The Hair Clinic London

Why Does Stress Cause Hair Loss?

There are many factors involved in male hair loss, including age, genetic predisposition and nutrient deficiency, all of which have a part to play in premature hair loss.

However, one factor that can cause hair loss for a wide variety of people is stress, which is a surprisingly common cause of both temporary and permanent hair loss.

Whilst the common saying is that a stressful situation may make you want to “pull your hair out”, sometimes you do not even need to touch your hair for stress to make it fall out in clumps.

To understand why, we need to understand the stages of hair growth, as well as a condition known as telogen effluvium.


The Hair Growth Cycle

Hair growth has four main stages or phases, which take a hair from its initial growth to its final removal from the body.

The first of these is the anagen phase when the hair follicles on the top of our head will grow until they are cut or fall out. As the vast majority of hair follicles are still growing, they are still in this anagen phase.

The next phase is the catagen phase, where hair follicles shrink, growth slows before it gets to the next phase, and stops. This phase only lasts around ten days compared to the five years it can take for a hair to go through the anagen phase.

The third phase is the telogen phase, where the hair rests, neither growing nor falling out and is also the phase where new hair starts to grow in places where it has naturally shed.

Finally, there is the exogen phase, where hair falls from the scalp aided by brushing and washing actions before new hair grows in its place.

What stress can do is affect this natural growth cycle, causing more hairs to move into the telogen phase and thus more hair than normal sheds more quickly. This is known as telogen effluvium, and different types of stress affect it in different ways.


Two Types Of Stress

We experience stress in many different ways but there are two general groups of stressors that affect our body and our hair in different ways.

The first is physical stress, which can be the result of diseases, injury, pregnancy, surgery, hormonal changes or a nutrient deficiency such as a lack of iron.

These body stresses can cause a shock effect on the hair follicles, causing them to enter a resting state early.

The second is psychological stress or the type of stress most of us associate with the term. This can include mental health issues, a traumatic event, mourning someone close or a major life change such as a job loss, financial difficulty or eviction.

Mental health can affect physical health in several ways, one of which is that a psychological shock can create the same response in hair follicles, or encourage physical behaviour that causes stress-related hair loss.

If this is short-term acute stress, then the hair should grow back within a few months, but long-term chronic stress can cause hair to keep falling out at a rate faster than it is growing back.