How stress impacts your body, understanding its effects on hair loss

Hair loss happens for many reasons like genetics, hormonal changes, and autoimmune issues. Picture: Supplied

Hair loss happens for many reasons like genetics, hormonal changes, and autoimmune issues. Picture: Supplied

Published May 30, 2024


Stress is an inevitable part of life, it impacts more than your mental health. when it lingers too long or becomes too intense, it can cause a whirlwind of health issues. It’s also causing more people to lose their hair, men and women alike.

Your skin is probably a reflection of your internal health and stress can contribute to skin issues, digestive issues and sometimes even hair loss.

Hair loss is another unwelcome side effect of stress. High-stress levels can push hair follicles into a resting phase, leading to increased shedding and thinning. This condition, known as telogen effluvium, is usually temporary but it can be distressing.

Dr Kashmal Kalan, a hair restoration expert and medical director at the Alvi Armani hair transplant clinic in Sandton, has noticed a significant rise in patients lately.

Kalan attributed this increase as relating to stressful lifestyles and the growing acceptance of hair loss treatments and transplants.

Hair loss happens for many reasons like genetics, hormonal changes and autoimmune issues. But today’s stressful life seems to make it worse, he explained.

Hair shedding or thinning can be effectively managed. Picture: Supplied

“In particular, poor diets, mounting levels of work pressure, and even rises in relationship conflicts like so many people experienced during the pandemic years, can exacerbate hair loss.”

Stress can be a big deal for your hair, so finding ways to manage stress could help keep your hair healthier longer.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology stress-related hair loss typically resolves once the stressor is eliminated, but it can take several months for hair to recover fully.

How does stress affect your hair?

Stress can wreak havoc on our bodies and hair. When we’re stressed, our bodies release hormones like cortisol which can cause inflammation and reduce blood flow to our hair follicles.

This disrupts the normal hair growth cycle, leading to unusual shedding and thinning, he said.

Kalam said stress can also bring about conditions like trichotillomania, where individuals feel a strong urge to pull out their own hair.

There’s also alopecia areata, a condition where the immune system attacks hair follicles resulting in hair loss. While the exact cause of alopecia areata isn’t fully understood, emotional stress and illness can increase the risk.

New mothers often face significant hair loss after giving birth. The hormonal shifts and stress of caring for a newborn can severely impact the hair growth cycle, leading to excessive shedding.

Sleep, stress, and hair loss are interconnected, Kalan said. Stress can lead to poor sleep, which disrupts your circadian rhythm – the body’s natural day-night cycle. This impacts follicular stem cell activity, leading to hair growth issues and worsening your stress in a never-ending cycle.

“Fortunately, Simple things like exercise, meditation, and a balanced diet can make a big difference. And if those don’t do the trick, there are many treatments available that can help your hair get back on track,” he said.

Hair restoration solutions

If you’re dealing with severe or persistent hair loss, Kalan suggests it's wise to seek professional advice for a lasting solution, including the possibility of a hair transplant.

After a consultation to pinpoint the exact cause of your hair loss, we might recommend treatments like platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, Armani VITADRIP, or Armani MESO treatments," Kalan says.

These treatments can help slow down aggressive hair loss and encourage healthier, fuller hair. Another option could be scalp micro pigmentation (SMP), which gives the appearance of naturally thicker hair.

Length of procedure: 60 – 90 minutes depending on the area being treated.

Type of anaesthesia: A pain-numbing local anaesthetic ointment is applied 15 minutes before.

Length of stay: Day case.

What to expect post-op: Redness of the treated area on the day of the treatment.

Recovery time: It takes 2 – 4 days for the skin to return to normal, but you may resume normal social activity on the day of treatment using a mineral-based cover-up if you wish.

Results: You will see an improvement one week after your first treatment. Depending on the condition being treated, a series of 3 – 6 PRP sessions may be suggested and less frequent maintenance treatments thereafter.

While some people find relief with treatments or medications like finasteride and minoxidil, a hair transplant often proves to be the most effective long-term solution.

The good news is that advances like Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) make hair transplants a feasible option for many, offering natural-looking results with minimal downtime. This means hair transplants aren’t just for celebrities or the ultra-wealthy anymore; they are accessible to a broader range of people.

As a result, hair transplants are rapidly gaining popularity as more people turn to them to restore their locks, reducing the stigma around the procedure, and even seeing people openly share and celebrate their transplant journey on social media.

“A hair transplant can significantly improve a person’s quality of life by reversing the effects lifestyle stressors may have had on their hairline.”