Spent one too many nights at the office getting that project done? Cut out on your leisure time to run errands all week? You might not notice it initially, but all of this extra stress will make your body act out pretty soon. And the first red flag will be your beautiful hair falling off in droves when you least expect it to.
But why is stress so impactful for our hair’s integrity? Is stress related to hair loss? And how do I know that I’m not just shedding naturally? More than that, what can I possibly do to grow it back? Let’s find out the answers together:
- Hair Loss vs. Shedding
- Types of Stress-Induced Hair Loss
- How Long Does Stress-Induced Hair Loss Last?
- How to Help Your Hair Grow Back
Hair Loss vs. Shedding
Losing some hair strands is a normal thing – it’s called shedding, and it is a part of a cycle that hair goes through for regeneration. On average, people have about 100,000 hairs and lose around 100 daily. Many factors contribute to excessive hair shedding periods, such as stress, hormonal changes, aging, and so on (factors that can also lead to hair loss). Fortunately, it’s not that big of an issue.
Hair loss, on the other hand, can happen both because of internal and external factors and it prevents the hair from growing, disturbing the phases in the hair growth cycle:
- The anagen phase – may last for years, and it’s the time when the hair actively grows.
- The catagen phase – lasts for approximately 10 days, while the hair grows very slowly and separates from the follicle, serving as a kind of transition to the next phases.
- The telogen phase – lasts around 3 months, and it’s the time when the hairs neither grow nor fall, and new hairs form in the hair follicle.
- The exogen phase – shedding time, which can last up to 5 months. This is when the separated hairs are shed, usually helped by washing and detangling, and you're experiencing what may look like hair loss. Most scientists consider the telogen and the exogen the same phase, which is why you might find studies that say there are only three phases and others that count four.
Hair may begin to fall out excessively without time for regeneration when this cycle is disturbed. It can manifest by gradual or sudden thinning of hair or the appearance of bald patches, and while it can affect the whole body, it mostly affects the scalp.
Types of Stress-Induced Hair Loss
Stress is a cause of many of our health problems because it disrupts the body's hormones. Hair loss is just one of the few instances where stress plays a major part. But there is something to note: stress will most likely cause excessive hair shedding rather than triggering hair loss since the latter is a medical condition, but people commonly mistake one for the other.
That being said, we have outlined the three main types of hair loss commonly associated with stress:
Telogen Effluvium occurs when many hairs fall out during the shedding phase without new hairs growing in their place, from the same hair follicles. It does not lead to baldness, but you can lose a worrying amount of strands, the remaining ones appearing weakened and thin. This type of hair loss may be triggered by major episodes of stress, illnesses, surgery, iron deficiency, certain medication, and it can last up to years in some cases, though typically the hair grows back without any external help after six months.
This is an autoimmune condition that can be triggered by stress, among other factors. The immune system attacks the hair follicles, leading to excessive hair loss and stunted hair growth. This disorder can affect both adults and children, and it usually manifests itself suddenly, without any accompanying symptoms. Thankfully, Alopecia Areata can be treated, just like most other hair conditions.
This condition is a good example of how stress is related to hair loss. Individuals affected by trichotillomania pull out their own hair, usually as a way to deal with stress and other negative events. When this behavior stops, hair can return to normal, but if this has been going on for years, the hair loss can, unfortunately, be permanent.
How Long Does Stress-Induced Hair Loss Last?
It’s difficult to indicate an exact amount of time without an actual medical examination through which you can determine exactly why your hair has been falling out and how to treat it.
In the case of trichotillomania, hair can begin regrowing as soon as the hair-pulling stops. But for the other two conditions mainly caused by emotional stress, hair may start growing after going through some kind of treatment.
It’s safe to assume, however, that while the hair loss itself won’t last long, it will take at least several months until you start noticing any significant changes. After all, it takes unaffected hair around three years to complete the active growing phase.
How to Help Your Hair Grow Back
As we’ve seen, certain conditions do not necessarily lead to baldness, so you can regrow your hair and strengthen your hair follicles after suffering from an upsetting episode of hair loss. To give your beautiful hair a boost, here are a few steps to follow:
- Try over-the-counter treatments – minoxidil is the most common OTC medication that comes in the form of creams, foams and it prolongs the anagen phase.
- Home-made masks – there are several herbs and oils famous for their hair-growing properties. Some of these are rosemary essential oil, castor oil, onion black seed oil, olive and coconut oil, aloe vera, etc. You can try making some masks for your scalp and hair to boost healthy hair growth. There is no need for complicated treatments; in the case of oils, for example, you can use them to gently massage your scalp for several minutes, leave it for about half an hour and then continue your usual washing routine.
- Control your stress levels – try taking at least one day off your week so that you can take care of yourself. Essential oils are commonly used for managing stress: they can be inhaled either directly or by using a humidifier, used (diluted) on the skin, or incorporated in different products. You can also incorporate a healthy diet and some exercise into your daily routine. While these remedies act slowly, your future self will be very grateful.
- Change your hair care routine – invest in high quality products. Since your hair has been sensitized, it does not need further damage caused by harmful chemicals like sulfates and parabens. Look for products enriched with good oils, vitamins, and healthy minerals to boost hair growth and prevent excessive hair loss, but also to seal the moisture in your hair and strengthen it.
Bringing Your Hair Back to Life
You now know what your hair needs to begin its revitalization process after what felt like a never-ending period of stress, worry, and anxiety. And you no longer have to be scared when you start shedding naturally – science is neat when you understand exactly how it works, isn’t it?
Most of all, apply the tips we’ve outlined above, and you will start noticing the changes in your hair’s reborn vitality sooner than you might think!
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