People these days often lead stressful lifestyles, or they are handling a traumatic problem of some sort on a daily basis. This is typical in this day and age, especially if you lead a rushed lifestyle in an overwhelming city. Most claim that they are so nervous and anxious at all times, that ‘sooner or later they will lose all hair’! Literally. Most of us take it as a metaphoric expression, as its impossible to suddenly go bald, unless you pull a Britney and shave. However the truth is that living under constant stress may be very harmful for us, and affect not only our hair but also our general health condition. According to a large number of studies, stress is one of the most influential components which results in hair loss.
Broadly speaking, stress is your body’s response to danger or general fear. The nervous system is very active at all times, as it releases adrenaline and cortisol, so-called stress hormones. Moreover, during a stressful situation your blood pressure is raised, and your heart pounds faster. These are signals that your body is ready to face a challenge. Because of these reasons, there stress can be classified in two ways: positive and negative. The first one motives us to take according actions, encouraging us to complete a task or challenge, usually in a short term situation. The other one manifests itself when there is a long term unresolved issue constantly sitting on our mind. This can significantly impact our mental and physical condition. Positive stress can often become the negative one, when it keeps our body constantly alerted. Therefore we can conclude that exposure to long term stress could have a harmful impact on our health.
In order to understand how stress causes our hair loss, it is very important to describe hair cycle life stages. Anagen is the first active stage of hair growth. During that stage, cells are dividing rapidly and thereby new hair follicles replace the ones that do not grow anymore. Anagen lasts from 2 to 6 years, and during this time, our hair can grow as much as couple of cm per month. Interestingly, because this period lasts so short, people have problems with growing their hair beyond a specific length.
This stage takes about three weeks to complete and during this phase hair growth is completely halted, and hair is no longer attached to blood supply. Only 3% of our hair is involved with this stage.
The last stage is telogen, which is a final phase during which hair is completely formed. Hair growth in this phase lasts about 3 months and merely 8% of our hair is involved in this process. This stage is important to us, as within this time anything from 25 to 100 hair strands fall out as a result of daily activities.
When we experience any serious and stressful experience, for some reason our body forces our hair to move at once to the third stage, it’s as if the entire long term process is sped up. However, after this your hair falls out only a few months later, this means that if you experience a stressful day or two, you won’t lose your hair immediately. If we are dealing with daily stress, we can lose our hair continuously for a year or longer, during a process called telogen effluvium. Furthermore, the older we are, the longer it may take for hair growth process to regain its normal rhythm.