Does Stress Cause Hair Loss?

We all feel and experience stress in different ways. Whether we are stressing out over a task at work or a major life change, it’s important to remember that you aren’t alone. Stress doesn’t last forever. Despite that, it is important to recognize the effects stress has on our bodies, particularly our hair. Stress can impact our hair in a number of ways, often leading to a dry scalp, oily roots, breakage, dry strands and, most concerning, hair loss. Some hair loss every day is normal. In fact, the average person loses 50 to 100 hairs a day, depending on the length and thickness of their hair. However, if you are beginning to find more hair than usual in the shower drain and on your hairbrush, it could be a sign that you are losing hair due to stress.

Here is everything you need to know about stress and hair loss.

How does stress cause hair loss?

Hair loss can be triggered by any number of stressful situations, including but not limited to work, school, relationship issues, financial concerns, injury, illness and pregnancy.

So how does stress cause our hair to fall out?

When we feel stressed, our body produces a hormone called cortisol. This hormone can affect the hair follicle cycle and lead to hair loss. Basically, cortisol signals our hair follicles to shift from the growth phase into a transition phase, after which our hair will fall out. This typically happens around three months after a stressful event.

Types of stress-related hair loss

The three types of hair loss that relate to stress are: Telogen Effluvium (excessive daily hair shedding), Alopecia Areata (hair loss in areas) and Trichotillomania (hair pulling).

Telogen Effluvium

This is the most common type of stress-related hair loss, wherein the hair stops growing and lies dormant, only to fall out within the following months. Affected hairs may begin to fall out suddenly when simply combing or washing your hair. Luckily, the hair will then grow back within six to nine months.

Alopecia Areata

With alopecia areata, your body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles, in turn leading to hair loss. In some cases, alopecia areata will only cause your hair to thin, while in other cases people may lose their hair in patches, develop bald spots and even lose body hair. With this kind of hair loss, treatment may be required to help the hair grow again.


Trichotillomania is an irresistible urge to pull out your own hair from your scalp, eyebrows or other areas of your body. While different to other kinds of hair loss, hair pulling can be a way of dealing with negative emotions, such as stress, anxiety and tension.

How to prevent stress-related hair loss

The first step to preventing stress-related hair loss is to prevent stress. Take the time to reflect on your lifestyle and determine what your stressors are. To prevent stress and protect your hair, start by trying these tips:
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga and deep breathing

  • Eat healthy, well balanced meals and exercise regularly

  • Get enough rest and sleep to recover from stressful events

  • Seek out social support and spend time with positive people

  • Make time for the things that you enjoy

  • Treat your hair with care when washing, drying and styling it

  • Protect your hair from further damage by switching to hair care products without parabens and sulphates

  • Avoid high-heat styling tools and products that can weigh down your hair
Remember that stress-related hair loss doesn’t need to be permanent. If you keep things in check and monitor your reactions to stress, your hair should grow back normally in time. If hair loss continues, it may be time to talk to a doctor to form a plan on how to best spark hair regrowth.

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