Can Stress Really Cause Hair Loss?

It has been said that stress can make you go gray, or cause you to lose your hair. But can it?

What’s Stressing You

Paradi Mirmirani, MD, a dermatologist with the Permanente Medical Group in Vallejo, Calif., says it all depends on what type of stress you’re talking about. “Stress because you’re late to work or you’ve got a heavy workload is not going to cause you to lose hair,” she says. Short-term, everyday stress is not going to affect your body in such a way that your hair falls out. It takes something larger to do that. “Something that causes you to lose sleep,” Mirmirani says, “or changes your appetite and raises the level of stress hormones.”

McMichael puts it more bluntly. “There has been, for my entire life, this mythical connection between stress and hair. It’s absolutely ridiculous.” McMichael says there is no evidence to support the idea that just because you had a few stressful days last week your hair will fall out this week. “It doesn’t even work that way,” she says.

Stress and Hair: The Hair Cycle

A normal head of hair contains about 120,000-150,000 strands of hair. Usually, at any one time, about 90% of those hairs are in a growing phase, growing by about 1/2 inch each month. This phase lasts for two to three years. At that point, a hair will go into a resting stage. This “rest” lasts for 3 to 4 months before the hair falls out and is replaced by a new one. “Typically, people shed about 100 hairs a day,” says Carolyn Jacob, MD, founder and medical director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology. “Most people don’t even notice.”

Sometimes, a significant stress of some sort may spark a change in your body’s routine physiological functions, Jacobs says, and cause a disproportionate number of hairs to go into the resting phase at the same time. Then three to four months later, sometimes longer, all those resting hairs are shed. The effect can be alarming. The types of events that disrupt the normal hair cycle, Jacob says, can be caused by the substantial physiological stresses on your body.

But, according to McMichael, physiological stress is not the same as emotional stress.  Hair loss can be one way the body responds to significant physiological stress that may be brought on by diet, medical, or lifestyle changes.

“Only those things that cause physiological stress can cause a hair loss event,” McMichael says. The good news is that the hair loss from these kinds of events is usually temporary, as long as the stress event is temporary. Once the stressor is addressed or goes away on its own, hair grows back and the normal hair cycle resumes.

Stress and Hair: What Causes Hair Loss?

A variety of stressors may cause your body to undergo hair loss. It happens, McMichael says, when there’s some type of physiological change in your system. “For instance,” she says, “you go on or off an oral contraceptive. Or you lose more than 15 pounds of  weight. Things like this change the physiological balance in your system.”

Mirmirani says that hair shedding can also result from certain medications,  thyroid disease, and nutritional deficiencies such as  vitamin D or too much vitamin A.

Pinpointing the actual cause of the shedding isn’t always easy. That’s because, Mirmirani says, there’s a three- to six-month lag time between the stressful event and the hair loss. In order to determine the cause, you need to look back at what was happening three, six, or even nine months before the hair loss began.

McMichael says that because people have repeated the myth of a direct connection between emotional stress and hair loss for so many years, many people now believe it. “There’s no way to predict who’s going to lose hair and who’s not. If you’re a shedder, you’ll shed,” Jacob says. She also says there’s no scientific evidence that points to specific emotional stresses that might trigger the physical stress that can lead to hair loss.

 

Source: WebMD.com For the full article visit: https://www.webmd.com/beauty/hair-health-11/hair-stress-effect?page=1

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