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How Stress Can Cause Hair Loss In Women


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Stress and Hair loss 99% of the time go hand-in-hand. You might hear many people mention that their hair loss is because of severe stress but if you ask these same individuals to treat this hair loss, 4 out of 5 of them will say “there’s nothing you can do about stress triggered hair loss” but that’s not true at all. Stress hair loss in females is not just related to physical, work or career stress. It’s so much more intense than that. Let’s find out in detail. 

Relation Between Stress And Hair Growth

We all know that stress causes hair loss but it all comes down to the balanced or imbalanced levels of hormones in the body and not many know this. Cortisol also known as the “stress hormone” is responsible for the fight or flight action. When the body signals even a little bit of stress or primary stress, cortisol is ideally what we get as a response to it. Now, you might tend to assume that it’s not good for the body. But that’s not true. Cortisol is not all that bad since it is used to help the body transform fats and sugars into useful forms of energy for the body. Not just that, it can also help the body respond to stress even more efficiently when it’s not over-produced.

However, when there is an imbalance in the levels of this hormone in the body, it tends to result in different parts of the body - and one form of that is hair loss. Both short-term and chronic stress cause a spike in the levels of cortisol secretion and an increased cortisol secretion, can in turn promote hair loss. Very high stress for a long period of time, - in short high cortisol levels reduces the formation and leads to the breakdown of hyaluronic acid and proteoglycans in the scalp by about 40%.  Now what this does is, it interferes with the normal functioning of the hair follicles and can lead to hair loss. This is why it is said that Cortisol can definitely hamper with the function and cyclic regulation of the hair follicles. To break it down, cortisol might directly be involved in impacting your hair growth cycle. Once the levels of cortisol rise, it could affect other hormones that play a major role in the regular functioning of the hair. 

Common Causes Of Stress That Can Lead To Hair Loss In Women

Female hair loss due to stress can differ from person to person depending on the factor that is causing it in the first place.

High Fever

It is very common for someone to have hair loss after a fever or even Covid. This is because the body goes through a lot of stress after a fever, and pushes all the hair strands immediately into the Telogen phase. People usually notice this not just as they are experiencing the illness or fever but is usually triggered 2-6 months after the fever. And if taken care of in time, this hair loss can be easily tackled within 6 months.

Childbirth

Many new mom's notice a severe postpartum hair loss right after delivering their newborn. This is another sign that the new mom is experiencing Telogen effluvium or stress triggered hair loss. It usually begins 3 months after delivering the baby. What happens is during pregnancy, the mothers body experiences a spike in female hormone levels like estrogen and progesterone so the hair and skin looks all nice and glowing, however once the baby is delivered, the levels of these hormones drastically drop and this causes severe hair shedding.

Severe Infections

Infections like Covid, Dengue, Malaria or as simple as a viral sore throat can cause hair loss. Many times, the infections that are said to bring out the fever causing effect in people is highly related to stress-related hair loss in women. This type of hair loss is also called telogen effluvium.

Psychological Stress

Emotional stress is linked to telogen effluvium on a very high level. The emotional damage that occurs to the mental health also known as the mental stress causes an imbalance in the levels of hormones and this stress pushes a large number of hair follicles into the resting phase or the telogen phase of the hair cycle. This is what causes hair to fall out in chunks. However, again this type of hair loss is manageable and can be easily resolved in a period of 6 months if detected at an early stage and with the right medication / treatment.

Major Surgery

Not all surgeries cause hair loss. But sometimes if the effect is too strong then anaesthesia or surgery can cause hair loss. However, this too is temporary and will fade off within a span of 6 months. In such cases, telogen effluvium or stress related hair loss occurs because during a surgery, the body goes through extreme stress and this reflects on the body during the recovery phase. As during the recovery phase, hair follicles get neglected and the hair and scalp health begins to deteriorate. This is how it leads to hair shedding.

Hyperthyroidism & Hypothyroidism

When hormone production is disrupted, specifically of hormones T3 and T4 , it affects other processes in the body. This includes the development of hair at the root. Hair falls out and may not be replaced by new growth, resulting in thinning across your scalp.

Discontinuing Use Of Birth Control Pills

Constantly switching between birth control pills or all of a sudden stopping to consume the contraceptives tends to affect the body because of the severe hormonal imbalance in the body. This makes the body undergo a lot of hormonal stress and also the psychological stress that comes along with the side effects of a birth control pill. This is what leads to severe stress related hair loss in females. If you have completely stopped using a birth control, the hair loss (TE) tends to subside only post 6 months or when the body has adjusted to not being on a pill. 

Different Hair Loss Conditions Caused By Stress

Stress triggered hair loss is not limited to just a single type of hair loss. It tends to vary depending on the factor that's causing stress on the body or directly to the hair. There are 3 types of hair loss involved when it comes to dealing with stress triggered hair loss and it is of utmost importance that the type of hair loss is diagnosed correctly for a suitable and relevant treatment to deal with it.

  • Telogen Effluvium

You might be aware that every hair strand goes through a hair cycle with 4 phases. One the phases includes the Telogen phase where the hair has completed its growing phase and now is ready to fall off. In ideal or normal conditions, only 8-10% of hair follicles are supposed to be in this phase at any given point of time. What happens during severe forms of stress like pregnancy, hormonal imbalance, fever or physical stress is that this stress pushes a large number of follicles in this resting phase - almost around 70%. This is what leads to severe hair shedding. This is why just by combining or washing your hair you tend to notice so much hair loss. 

Now, sometimes, this telogen effluvium could last fewer than 6 months and sometimes it could even be longer than 6 months. This is referred to as acute and chronic telogen effluvium. If your hair loss tends to happen two to three months after a stressful trigger or change to your body as in dieting, it is referred to as acute telogen effluvium. In 95% of cases, acute telogen effluvium goes away with proper care.

If your telogen effluvium tends to last longer than 6 months, it’s referred to as Chronic telogen effluvium. It affects your entire scalp and may not have a clear cause. You may lose your hair in chunks and most likely during the early stages of chronic telogen effluvium, but not to worry since it won’t develop to cause complete or severe baldness.

  • Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is a type of hair loss which revolves around an irresistible urge to pull out hair from your scalp, eyebrows or other areas of your body. Due to severe anxiety, trauma or depression, one tends to pull out hair from different parts of the body. Hair pulling can be a way of dealing with negative or uncomfortable feelings, such as stress, tension, loneliness, boredom or frustration.

  • Alopecia Areata

Although this type of hair loss is not all that common among the Indian population, it still must not be neglected. Alopecia areata deals with hair loss due to an autoimmune disorder and there are a number of factors that are thought to cause alopecia areata including severe stress. With alopecia areata, the body's immune system attacks the hair follicles causing hair loss in circular or coin size patches.

Symptoms Of Stress-Induced Hair Loss In Women

Most of the time, stress induced hair loss tends to get neglected by most women out there who face it. Firstly because during times of a high fever, post pregnancy or using birth control, hair loss as a side effect to this is not given that much of an importance which shouldn’t be the case because the earlier you realise that it is affecting your hair, the sooner you can work on your follicle health. You could simply watch out for these symptoms to help prevent hair loss and help regrow the lost hair without any delay. The symptoms of telogen effluvium might vary from individual to individual but there include the following:

  • Severe hair thinning on your scalp.
  • Increased hair loss, which you may notice in your hairbrush, in your shower drain or on your pillow.
  • Dry hair that falls out very easily.
  • If you have telogen effluvium, your scalp should look healthy. You shouldn’t have any other symptoms, such as a rash, itching, burning, pain or flaking.

Tips To Overcome Female Hair Loss Due To Stress

Stress can be very difficult to deal with. But with the right surroundings, it can be managed. It’s best to learn how to take control of stress to effectively manage hair loss. Here are a few ways to overcome stress hair loss females.

  • Practice relaxation techniques (such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga) 
  • Get regular exercise, which helps manage stress and its effects
  • Seek professional help from a therapist
  • Eat a healthy diet and don’t resort to cravings every now and then
  • Treat your hair with care when washing, drying, or even styling

Treatment 

Because one of the main causes of telogen effluvium is some form of stressor to your body, it is very crucial to first identify the cause behind it. Once you address the cause, most cases of telogen effluvium will resolve without treatment within six to eight months.

However, you can also opt for hair growth actives that are proven to improve hair health and reduce hair loss but along with tackling the cause behind your hair loss, maintaining the right diet and ensuring your physical activities are in check. Some of the hair growth actives that you can look at are over-the-counter (OTC) medications you apply to your scalp, such as minoxidil or redensyl that promotes hair growth. You shouldn’t use minoxidil if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Keeping nutritional deficiencies at bay is also a good way to tackle hair loss. Consume multivitamins or supplements that contain iron or an iron supplement which will help to promote hair growth.

Takeaway

Stress related hair loss in women occurs due to a number of factors but definitely can be managed when treated with care along with the right treatment. One must simply watch out of the early signs and symptoms, find the trigger that’s causing it and work on both the trigger causing it and also the stress triggered hair loss in general. By doing so, one can easily see the changes with visible results in just a span of 6 months. Also, you can visit Traya and take the online hair test to find the root cause.

FAQs

Q1 - Can Stress Cause Hair Loss In Females?

Ans - Yes absolutely. Stress has a big role to play when it comes to hair loss. Not just physical or traumatic stress but rather even when the body experiences stress something like post - pregnancy or menopause or even as small as a fever.

Q2 - Will Hair Loss From Stress Grow Back?

Ans - Yes, stress related hair loss can be regrown within 6 months provided you follow the right treatment and treat the cause behind what's affecting it in the first place.

Q3 - What Does Stress Hair Loss Look Like?

Ans - Stress triggered hair loss is called Telogen effluvium and is triggered within 6 months of a stressful event. This hair loss happens all of a sudden and will be very unexpected with severe hair loss all at once. 

Q4 - How Do You Deal With Emotional Hair Loss?

Ans - Emotional hair loss is easy to deal with once you tackle the emotion around it firstly but also if you look for the right treatments and don't simply opt for a shampoo and conditioner.

Q5 - How Long Does Stress Hair Fall Last?

Ans - If stress related hair loss is taken care of at the right time, it can be resolved easily within a span of 6 months but if it's neglected or the treatment is not consistently followed, it could take longer. 

Q6 - How Do You Know If You're Losing Hair From Stress?

Ans - Firstly, if you've been too stressed out lately or have undergone a pregnancy, COVID, surgery, fever, these are all indicators that you're losing your hair due to the occurrence of severe stress to the body. 

Q7 - Can Overthinking Cause Hair Loss?

Ans - Occasional stress is still a good thing as it helps the body control the levels of cortisol fluctuations and keep the body healthy but if you are someone who's constantly over-thinking and under constant stress it can always reflect on the body in the form of stress.

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Zahra Lokhandwala

Hair Coach

Zahra is the hair coach-in-chief at Traya. She works closely with the doctors to monitor all cases. She is a fitness freak and has not touched sugar in years!

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