In today’s world stress levels are higher than ever before. A struggling economy, astronomical inflation, job loss, divorce, anxiety, guilt, depression, sickness, and much more are causing people to experience numerous stress-related health issues. But could your extreme stress levels be responsible for your hair falling out? It just so happens that it can. Research has found that one certain type of hair loss, telogen effluvium, is indeed triggered by both emotional and physical stress.
Suddenly excessive hair shedding is a sign of telogen effluvium. You have approximately 100,000 hair follicles on your scalp. Each one of these follicles normally cycles through phases of growth and rest. Most of your follicles should be in the growth phase all of the time with only a few at a time resting. When your hair follicles enter the telogen (resting) phase that hair is shed. An extremely stressful event can cause your body to shift more follicles into the telogen phase than usual all at the same time. This results in sudden and significant hair loss.
Significant emotional stress is a common trigger for this type of hair loss. Significant emotional stress occurs when we experience major life events such as a divorce or the loss of a loved one. One bad day at work should not contribute to telogen effluvium. Still, chronic and prolonged severe stress certainly can, whether it’s related to the pandemic or just a generally toxic work environment. In the same way, a simple cold doesn’t trigger this stress-induced hair loss, but a serious COVID-19 infection can.
So what sets telogen effluvium apart from other types of hair loss? Well, the hair loss experienced has an abrupt onset. The tricky part in determining the cause is that this loss may not occur for up to three months following a stressful event. This is because the follicle doesn’t shed the hair immediately when it enters the resting phase. It holds onto it for about three months before the hair is released.
Another characteristic of telogen effluvium is a diffuse thinning pattern. You don’t typically see patchy hair loss or a receding hairline with this type of hair loss. Those loss patterns suggest a different diagnosis. When suffering from telogen effluvium you may notice your ponytail is thinner or you may suddenly see a lot of shed hairs in the shower, on your pillow, or just around the house in general. You normally shed about 100-200 hairs each day, but during an episode of telogen effluvium you could shed up to half your hair. While this is alarming, stress-induced hair loss doesn’t cause total baldness.
The good news is that stress-induced hair loss is only temporary. Your hair follicles will slowly shift back into the growth phase, and in the end, your mane should return to its usual density and volume. However, this process can take months to years to complete. Your hair may continue to shed for up to 6 months and then once the shedding stops regrowth is slow at only about ½ inch each month.
Sometimes hair might not return to its full former density. This is because telogen effluvium can sometimes expose other types of more permanent hair loss. It can also be attributed to the length of time that it takes for the hair to regrow. As you get older the number of actively growing hair follicles naturally decreases, in which case your hair may still be thinner than you remember it. For a select few telogen effluvia can become chronic, usually related to a chronic illness. In this case, hair loss can last for years.
There isn’t really any proven way to prevent an episode of telogen effluvium, but there are some things that you can do to promote general hair health. The healthier your hair is the better it will look, thin or not. To keep your hair healthy make sure to eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of protein. Protein is the building block of hair, so aim for about 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. You should also avoid tight hairstyles, chemical processing, and heat styling as much as possible to avoid contributing to hair loss due to damage.
Learning and practicing coping strategies for stress can help reduce the impact a stressful event has on your body, but it can’t stop stress-induced hair loss entirely. There are also professional hair loss treatments like PRP injections and laser hair loss treatments that can help regrow your hair faster. While waiting for your hair to regrow, noninvasive hair replacements and scalp micropigmentation are options to help you cope with hair loss and continue to look your best.
If you are experiencing sudden diffuse hair loss contact the caring hair loss experts at the Hair Restoration Institute right away. We will perform a complete evaluation of the degree of your hair loss and discuss your hair loss issues and come up with a solution to help. You can find us at 1201 West Lancaster Avenue in Fort Worth, Texas, or call 817-854-HAIR (4247) for a discreet and complimentary consultation.