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.