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Does Stress Cause Hair Loss?

7 mins

Rahul Bhatia

We answer the most pressing question – does stress cause hair loss – in this complete guide about stress-induced hair loss, its causes, symptoms, and solutions.

If you have been stressed and also experiencing unexpected hair loss, you may find yourself wondering, ‘does stress cause hair loss?’. The short answer is yes, stress can cause hair loss. 

While stress can directly cause hair loss, it can also cause several other health problems that may lead to hair loss due to medication or physical inflammation. 

To understand if your hair loss is caused by stress or another underlying condition is causing it, it’s important to understand how hair loss from stress happens.

In this article, we’ll first understand the types of stress-induced hair loss you may face. Then, we’ll dive deeper into the most common type – telogen effluvium. And finally, we’ll look at how you can stop or reverse hair loss from stress!

Table of Contents:

  • Does stress cause hair loss?
  • Types of stress-induced hair loss
  • Telogen effluvium
  • Alopecia areata
  • Trichotillomania
  • What hair loss from stress looks like
  • Characteristics of telogen effluvium
  • Sudden onset
  • Diffuse thinning
  • Can hair loss from stress grow back?
  • Can you prevent telogen effluvium?
  • How do you stop hair loss from stress?
  • Stress management
  • Dietary changes
  • Vitamin supplements
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Topical treatments

Does stress cause hair loss?

Hair loss is normal and everyone loses a certain number of strands every day. It’s even considered normal to lose up to 100 strands of hair while brushing or washing your hair. However, if your hairbrush has been filling up with an alarmingly high number of broken strands, you may be losing hair due to stress. 

You may have heard that stress causes severe hair fall or thinning of hair, and it’s not a myth. Physical stress such as an accident, illness, or injury can cause temporary hair loss. 

Emotional or mental stress such as problems at work, financial debt or burdens, death of a loved one can all lead to stress-induced hair loss. Even a significant event such as moving to a new place can cause physical and emotional stress, leading to temporary hair loss. 

Types of stress-induced hair loss

Hair loss itself is divided into several types and stress-induced hair loss is just one of them. While other types of hair loss have to do with heredity, medication, or illness, a stress-induced loss can present itself in three most common ways.

Telogen effluvium

On average, humans have 100,000 hair follicles on their scalps and hair growth happens in four distinct phases

They are as follows:

  • Anagen: this is the growth phase where your hair starts growing from the follicle. This phase lasts anywhere from two to seven years and your hair can grow up to six inches each year.
  • Catagen: this is the second phase where the follicle begins shrinking. At this point, your full-grown hair detaches from its follicle, which means it stops growing since it’s not receiving nutrition from your body anymore.
  • Telogen: this is the third phase that occurs approximately two weeks after the catagen phase and is also known as the “resting” phase. Your hair follicles rest for up to three months.
  • Exogen: in this phase, the hair follicle starts growing new hair, causing the old one to fall out. All hair loss, including everyday loss that is considered normal, happens when your hair is in this phase. 

Stress can cause several follicles to enter the telogen phase at once and this is known as telogen effluvium. Severe hair loss occurs when too many of your hair follicles enter the telogen phase and move on to the exogen phase at once. 

Even a single stressful event is enough to cause this and you will suddenly notice excessive hair fall after a few weeks.

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is an auto-immune disorder that causes the body to attack its hair follicles. This type of hair loss can occur on the scalp as well as the rest of your body. 

Stress can trigger this disorder in your body and lead to severe hair loss of this kind. While hair sometimes grows back on its own, alopecia areata may require medical treatment, too.

Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania, also known as the hair-pulling disorder, is a psychological disorder in which people may pull out their hair from various parts of the body. It is characterized by an uncontrollable urge to pull hair from your head or other areas of your body. 

Trichotillomania is a type of impulsive behavior disorder.

You may notice that you pull out your hair without thinking about it, such as when you're restless or bored. 

You may also unconsciously do it for a more deliberate reason, such as to physically release tension and negative feelings. Pulling of hair from the head, brows, and lashes is common. This might lead to further stress, continuing the disorder's cycle.

Trichotillomania is a condition that most commonly affects preteens that can last lifelong. Although the causes of trichotillomania are unknown, evidence shows that it may be hereditary. Seeking help from a doctor might help if you’re suffering from this condition.

stress, hair loss

What hair loss from stress looks like

While trichotillomania might seem like the worst of all the three types of stress-induced hair loss we saw above, telogen effluvium is actually the most common. 

In this condition, you may not even notice that your hair is shedding due to stress until much later. 

So, let’s understand what telogen effluvium looks like.

Characteristics of telogen effluvium

Since telogen effluvium occurs due to the natural hair growth cycle, it may be hard to identify whether you’re experiencing hair fall due to this condition or if it’s a normal loss. However, two telling factors can point to telogen effluvium. 

Let’s understand both of them.

Sudden onset

The onset of hair loss due to this condition is always sudden or abrupt. You may not be able to point to a recent cause or incident that triggered the massive amount of hair loss. 

The sudden development of hair loss is a symptom of telogen effluvium, but there's a catch. 

Hair loss normally doesn't start for another three months following the trigger event.

Why? 

When hair follicles reach the telogen phase prematurely, the cycle takes roughly three months to complete and the hair sheds.

If you look back about three months and realize that you had been through a stressful incident then your hair loss could be due to this condition.

Telogen effluvium can be triggered by a variety of factors, including stress, drugs, severe sickness, and childbirth.

Diffuse thinning

The hair loss linked to telogen effluvium is of a "diffuse" pattern. 

Patchy hair loss or a broadening of the parting line are signs of alopecia areata or pattern baldness, respectively. 

A thinner ponytail or a dramatic increase in fallen hair strands in the shower, on the bed, or around the home are signs of telogen effluvium. About 100 hairs are shed every day on average, however, this quantity varies depending on the individual and hair care routines. 

While up to 50% of scalp hair might be lost during telogen effluvium, this condition does not result in full baldness, which is comforting.

Can hair loss from stress grow back?

The other point of comfort about telogen effluvium is that it’s not permanent. 

The hair loss is just temporary, and it will eventually recover to its pre-effluvium volume, but it is a long process. It can take months (though usually less than six) for the shedding to subside. 

It can take months or years after that for the lost hair to regrow at a slow rate of about half an inch per month. 

Hair may not entirely recover to its original density in some cases. For one thing, telogen effluvium can reveal other forms of long-term baldness (like male or female pattern). 

Additionally, total hair density is predicted to decline with age, and telogen effluvium could be persistent and linger for years in certain people (typically women in their 30s and 60s).

Can you prevent telogen effluvium?

Sadly, there is no established technique to prevent or cure telogen effluvium, but it will usually go away on its own. 

However, there are some things you can do to maintain your hair's general health and keep them from falling out. 

How do you stop hair loss from stress?

If you have identified that the hair loss you’re experiencing is due to stress and falls under telogen effluvium, there are a few things you can do to help improve your condition. 

Stress management

Learning to successfully manage your levels of stress will help you lower your chance of hair loss in the future. Of course, saying it is usually simpler than doing it. 

You may have to try a few different stress-reduction strategies before you find one that works for you. 

Here are a few simple things you can do at home:

  • Light exercise: you can go for a light walk, do some simple hoe workout routines, take a dance class, or find another lightweight activity to do. Any of them will help you relax and release stress from your body. 
  • Take up a hobby: doing something every day that you enjoy helps bring down levels of stress drastically. You can take up an art project, gardening, a type of performing art, or even volunteer in your community or a cause you believe in. 
  • Journaling: writing down your thoughts can help you ease up and remove unwanted thoughts from your mind. There are several types of maintaining a journal. You can write in bullets or long-hand content that goes on for pages. You can do it first thing in the morning or last thing before going to bed. You can find any method that you’re comfortable with and practice it every day.
  • Yoga, meditation, and breath work: engaging in mindfulness through yoga, meditation, and breath work is a very effective way of bringing your focus back to the present. It helps in letting go of worries and frustration. It also increases circulation in the body and helps alleviate stress. 
  • Lighting a candle or burning an essential oil while doing this can provide an additional calming effect.

Dietary changes

The food you consume has a direct effect on your hair growth and quality. Ensure that you consume enough proteins, vitamins, and iron as part of your diet. You can add nuts, leafy vegetables, and pulses to your diet to improve your overall hair health. 

Vitamin supplements

You may benefit from taking vitamin supplements if you’re not able to ingest nutrients naturally. A blood test can help you find out if any of your nutrient levels are low. If you’re deficient in one or more areas, your doctor may prescribe a daily multivitamin supplement.

Lifestyle changes

In case of stress-induced hair fall, the most beneficial thing you can do is make changes to your lifestyle to manage your stress levels. Something as simple as aligning your sleep cycle to your body’s circadian rhythm can also help lower stress levels and improve your overall well-being.

Topical treatments

While the above remedies will help you manage stress so you don’t experience telogen effluvium for a prolonged period, it’s also important to provide nourishment to your scalp and hair. 

Topical treatments including natural hair oils, shampoos, hair masks, conditioners, and leave-in treatments are all good for this. 

For severe hair fall, the WOW Skin Science Onion Black Seed Hair Oil is especially helpful. It can help your hair grow back faster and healthier while also deeply nourishing your scalp and strands.

onion seed hair oil, wow hair oil

You can also try the WOW Skin Science Red Onion Black Seed Oil Hair Mask to strengthen your hair, add volume to it, repair weak, limp strands, and add shine to it.

While hair fall from stress is not pleasant, it is not something that cannot be fixed. So be sure to get that stress management down, and to use only natural high-quality hair care products like the ones WOW Skin Science offers. 

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Rahul Bhatia

Rahul is the published author of "Heads Or Tails" and Quora writer with over 1.6 million views. He is a keen observer who enjoys the simple joys of life. He strongly believes true beauty is not how beautiful your face is but how beautiful your heart is.

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