Contributor: Stephanie Sey (@StephanieSey)
Stress. It’s a big word for only 6 letters. Even the sound of the word sounds like a sigh. In the current climate with COVID-19 confining us to our homes and keeping us away from our loved ones it is only natural that we will be feeling stressed and anxious. “So, what does this have to do with hair?” I hear you ask. Well, stress and anxiety can cause hair loss and scalp conditions for some people.
Stress and anxiety produce what is known as the fight-or-flight response. This response is perfectly normal when you come up against a bear and need to decide in a split second what to do! However, when this is constant the effects are detrimental to the body. It impacts the immune system meaning we are more susceptible to falling ill. It affects the digestive system making it difficult to absorb the necessary nutrients and, during stressful times, it is generally quite common for us to neglect ourselves.
What exactly does all this mean for the hair and why is our hair a victim of this stress? Hair is non-essential tissue and the body prioritises other organs and functions before it - therefore you may see stress manifest itself as hair loss or as a scalp issue. Some of the conditions which can be triggered by stress are telogen effluvium, alopecia areata and seborrhoeic dermatitis.
Telogen effluvium is a condition where the hairs which were in the growing phase (anagen) are shocked into entering the resting phase (telogen) prematurely. This disturbance in the natural hair growth cycle is triggered by a shock to the body such as a stressful event. Approximately 6 – 12 weeks after the event, you will notice that a greater proportion of hair is being shed. Usually it is acute, and the hair will recover and grow back, however, when the stress is constant this can result in continuous excessive shedding. A comforting point to note is that this condition will never lead to baldness.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that causes patchy hair loss. Those that suffer from it most commonly report a stressful event happening just before the hair loss began. With this condition the white blood cells – which are supposed to fight infection and illness – attack the hair follicles instead, causing the hair to fall out. In most cases the hair will spontaneously grow back.
Seborrhoeic dermatitis is an itchy flaky scalp condition – a severe form of dandruff. The fungi that cause the condition thrive when your immune system has been weakened by stress.
If you are suffering from any type of hair loss, don’t panic! You should seek professional help from an expert such as a trained and registered Trichologist, your GP or a Dermatologist.
Self-care is a big buzz phrase at the moment, but it is vitally important and really does help fight the negative effects of stress. Taking up meditation, yoga, pilates, going for walks, taking long relaxing baths and just having a moment for yourself can go really far in helping you destress.
You can book consultations with Stephanie Sey on NinjA'fro. Stephanie is a Trichologist with first-hand experience of hair loss. She is a graduate and member of the Institute of Trichologists and undertook training for Scalp Micropigmentation with Finishing Touches. She is a member of the International Association of Trichologists and British Association of Hair Restoration Surgery.