Does Stress Cause Hair Loss?

Stress is an inevitable part of everyone’s lives. Women in particular have unique, steady stressors – juggling careers, education, children, partners, and of course, detailed beauty regimens!

Unfortunately, stress can have tremendous impacts on our physiology—not just our emotions.

Stress is the generic term for the biological event of cortisol – a hormone produced when we’re in stressful situation – releasing within our bodies.depo

Understanding how the body reacts to stress and the subsequent symptoms—such as stress-related hair loss—is crucial to mitigating it.

What Stress Does to Our Bodies

We all know the feeling—the hot face, the fast heartbeat, perhaps the body shaking, sweaty palms. This is cortisol, a steroid hormone, and it is flowing through the bloodstream when we are faced with uncomfortable situations or provoked. It’s supposed to get us moving.

Cortisol is pur fight-or-flight signal. Almost every living organism has some fight-or-flight reaction that indicates an immediate action needs to be taken in the midst of danger.

The paradigm shifts for humans, though. We still have this steroid hormone in the body’s chemical makeup, yet we rarely fight or flee—humans have found other ways to deal with conflict.

The issue today is to learn how to manage this profound biochemical reaction and not let stress cause significant health and emotional problems to our bodies.

Cortisol is supposed to tap into our blood glucose reserves to give us the energy to throw some punches or sprint. It’s a pretty impressive mechanism.

When bodies are at a stand-still and don’t complete this process, the system thinks it is in shock. Nervous shock can cause telogen effluvium (TE) or temporary hair loss. The good news, it is usually reversible.

Does Stress Cause Hair Loss: What is Telogen Effluvium

Trauma, stress, or shock is causes telogen effluvium (TE). Hair loss stress, or TE, is a unique type of female hair loss. It also has a compounding effect.

The stress causes the hair loss, and the hair loss causes stress. This vicious cycle seems like an uphill battle for many. It’s important, though, to understand what TE is, and how to fix it.

The leading female hair cause, TE is when 70% of hair strands’ follicles are in a resting phase. A healthy scalp has 80-90% of its follicles in the andagen phase. Hair strands attach themselves to blood vessels during this part of the cycle and flourish.

TE looks like thinning hair—remember your hair is not technically growing at this point. This thinning hair can easily break off as well tear. Some women might even notice an unusual amount of hair coming out after brushing their hair—truly an unsettling sight.

When someone has TE it is usually all over the scalp, but can be more prevalent in some parts than others.

Stress and Hormones

Most women hear about the dreaded menopause or perimenopause. The body is experiencing hormonal decline affecting estrogen and testosterone levels.

On top of women not feeling like ourselves, we experience changes in hair, weight, and muscle mass, which results in more stress!

Findings from research show menopausal hair loss is due to a hormonal imbalance of reduced estrogen and progesterone.

Anyone who has experienced pregnancy can purport these hormones help hair grow faster and longer. They even help hair grow for more extended periods of time. When these hormones decrease, hair enters the telogen phase, growing much more slowly and becoming thinner.

Stress Can Combine with Other Causes of Hair Loss

The measures we take to handle our stress can also cause hair loss. Some people certainly need medication to treat anxiety and stress.

If you start to experience hair loss after starting a new medication, talk to your medical provider to learn more about female hair loss as potential side effect.

The combination of stress/anxiety plus medication could be the culprit. Even if on medication, it is so important to learn different techniques to break the cycle.

Nervous Habits and Stress

All the built-up energy stress produces makes people do some pretty interesting—perhaps unusual—things. Teeth-grinding, leg-shaking, finger-popping, and hair pulling are common habits people develop to alleviate stress.

These habits are bad, and anyone who experiences any type of unhealthy coping patterns should also continue reading to learn how to manage stress levels.

Hair-pulling, though, is damaging to the scalp and self-esteem. You can damage hair follicles one too many times and permanently kill the follicle. Built up over time, this results in a hole in your hair – don’t do it.

Stress Relief for the Mind, Body, and Soul….and Hair!

Create a safe space for the mind. When anxiety hits, the mind can go to some pretty dark visuals. Learn how to refocus thoughts to an enjoyable place that puts a smile on the face.

If you need a little help getting there, stimulating the senses—such as the olfactory senses—resignal the body that you are okay.

Aromatherapy is an excellent tool for stress relief. Many claim aromas from essential oils create positive moods. Diffusers come in a couple of forms, but the best ones are the candle and steam diffusers.

People light candles in ceremonies around the world to focus their minds and set intentions. The alluring light creates a hypnotic effect and soothes the senses.

Candle essential oil diffusers and essential oil burners release the pleasant scents through the contact with the heat of the flame.

Essential oil steam diffusers usually need an outlet. However there some that are entirely battery powered.

An essential oil steam diffuser requires a little water creating an aromatic mist. This one has the added benefit of coming with a great set of essential oils…and it’s made by a company that also makes essential-oils based hair loss products (check out my review of Art Naturals Shampoo here).

Each diffuser requires only a couple of drops of essential oils. It may seem like a slightly steep investment for tiny tiny bottles, but the oils last quite a long time.

Massage, massage, and more massage!

(Can you tell that I like massage??)

There’s another way to benefit from the health miracle of essential oils: you can also rub them into your body to release tense muscles.

Add 2-3 drops of an essential oil into a carrier oil and massage into whatever part of the body you wish.

A carrier oil is not the same as an essential. An example of a well-known carrier oil is olive oil.

Any vegetable oil can make an excellent vehicle for essential oils. Different types of vegetable oils have different nutrient benefits that act as botanical power for your skin.

Scalp treatments are a fantastic way to lower stress, apply topical vitamins to the scalp, and stimulate blood flow—what hair follicles really need to thrive.

Interesting carrier oils for scalp treatments are baobab oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and argan oil. You’ll need a good clarifying shampoo to remove the oil after the treatment is done. (Pro-tip: After massaging a nutrient-rich carrier oil into the scalp, wrap it in plastic and a towel for a steamy hot treatment.)

Wonderful stress-relieving essential oils are rose, lavender, patchouli, vanilla, and ylang-ylang. Combine any of these with our powerhouse hair loss oil, Rosemary, and you’ll smell amazing!

One fun way to determine which essential oil is best for you is to let your nose pick. Go to a health food or wellness store and inhale all the luscious aromas and see which one draws you the most. There is much evidence to support that our intuition plays a role in healing.

Yes, Really: More Massage.

Full-body massage has been shown to reduce cortisol levels in our bodies. If you are not already in the habit of receiving regular massage therapy, consider signing up for a monthly plan with a therapist or spa, or even checking out your local massage school for discounted rates.

I’ve been a professional massage therapist for over 15 years, and I can tell you that I’m willing to barter for all kinds of things – housework, beauty services, mechanic services, artwork – so don’t be shy about approaching your boo for in-kind barters.

Make your home a sanctuary.

Another stress-relief strategy is a special, dedicated home escape.

Creating a safe space in the home – (away from the kids, the dog, the partner) – and decorating it with calm colors, uplifting visuals, candles, a comfortable place to rest, can make you feel relaxed, safe, and in control.

It doesn’t have to be the entire house, it can just be a corner that’s all yours, with whatever peaceful imagery, artwork, religious symbols, family photos — anything that makes YOU feel good. Be creative! Make something beautiful that’s entirely yours!

For me, I transform even a small corner into something peaceful.  I move a lot, so this practice is a priority for me whenever I’m in a new space. I always include these things:

  • a rose quartz crystal (the very epitome of peace – pink, light, beautiful),
  • soft lights like the cute little LED lights (which are safe and not a fire hazard)
  • a picture of my loved ones,
  • white sage to burn in an abalone shell (this is a native american practice believed to clear the negative energy from your space)
  • a small painting of trees that I think is beautiful
  • and a picture of ocean waves.

That’s my bliss space recipe. Feel free to copy it verbatim 🙂

Move your body, and go outside!

Yoga is a great lifestyle choice for those who experience chronic stress. The gentle yet strengthening exercises bring muscle-building as the stretching delivers relaxation. You don’t have to commit to some huge exercise regime. Just start by getting up and stretching for a few minutes a day. You’ll find your body is hungry for more, and yoga is an excellent answer to stress relief held in our muscles, minds, and spirits.

Going into nature is another excellent strategy – your body often needs just to move when stressed. The study Green Space and Stress: Evidence from Cortisol Measures in Deprived Urban Communities proves expanses of nature lowers stress levels.

If you live in a city, find and visit your nearest green oasis. Even if it’s a busy park, you’ll smell the difference in the air, and feel more grounded and connected to the oneness.

Jumpstarting Hair Regrowth

As mentioned earlier scalp treatments are not only a way to correct stress-related hair loss but also stimulate blood flow to the scalp. This potentially reengages dormant vessels that have not reach the telogen phase strengthening and growing simultaneously.

This approach is from the outside-in. You also need the inside-out approach to jumpstart hair regrowth.

Nutrafol, my favorite hair loss supplement because it has worked for me, combines vitamins and minerals with potent botanical ingredients to accomplish numerous achievements.

Formulated by doctors, Nutrafol regulates hormones, reduces inflammation, and combats aging. This multi-targeted approach holistically reduces stress. The ingredients have also been clinically-tested.

Putting It All into Perspective

Don’t stress about stress. Don’t stress about hair loss. Learn not to stress at all.

Find tools and strategies that work for you. There is no one-size-fits-all method to stress reduction. There is only a determination to regain control over your mind, body, and spirit.

With a healthy frame of mind and devotion to self-care, you can overcome stress and the unhealthy side-effects of it—including hair loss. You got this.

42 thoughts on “Does Stress Cause Hair Loss?

  1. Great information about stress and hair loss. I’m guilty of getting stressed out a lot and letting little things get to me. I try to remind myself to take deep breaths and meditate more to help relieve the stress and anxiety. I like your idea of aroma therapy and will add that in as a remedy for my hectic life. No wonder my hair sheds so much!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and you are not alone! Life is tremendously stressful and we can defeat it with simple, consistent steps…and save our hair in the process 🙂

  2. Hi Penelope, now here is another superb article from you as always. Hair loss is also linked with stress along with other reasons as well. Not only hair loss, stress bring a lot of health and mental problems with it. I really love this article especially the conclusion that don’t stress about stress. I think that’s the thing we all need to practice on. Thank you so much for sharing this great read….

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and I agree – stress is a many-faced curse! Luckily there are a few good remedies that help over time.

  3. This is an awesome article about stress. I agree that some people behave unusually when suffering from stress. I don’t like to be sitting beside someone who keeps shaking his legs which is a sign of stress. I want to disappear because I am expecting the worst.

    Stress is an agent of all illnesses so it is not surprising that one could suffer hair loss. I agree that getting away from home sometimes will help to relieve stress. I love the message ideas.
    Thanks for the Post.

    • Thanks for the comments, Luna! Really appreciate your insight and I love how you phrase it – stress is an agent of all illnesses. extremely well said!

  4. Such a great article about stress and its impact on us. It is so easy in this modern, fast-paced world to become stressed for long periods of time which is even worse for you. A little bit of stress is good to get us motivated but not the long-term we are seeing more and more of these days. I like your idea of creating a corner that is your stress-free zone. I must look into doing that in my home! I often have an oil burner going to make my home smell nice but I must consider it more for a destress zone.

    • Yes, make your oasis! Claim that space and make it yours! Come back and let us know how it worked out for you. Anything we can do to make life less stressful, and hair more plentiful, is worth shouting from the rooftops 🙂

  5. Once again you amaze me with your article. I have learned so much already from you about how to deal with hair loss, now you give me more information about how it may be caused. This info is very helpful in prevention. I think reducing stress through massage, aromatherapy candles, and walking are some great ways to not only reduce stress but help keep stress from tearing out our hair. Thanks!

    • Thank you for the great feedback~ it’s great to have a “practical” application for this esoteric stress relief stuff, especially after we can see how it contributes to always-unwanted hair loss.

  6. What you said about stress is very true, I feel like whenever I work myself up about something I always get this weird negative set of emotions and it stops me from doing daily tasks.

    I can imagine my hair would be falling out because of it! Massages do help and I’m glad you mentioned that:) We alway’s need time to wind down.

    Thanks Penelope.

    • Thanks for reading and sharing your feedback! The negative emotions come from real fluctuations in our body chemistry which can also negatively impact our hair loss…so just one more reason that it’s so crucial to chill!

  7. This is a well written article about stress and hair loss. i remember when I was in nursing school, I used to get so stressed out, and every time I washed and brushed my hair, so much hair would fall out of my head. Stress is part of our life, but there are many healthy ways to mange these stress. Having a diffuser is a great solution for stress relieving. You also mention message. I find message the best stress reliever. I’ve never heard of Telogen Effluvium. I now no what it is. Thank you for the explanation. I learn a lot from your article. Keep up with the good work.

    • Thank you for the great feedback, Hong! I’m glad you shared your experience with stress and hair loss and that you got some value from this article.

  8. I find more and more hair in the shower after my wife goes through her daily hygiene. I think she leaves it there for me to find so I’m aware of her situation. I feel really bad for her because I know she worries about it a lot. Stress leads to hair loss which leads to more stress, what a vicious cycle. I’m going to share this article with my wife… thanks!

    • Thanks for reading, Keith! I really appreciate that you’ve taken the time to leave a comment and will pass the info onto your wife. She might enjoy reading the rest of this site, especially if she’s looking to solve her hair loss woes.

  9. Wow! Your site is just incredible! Stress is the underlying factor in most health conditions and I find this site very informative and helpful! The products you are promoting are worth looking into!

    I also love the layout of your site and how much info is packed in a small space! 🙂 I have your site saved in my favorites so I can keep reading!

  10. I did experience hair loss at some point when I was given a prescription for acne problem. While my face was clearing up my hair was breaking and thining, that just added more stress to me and I ended up giving up on the medication. It has been 7 years and my hair grew back but not as healthy as it was before and the length is not even good. I will try your advice about massages and also managing my stress

    • thank you for sharing your experiences, Sarah. It’s really confounding when hair loss is a side effect of medication. In my case, that’s most of what’s going on, and it’s a medication I HAVE to take…so this site was born from my struggles in trying to compensate for that side effect. But I’ve learned so much more along the way, particularly about everyday poisons and also just how dangerous stress is.

  11. This is a great post and great site! I completely agree that stress causes the hair loss, and then the hair loss causes the stress. Actually, I know that personally. A few years ago when my dad passed away, my hair fell out from the top of my head and a big bold circle was formed. It took it almost 2 years to regrow. I think the right mindset plays a big role in controlling and reducing the stress.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience and insight Blanka, that must have been so painful at that time when you were dealing with grief from losing a parent. I’m always grateful when people share examples from their lives – this hair loss stuff can come and bite us at so many unexpected points! And yes, shifting the environment and shifting our habits are merely tools for the goal of shifting our mindset.

  12. Yes, stress can definitely cause hair loss and hair breakage. I experience it a few years back, the hair breakage was so awful I had to wear a wig. At that time I eventually started doing some of the things you mention but what helps me most is eliminating the cause of stress (my job) but I wish I had this information then. Now I learned a little bit more about the science behind it like what is Telogen Effluvium. Thanks for this article!

    • Thank you for sharing your experience about stress-related hair loss. And yeah, sometimes you’ve just gotta go after the big fish if there’s no controlling the stress that comes from it. And, for many of us, that big fish could be the job, the husband, the toxic family, the addiction…I’m glad you had the courage to let it go and shift. At least we have some knowledge now behind what causes hair loss and what we can do about it. There are so many tools, wigs are definitely one.

  13. Hair loss is just another reason to keep stress levels down. Nothing good is gained from stress and losing hair because of it only adds to the stress.

    As a side note the flame from candles will destroy the therapeutic properties of essential oils, ultrasonic or atmoizing diffusers preserve the properties – making these a better choice.

    Hugely detailed article on keeping hair firmly on one’s head while avoiding stress! Thank you.

    • Thanks so much for the insight about the effect of candles on essential oils they contain! Great argument for opting for the diffusers!

  14. I have heard that stress can age you, too. I never really thought about it, but it makes sense that Cortosol would cause hair loss. I mean when people use steroids one of the biggest drawbacks from long-term steroid use is hair loss.

    I am a big fan of essential oils. I use them religiously, though. Lavender does really help me relax. I put it on my pillow cases and it aids a good night sleep. I also put it on the bottoms of my feet, too.

    However, I do have a question about diets. I know there are a lot of supplements that can help reduce stress. But, are there any specific foods that help you minimize your stress levels?

    • Hi Mary, thanks for the great question. There seems to be a consensus that low-inflammation foods are better for long-term stress management. This means most things in plant form, and avoiding or strictly minimizing red meat, processed food, fried food, sugars, and alcohol.

  15. Hi Penelope, this article made so much sense to me. It is great you have explained the exact reasons why stress can make your hair fall out. With so much stress around I’m surprised we’re not all completely bald! Now, I definitely had a few of these issues that were causing my hair to fall out such as hormonal problems and lots of stress in general, which was a double whammy for me. But fortunately, now I have started eating healthily, meditating much more, and taking on board some of the top tips on your great website the problem seems to be getting better. So thanks!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I’m glad that it makes sense to you. And MAJOR kudos for your good eating and self-care habits, particularly the meditation. your hair thanks you, too!

  16. Chock full of good information in this article! Timely too. I’ve been researching a lot about hair loss with thyroid issues in men and women. Your article covers the cortisol reason well! Now that I’m post-menopausal, I notice my hair is still plentiful, but it’s finer than it used to be. The supplement looks interesting, I will look into it. What type of hair loss did you experience and how did you ultimately overcome it?

    • Thanks for your great question, Linda! The primary cause of my hair loss is a medication I am required to take daily, levothyroxine. Coupled with very high stress events in my life, I’ve lost considerable hair around my hairline and temple area. My father lost all of his hair by the time he was 16, and my mother has a high/receding hairline – so there is also a genetic component in my case.

      The strategies I use are very aggressive. I do all of this concurrently (linking to my reviews of each):
      Bovine collagen
      Nutrafol
      Low level laser therapy comb
      Rosemary oil massages at night
      Grow new hair faster treatment nights before I shampoo
      DHT blocking shampoo

      From this I have been able to fill out my temple area further and hopefully keep further receding of my hairline at bay. Plus, my hair LOOKS awesome and healthy, and my nails and skin are strong and firm. It’s a lot, but I accept I will have to keep this up to counter the levothyroxine and any further hair loss. I’m always reading more about new strategies and products.

  17. Very informative! I’ve always known that stress was bad for hair growth, but I’ve never heard of Telogen Effluvium before. It makes sense how our bodies go into “fight or flight” mode, cutting off the need to maintain abundant healthy hair. Reading this article made me realize that I need to cut out some more stress in my own life (because my hair currently isn’t growing as well as I’d like)…and as far as massages go – I sit in my massage chair every day 🙂

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Thank you for sharing your experience and I’m glad you enjoyed the informatin in this article! We all can always use more tips on de-stressing…and we all can definitely use a massage chair!!!

  18. Hi Penelope,

    Great post. I certainly know a lot about hair loss haha. Not much left. Not sure men will benefit as much as woman with all the de stress stuff as far as growing their hair back but will certainly help them to have less stress.

    I meditate twice a day, have a lot of crystals around, get massages regularly and exercise often. Great stress relievers and I am a very calm person.

    Speaking of which I am going to have a massage today. Thanks for the motivation 🙂

    Kev

    • Very cool, so glad you’re getting a massage and that you use meditation and crystals to help ground and support you through stress. I love that it’s working! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

  19. I just remembered this post when I came to your site and realised I still haven’t done anything about creating a space! I have been taking me time, managed 30 minutes today whilst my son had an appointment. I sat in a coffee shop and read. It was bliss and a lovely recharge given I woke up feeling drained! Gave me the pep to get through the rest of the day!

    • AWWW, thanks for following up and letting us know about how you claimed some bliss out of your day! Go make your own recharge space at home and use it every day!!

  20. A very good article that had plenty of information to make you aware. Stress is a killer also as with many fatal diseases. I spend a lot of time trying to stay out of stressful situations since I am older. But I did not know that it that it would affect so many other things of your body. Thanks for the information.

  21. This was a very interesting read. Honestly, even for men, I have noticed hair loss from stress. And that is how I figured that stress does cause hair loss. Through tough times with my personal life, school, and work, I noticed my hair thin and it would actually fall out a ton just by brushing my hand through it. Once I started to regain strength through nutrients and other healthy alternatives, I noticed improvements. Love your suggestions and am going to give them a go to keep this healthy state of mind. Thanks for the insightful article.

    • Thanks for reading, Rob! I appreciate that you shared your experience with hair fallout during stressful periods in your life. And yes, this is just another motivation to keep it together…if for no other reason than our own beauty!!

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