Does Stress Cause Hair Loss | Jae Pak MD

- Reviewed by: Dr. Jae Pak, M.D.

Does Stress Cause Hair Loss | Jae Pak MD

Stress is, unfortunately, an inevitable part of our lives. It’s a silent adversary that’s lurking behind every corner and can manifest in various ways that are harmful to your health. For some people, stress is the reason that they’re experiencing hair loss

Understanding the nature of stress and its impact on hair health is the first step toward effective management and potential hair regrowth. If you’re constantly dealing with stress and starting to notice thinning hair, more strands of hair on your comb, or a receding hairline, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. 

At Jae Pak M.D., we’ve seen every cause of hair loss imaginable, from wearing hats to taking steroids and even stress-induced hair loss. In this article, we’ll talk about how the various stressors in your life might contribute to your hair loss and how you can regain what you’ve lost.

How Does Stress Affect the Body?

Stress, a universal human experience, is our body’s natural response to threats or challenges. It triggers the “fight or flight” response, a survival mechanism that prepares the body to either confront or flee from potential harm. This response releases a surge of stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine into the body.

Stress can be classified into different types, each with its unique characteristics and impacts on the body:

  • Acute Stress: A short-term response to immediate threats or stressors, like narrowly avoiding a car accident. 
  • Chronic Stress: Often the most harmful type, this is long-term and persistent, stemming from ongoing situations such as a high-pressure job or a challenging relationship.
  • Traumatic Stress: A response to a specific stressful event of an exceptionally threatening or catastrophic nature, such as a natural disaster, severe accident, or the death of a loved one

The physiological effects of these types of stress on the body are wide-ranging and can include:

  • Increased Heart Rate and Blood Pressure: This immediate response prepares the body for action by increasing blood flow to essential areas.
  • Suppressed Immune System: Chronic stress can weaken the immune system over time, making the body more susceptible to illnesses.
  • Digestive Issues: Stress can affect the functioning of the digestive system, leading to problems like stomach aches, constipation, or diarrhea.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Stress can interfere with sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or other sleep disorders.
  • Changes in Mood and Behavior: Emotional stress can contribute to anxiety, depression, and changes in behavior.
  • Weight Loss or Weight Gain: Chronic stress can lead to a loss of appetite or changes in eating behaviors that can cause unexpected weight loss or weight gain

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Can Stress Actually Cause Hair Loss?

Stress, whether physical or emotional, can indeed be a significant contributor to hair loss. As we mentioned earlier, stress can have a profound impact on many of the body’s systems, and that includes the intricate cycle of new hair growth

The traditional hair growth cycle consists of four stages:

    • The Anagen Phase: This is the active growth phase of hair follicles where cells in the root of the hair divide rapidly to add to the hair shaft and cause healthy hair to grow. This phase can last anywhere between two and seven years. 
  • The Catagen Phase: This is a short transitional phase that usually lasts around 10 days. During this phase, the hair follicle shrinks and detaches from the dermal papilla, which supplies it with essential nutrients. 
  • The Telogen Phase: This is the resting phase of hair growth as the hair will stop growing but stay attached to the follicle. Normally, this phase will last about three months.
  • The Exogen Phase: This is the shedding phase that occurs once the resting hair has reached the end of its life. Once the hair falls out, the follicle will return to the anagen phase, and the cycle starts anew. 

Every individual hair follicle on your head is in its own stage of the growth cycle at any given time. That’s why losing between 50 and 100 hairs daily is completely normal. However, stress can disrupt this delicate process and contribute to a condition known as telogen effluvium

Telogen effluvium can result in a significant number of hair follicles being prematurely pushed into the telogen (resting phase) of the hair growth cycle. Within a few months, these hairs will transition into the exogen phase and fall out. The sudden shift for these hair follicles typically follows a particularly stressful event and can often be temporary, with new hair growth resuming once the stressor is eliminated. 

Telogen effluvium is arguably the most direct type of hair loss that involves stress. However, there are a few other types of hair loss that stress is associated with: 

    • Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that causes the immune system to attack the hair follicles and often results in excessive hair shedding. While the exact cause of alopecia areata remains unknown, stress is linked to this condition and is considered a potential trigger.
  • Trichotillomania is a mental health condition that’s characterized by compulsive hair-pulling that results in patchy hair loss. Individuals with this condition start to physically pull out the hair from their scalp, eyebrows, or other areas of the body in response to feelings of stress or anxiety.

How Can You Prevent Stress-Related Hair Loss?

Many people seek quick solutions to this issue, including over-the-counter hair loss remedies. While options like this can help over time, it’s best to take a holistic approach that focuses on your hair and overall well-being

Here are a few preventative measures that you can take to prevent stress-related hair loss:

Manage Stress

Stress management is an important part of preventing hair loss. Engage in stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, or deep-breathing exercises. 

These practices can foster a sense of calm and tranquility, positively impacting your overall health, including the health of your hair. Regular practice can help you manage your stress levels more effectively, reducing the likelihood of stress-related hair loss.

Regular Exercise

Regular physical activity helps reduce stress levels and promotes healthier hair growth by improving blood circulation. Whether it’s a brisk walk in the park, a rigorous gym workout, or a fun dance class, find an activity you enjoy and incorporate it into your routine. Regular exercise can also help balance your hormone levels, further reducing the risk of hair loss.

Healthy Diet

A balanced diet, rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein, is essential for hair health. Nutritional deficiencies can exacerbate hair loss, so ensure your diet includes nutrients known to benefit hair health, such as iron, vitamin D, B vitamins, and zinc. If necessary, consider adding nutritional supplements to your diet for additional support. A well-balanced diet can strengthen your hair follicles, promoting healthier and stronger hair growth.

Adequate Sleep

Quality sleep is essential for the body’s overall health and stress management. Make sure you’re getting enough rest each night to allow your body to recover and rejuvenate, thereby promoting healthier hair growth. A good night’s sleep can help regulate your body’s stress hormone levels, reducing the risk of stress-induced hair loss.

Quit Smoking

Tobacco use, often a go-to for many during stressful times, has numerous harmful side effects, including impairing hair health and growth. If you’re a smoker, consider seeking help to quit. The benefits to your overall health and your hair will be substantial. Quitting smoking can improve your circulation, promoting healthier hair growth.

Avoid Tight Hairstyles

Hairstyles that pull tightly on the hair, such as ponytails or braids, can cause stress to the hair follicles and potentially lead to hair loss. Opt for loose styles that don’t put unnecessary tension on your hair. Changing your hairstyle can significantly reduce the physical stress on your hair follicles, preventing hair loss.

Seek Professional Help

If stress is overwhelming and causing physical symptoms like hair loss, consider speaking with a mental health professional. They can provide strategies and treatments to effectively manage stress. Seeking professional help can equip you with the tools to manage your stress levels more effectively, reducing the impact of stress on your hair health.

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Schedule a consultation with Dr. Jae Pak today.

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Unraveling the Tangle of Stress and Hair Loss 

Understanding the connection between stress and hair loss is the first step toward effectively managing this issue. Stress can manifest in various ways, and when it leads to hair loss, it can significantly impact your self-esteem and overall well-being.

If you’re noticing increased hair shedding, thinning hair, or bald patches and suspect that stress might be the culprit, it’s essential to seek professional help. Dr. Jae Pak, a renowned expert in the field of hair restoration, can provide a comprehensive evaluation and guide you toward the most appropriate treatment options.

At Jae Pak M.D., we offer a wide array of hair restoration techniques tailored to your specific needs. We’re committed to helping you regain not just your hair but your confidence as well. These procedures utilize your own hair, ensuring that the results are natural-looking and permanent.

Hair restoration can be a tough journey for some, but with Dr. Jae Pak’s expertise and the dedicated team at Jae Pak M.D., you can face it with confidence. Schedule a consultation today to start your path towards recovery and regain control over your hair health.



Stress: Signs, Symptoms, Management & Prevention | Cleveland Clinic

Stress Symptoms: Effects on Your Body and Behavior | Mayo Clinic

How Stress Causes Hair Loss | National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Integrative and Mechanistic Approach to the Hair Growth Cycle and Hair Loss | PMC

Telogen Effluvium: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Regrowth | Cleveland Clinic

Psychological Stress-Induced Pathogenesis of Alopecia Areata: Autoimmune and Apoptotic Pathways | PMC

Trichotillomania (Hair-Pulling Disorder) – Symptoms and Causes | Mayo Clinic

Involvement of Mechanical Stress in Androgenetic Alopecia | PMC

Does Exercise Affect Hair Growth? | Live Science

The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review | PMC

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