One of the most common side effects of stress is hair loss and a general deterioration in hair health.
There’s no doubt about it, the world around us has changed.
Google searches for ‘selfcare’, ‘DIY’ and ‘de-stress’ are at an all-time high and awareness around general well-being has increased, with many taking to creating home-cooked meals and exercise as part of this transition. In parallel, and in direct response to these new realities, many have experienced shifts in the way we look or feel.
Through periods of uncertainty and compromised health, the effects of stress – whether mental, physical, emotional or a combination of these – may vary from person to person. One of the most common side effects of stress is hair loss and a general deterioration in hair health, so we thought it was high time we gave some insights into why this might be happening to you, and what action you can take to nurture your mane back to optimal health.
Just like the skin, our scalp and hair are two of the first places stress outwardly shows. Hair loss is something that many men and women have experienced following extremely stressful periods, and in our current environment stress-related hair loss is at an all-time high.
Harvard Health explains that Telogen Effluvium (TE) is a common form of hair loss experienced by both men and women, and typically occurs when major stress is placed on the body. This type of stress may come in the form of a high fever, severe infection, prolonged illness, extreme weight loss or change in diet, or major psychological stress. We’ve even seen stress-related hair loss occur after moving home, surgery, in the lead up to weddings, losing a loved one and work-place challenges.
Telogen effluvium typically occurs 2 – 4 months after the stressful event that triggered the hair loss, meaning we may not be aware of the effects the stress is placing on the body until later.
There is a lot that we don’t know about the impacts of COVID-19 on long-term health, so researchers are working hard to understand the condition better. A recent survey conducted by Dr Natalie Lambert of Indiana University School of Medicine and Survivor Corps (a non-profit providing education for survivors of Covid-19), “COVID-19 ‘Long Hauler’ Symptoms Survey Report”, sought to identify the major long-term symptoms experienced. This survey reported that 27% of patients reported that they have experienced hair loss. To add to this, others are sharing their experiences relating to COVID, including Alyssa Milano who recently shared her experience with hair loss after running a brush through her hair.
When we are exposed to stressful conditions, biological changes occur to allow us to respond to that stress. Often called the “stress hormone”, cortisol is released by the adrenal glands and is responsible for the natural “flight or fight” response that has kept humans alive for thousands of years. Cortisol is responsible for the fight or flight reaction that we have all experienced, including an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, dilation of pupils, rapid breathing, trembling. Cortisol also affects the function and regulation of hair follicles and the sebaceous glands in our scalp which are responsible for sebum (oil) production.
When the balance of hormones is interrupted with cortisol, this imbalance can be seen in hair health. Read more on stress hair here.
This reinforces the need for pre-emptive action particularly during stressful periods, to help minimise the detrimental effects that stress can trigger, whether that’s telogen effluvium or otherwise.
What can be done today to support the body through stressful periods?
Whilst many of us would love to live as zen masters, the fact is that stress is unavoidable- particularly if you’re living through 2020. There are some key techniques that can help to support your body during these times, helping to minimise the damaging effects which stress can cause.
Finding time to focus on oneself and elevating selfcare efforts is a great way to reduce stress. Creating daily rituals that allow the body and mind to relax and unwind is great place to start.
Some of our favourite, achievable and effective ways to de-stress are:
- Ample quality sleep is often the difference between coping through a difficult day and a full-blown melt down. Spend a few minutes before bed each night with the lights dimmed or off and take 10 – 20 slow deep breaths, breathing in fully to fill your chest and abdomen and out. Imagine the stressful events of the day being expelled from the body with each breath out. And banish those devices from the bedroom to ensure uninterrupted sleep.
- Daily meditations. Find 10-20 minutes to sit comfortably and focus on mindfulness and breathing. If you’re a beginner, look for a guided meditation to help the process along.
- Water intake is one of the first things many forget to maintain during times of stress, however hydration ensures optimal function of the body and its systems.
- Eat nutritious meals. Food affects mood, so cut the sugar, fats, artificial additives to provide your system the enrichment it needs to fuel through this time.
- Spend time in nature. Whether walking through untouched landscapes or playing with a canine companion, never underestimate the essence of our… essence.
- Move the body in a way that feels good. Is it dance? Is it walking? Is it swimming? Is it pilates? Find where you feel best and allow yourself to enjoy 2-4 sessions per week.
‘Supplementation’ has also increased in search enquiry this year, as we shift our focus to preventative health and wellness. Supplements can help to support through difficult periods, by delivering nutrients that we may not otherwise receive in a diet that reflects our fast-paced lives. Stress is also known to deplete the body of essential vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Zinc and Iron and increase our demand for antioxidants which help to minimise the effects of oxidative stress.
When it comes to supplementation to help combat stress-related symptoms such as hair loss for both men and women, Apotecari’s intensive hair health supplement Mane Event is a great choice. Mane Event helps to nourish the hair follicle from within, accelerate healthy hair growth, as well as helping to fight off free radical damage with a daily dose of antioxidants.
When it comes to investigating the cause of a decline in hair condition or hair loss and managing the condition, it can be helpful to consult with an expertly trained hair stylist, trichologist, naturopath, or your preferred healthcare professional.