

Finasteride, Minoxidil, and other hair loss treatments take about 6 months to start seeing results.

You Don’t Have to Experience Side Effects Associated with Oral Hair Loss Medications

One of the side effects of Propecia is erectile dysfunction.  So, a couple of years ago, Dr. Ben and Dr. Sean developed a Finasteride alternative.  It’s a topical Finasteride, meaning that you’re not ingesting it.  Clinical studies have proven that topical Finasteride has a lower risk of sexual side effects, yet it is still effective.  The dermatologists were quite excited about the discovery, so they developed Happy Head, their own formula of topical Finasteride combined with prescription-grade Minoxidil.  They tested Happy Head with patients and found that patients who experienced sexual side effects with oral Finasteride did not have the same side effects with the topical.  The product was researched for two years before being launched nationwide.  

It’s Time to Get Rid of the One Size Fits All Mentality When it Comes to Hair Loss

Dr. Ben and Dr. Sean set out to change the hair loss field.  After two years of launching Happy Head, it’s still the only company in the U.S. with a customizable prescription hair loss solution that’s available nationwide.  Most products on the market are mass-produced.  With Happy Head, however, patients can change the concentrations of ingredients, remove ingredients, and replace ingredients.  For example, the change can easily be made if you need .25 percent Finasteride rather than one percent.  A month later, if the .25 percent isn’t strong enough, the dose can be increased.  Traditional corporate thinking is to produce in large volumes to reduce cost.  With Happy Head, the needs of individuals are unique, so the product is customized to meet those individual needs. 

Fast, Easy Access to Prescription Hair Loss Treatments is Available

Happy Head is a telemedicine website with licensed doctors and pharmacies in every state.  It works by going on the Happy Head website to submit photos and complete a medical questionnaire.  The process takes about five minutes.  Within 24 hours, a doctor reviews the information you provided and writes a prescription.  You receive a bottle in three days.  There isn’t a charge for the consultation.  If the doctor who reviews your case determines that you’re not a candidate, your money is refunded.  

If you’re over 50 and experiencing hair loss, you’re not alone.  Eating well, managing stress, and living as healthy of a lifestyle as possible all contribute to the quality of your hair.  If you are experiencing male or female pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia), medications are available to help regrow your hair.  Simply visit happyhead.com and complete a brief survey.  A licensed dermatologist will review your case and determine whether you are a candidate for prescription hair loss medication.