Table of Contents

Stress Hair Loss: Is It Myth or Fact?

Stress hair loss is the type of hair loss that happens due to an emotionally traumatic event.

When you get stressed, your cortisol level increases and this leads to hair loss.

The elevated hormone level can affect hair in 3 different ways. It can alter the hair growth cycle, make the immune system attack hair follicles, or cause you to pull your own hair, leading to hair loss. 

Some key points from the article: 

  • EMOTIONAL STRESS CAN CAUSE HAIR LOSS.
  • IT CAN CAUSE “ALOPECIA AREATA”, “TELOGEN EFFLUVIUM” OR “TRICHOTILLMANIA” TYPES OF HAIR LOSS.
  • ANXIETY CAN CAUSE HAIR LOSS.
  • IT IS USUALLY TEMPORARY.
  • DIFFUSE HAIR THINNING, PATCHY HAIR LOSS, OR PERSISTENT HAIR PULLING ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF STRESS RELATED HAIR LOSS.
  • IT STARTS 2-3 MONTHS AFTER THE DISTRESSING EVENT AND LASTS ABOUT 6-12 MONTHS.

Does Stress Cause Hair Loss?

Yes, stress can cause hair loss by changing the hair follicle cycle, triggering immune cells to damage hair follicles, or making you constantly pull your hair. Even though some people say stress doesn’t directly cause hair loss, it actually does. 

When you are stressed, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA Axis), which is responsible for regulating the stress response, increases the stress hormone, causing hair loss.

Emotional stress can lead to 3 different kinds of hair loss:

  • TELOGEN EFFLUVIUM
  • ALOPECIA AREATA
  • TRICHOTILLOMANIA

Why Does Stress Cause Hair Loss?

Stress causes hair loss due to the increase of a stress hormone (cortisol) in the body. However, it follows a different path in different hair loss types.

In telogen effluvium, severe stress causes hair to stop maturing in the growing phase (anagen) of the cycle and enter the resting phase (telogen) earlier than the natural time period. In this way, the hair cannot mature and premature hair falls. 

In alopecia areata, stress makes the immune system attack hair follicles, causing hair loss. In terms of trichotillomania, which is a rare and extreme condition, stress makes you pull your own hair and results in hair loss from the affected areas. As a result of pulling, the hair follicles get upset with you and don’t want to grow again.

Does Overthinking Cause Hair Loss?

Yes, overthinking may cause hair loss because it can be associated with stress and anxiety. It is not like one time you overthink and it causes hair loss.

Instead, it can lead to too much stress and anxiety, which can cause hair loss.

Can Anxiety Cause Hair Loss?

Yes, anxiety can cause hair loss. Since anxiety is a reaction to stress, it follows a stress induced hair loss path. However, it doesn’t mean that every person who deals with anxiety experiences hair loss. It is just a possibility because the source is extreme stress for both. 

Can Lack of Sleep Cause Hair Loss?

Lack of sleep may indirectly lead to hair loss. Also, since lack of sleep can make the person feel more stressed, for a long-term period it can play a role in stress-induced hair loss. It is not like if you sleep less tonight you will have hair loss, but more related to a sleep disorder.

A study conducted by the doctors from Hanyang University Guri Hospital, which examines the connection between autoimmune diseases and sleep shows that patients with sleep disorders are more likely to experience alopecia areata.

Symptoms of Hair Loss Due to Stress

You may be experiencing hair loss due to stress if you:

  • HAVE DIFFUSE HAIR LOSS AND THINNING
  • EXPERIENCE PATCHY HAIR LOSS
  • ARE CONSTANTLY PULLING YOUR HAIR

 

You can notice the hair loss more when you are brushing your hair or showering. These two actions make the hair that has already fallen from the follicle leave the scalp all at once and make it easily noticeable.

Female Stress Hair Loss Pattern

In females, hair loss from stress can have 2 different types of patterns; diffuse hair loss and bald patches

Stress hair loss in telogen effluvium follows a spreading pattern. Hair loss and thinning start at the top of the head and spread all over the scalp.

In alopecia areata and trichotillomania, the loss creates bald patches in the head. In severe cases, these patches can create larger bald areas on the scalp.

Hair Loss in Children Due to Stress

Hair loss due to stress in children can show itself as diffuse hair loss or patchy bald areas.

In telogen effluvium, diffuse hair loss is seen on the scalp.

In alopecia areata and trichotillomania, patchy hair loss is encountered.

How to Tell If Hair Loss Is Genetic or Stress

You can tell if you have stress hair loss or hereditary hair loss by comparing certain points of both conditions.

Stress hair loss:

  • IF THE HAIR LOSS STARTED AFTER 2-3 MONTHS OF A STRESSFUL EVENT
  • DIFFUSE HAIR LOSS OR PATCHES
  • HAIR LOSS ALL OVER THE SCALP
  • GENERALLY TEMPORARY

Genetic hair loss:

  • IF HAIR LOSS CONTINUES FOR A LONG TIME
  • RECEDING HAIRLINE AND M SHAPE PATTERN IN MEN, HAIR THINNING AT TOP IN WOMEN
  • IF THE HAIR IS NOT GROWING BACK FOR A LONG TIME

How Do I Know If I Am Stressed or Balding?

If you have a balding history in your family, and you have had hair loss problems for a long period, you may be experiencing balding.

However, if you had a devastating incident that affected you deeply, you may be experiencing stress related hair loss. This shocking event can include incidents like losing a loved one, experiencing trauma such as a car accident, witnessing an earthquake, or losing your job.

In either case, you should consult your doctor to learn the real reason behind your hair fall.

When Does Hair Loss After Stress Start?

Hair loss after stress starts around 2-3 months after the triggering event. The reason for the 2-3 months of waiting is the duration of the natural hair cycle. After the triggering event, the hairs go into the telogen phase (resting) and fall at the end of the phase, which takes about 3 months.

Hair Loss from Stress How Long Does It Last?

Hair loss from stress usually lasts around 6-12 months.

Telogen effluvium hair loss lasts around 6 months. However, if the patient is suffering from chronic telogen effluvium, it can take more than that.

In alopecia areata, hair fall usually ends less than a year. However, hair loss due to trichotillomania can last years until it is treated.

How to Stop Hair Loss From Stress

Stress hair loss usually stops on its own. What you can do more is try to calm yourself down when you feel overwhelmed. You can try some of the stress management techniques. Below, we listed relaxation techniques that can help to stop hair loss from stress.

  • DEEP BREATHING
  • MEDITATION
  • LISTENING TO CALMING BACKGROUND NOISES
  • WALKING IN THE NATURE
  • STRETCHING
  • GETTING PROPER SLEEP
  • GOING ON A HEALTHY DIET
  • GOING TO THERAPY
  • MINDFULNESS
  • SELF-CARE

 

In terms of trichotillomania, the patients need to stop pulling their hair to stop losing it. This habit can be stopped with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which tries to change the patient’s pulling disorder with a beneficial habit. 

Does Stress Cause Permanent Hair Loss?

No, stress doesn’t cause permanent hair loss. Stress can trigger 3 different types of hair fall, and the permanence of it depends on the kind of hair loss. 

In terms of stress telogen effluvium, hair loss is temporary.

In alopecia areata, the hair turns back to the proper cycle with proper treatment.

Trichotillomania hair loss is temporary in the early days of the pulling habit, but it may be permanent in the long term period.

Can Hair Loss Due To Stress Grow Back?

Yes, hair loss due to stress can grow back. Stress can show itself in 3 different types of hair loss, and the recovery period differs in each kind.

In telogen effluvium, the hair loss stops itself and grows back.

Hair loss due to alopecia areata is also reversible with treatment.

In trichotillomania, the hair grows back unless the hair follicles are damaged fatally and can’t produce any more hair.

How to Reverse Hair Loss From Stress

You can regain stressed induced hair loss by:

  • USING THE PRESCRIBED MEDICATIONS
  • DOING SCALP MASSAGES
  • APPLYING HERBAL OILS SUCH AS ROSEMARY, RASPBERRY KETONE, PEPPERMINT OIL
  • EATING HEALTHY, CONSUMING ZINC, VITAMIN D, OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS AND  ANTIOXIDANTS
  • TAKING SUPPLEMENTS SUCH AS MARINE PROTEIN, ZINC AND IRON

 

The hair will grow back, but it will take time. For that reason, you can consider adapting the points above and speed up hair growth. 

Using Medications for Stress Hair Loss Recovery

In the recovery period, you can support the hair growth process. The most important part of stress hair loss recovery is using medications if prescribed. 

For telogen effluvium, you may be prescribed a topical corticosteroid, a solution that is applied to the hair loss parts. If you have alopecia areata, the medics can include oral drugs such as baricitinib or ritlecitinib.

Natural Remedies for Hair Loss Due to Stress

Herbal oils that support hair health and speed up growth can be helpful in regaining hair loss from stress.

Oils such as rosemary, peppermint, green tea, red ginseng, and thyme oils can help to promote hair growth. These oils can promote blood flow in the scalp and reduce DHT levels, helping the hair grow faster.

Before you go, we prepared a hair loss traction chart for you to check. 

[1] Thom, Erling. “Stress and the Hair Growth Cycle: Cortisol-Induced Hair Growth Disruption.” Journal of drugs in dermatology : JDD vol. 15,8 (2016): 1001-4.

[2] Asghar, Fahham et al. “Telogen Effluvium: A Review of the Literature.” Cureus vol. 12,5 e8320. 27 May. 2020, doi:10.7759/cureus.8320

[3] Seo, Hyun-Min et al. “The risk of alopecia areata and other related autoimmune diseases in patients with sleep disorders: a Korean population-based retrospective cohort study.” Sleep vol. 41,9 (2018): 10.1093/sleep/zsy111. doi:10.1093/sleep/zsy111

[4] Rajoo, Y., Wong, J., Cooper, G. et al. The relationship between physical activity levels and symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress in individuals with alopecia Areata. BMC Psychol 7, 48 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-019-0324-x

[5] Patel, Satish et al. “Hair Growth: Focus on Herbal Therapeutic Agent.” Current drug discovery technologies vol. 12,1 (2015): 21-42. doi:10.2174/1570163812666150610115055

[6] Herman, Anna, and Andrzej P Herman. “Topically used herbal products for the treatment of hair loss: preclinical and clinical studies.” Archives of dermatological research vol. 309,8 (2017): 595-610. doi:10.1007/s00403-017-1759-7

[7] Truong, Van-Long et al. “Red ginseng oil promotes hair growth and protects skin against UVC radiation.” Journal of ginseng research vol. 45,4 (2021): 498-509. doi:10.1016/j.jgr.2020.12.008