Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 3/29/2023
If you’re wondering how to regain hair loss from stress, you’ve come to the right place.
Is working stress getting the best of you? Or maybe you have some family stuff going on that’s been weighing on your brain. Whatever’s at the root of your stress, it can have a huge impact on your well-being — both mentally and physically.
Stress can lead to tension headaches, a pounding heart, gastrointestinal issues and even hair loss. Yup, you read that right. Stress has been linked to hair loss. Some good news? If you have stress-related hair loss, it can likely be reversed.
Below, we’ll dive into how stress can lead to hair loss, plus how to regain hair loss from stress.
Stressed because you’re rushing to a meeting? That’s not going to cause your hair to fall out. But living in a constant state of emotional stress might. Chronic stress levels can lead to a condition called telogen effluvium.
Physiological stress can also lead to telogen effluvium. This includes anything that puts stress on your body — like surgery, chronic illnesses (like autoimmune diseases) or a high fever.
Telo-what? Telogen effluvium is a type of hair loss that often presents as sudden thinning around the entire scalp.
To understand telogen effluvium, you need to have a working knowledge of the three stages of hair growth. First, there’s the growth phase (called the anagen phase). This is when hair strands push through the scalp.
After that, your hair enters the catagen phase. This is when hair stops growing and the hair follicle shrinks. Finally, there’s the telogen phase, when your hair falls out and the process starts over.
When telogen effluvium occurs, hair is forced into the telogen phase. As a result, hairs fall out without new hairs growing in to replace them.
One thing to know: The research around emotional stress and telogen effluvium has mostly been done on mice. To further confirm this connection, more research on humans is needed.
Most people notice hair thinning a few months after a stressful event occurs. But the good news is that it’s usually not permanent.
In addition to telogen effluvium, some believe psychological stress can cause the onset of a condition called alopecia areata. However, there’s very little evidence to support this.
One small study of 16 people from over 20 years ago linked alopecia areata and stress. It found that those with chronic stress noticed that their alopecia areata was exacerbated.
Alopecia areata is a type of hair loss where the body attacks its own hair follicles. Most often, it starts to affect people in their childhood or teen years. This type of hair loss is usually not permanent.
To more closely link this condition with emotional stress, new research with more people would need to be done.
While it is helpful to understand that stress-related hair loss is a real thing, the info you’re likely really craving is how to regain hair loss from stress.
Different types of hair loss call for different solutions. With stress-related hair loss, there are actually a couple of things you can try.
You don’t need 20 ways to regain hair loss from stress, but having multiple options does help. After all, different people respond to different things.
Whether you’re dealing with excessive hair loss from chronic stress or noticing just a bit of shedding, here are some things that may help with hair regrowth.
Not to be Captain Obvious, but if you have stress-related hair loss, the first thing you need to do is get your levels of stress under control.
There are a number of ways you can try to lower severe stress. Here are a few things that have been shown to work:
Get your sweat on. A 2014 study looked at the effects of exercise on 111 healthy men and women who did and didn’t report regular physical activity. Those who regularly worked out had a better response to acute stress. Ideally, you should be aiming for about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise.
Make time to meditate. A small study, which also happened to be done in 2014, found that 20 minutes of mindful meditation can lower stress and anxiety. If you aren't sure how to meditate, there are a number of online videos and mobile apps that can guide you.
Talk it out. If stress is an emotional symptom that’s led to hair thinning, talking to a mental health professional could help. You can discuss anything that’s causing stress — financial insecurity, health conditions, relationship issues, you name it. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be an effective form of talk therapy. With CBT, you’ll look at patterns that cause you stress, then work with your provider to change those things.
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Another effective treatment that may lead to healthy hair growth is minoxidil. This FDA-approved medication doesn’t require a prescription and comes in a liquid or foam solution.
The exact mechanism of minoxidil isn’t known. However, it’s thought to work by stimulating hair follicles to enter the growth phase. It may also encourage blood flow to the scalp, which allows more nutrients to get there.
If you have stress-induced hair loss, it’s important not to make your hair loss even worse. While one of the above treatment options may reverse your hair loss, incorporating some healthy hair habits into your life can help ensure you don’t make it worse.
Here are some habits that are good for your strands of hair:
Eat a balanced diet. Studies have shown that nutritional deficiencies (specifically not getting enough iron and zinc) aren’t so good for the health of your hair. The good news is that people who added more of these things to fill out their healthy diet saw an improvement in hair growth. Crab, oatmeal and nuts are just a few foods rich in zinc. Spinach, seafood and lentils are good if you need to boost your iron intake.
Choose hair products wisely. When considering what shampoo to use, look for one that contains ingredients known to promote healthy hair growth. For instance, one study suggested that saw palmetto can encourage hair growth in folks with androgenic alopecia. Hims has a thickening shampoo made with this ingredient. Also, be careful about using products that can cause damage. Styling products that claim to have long-lasting hold (like hair sprays and gels) may not be so great for your strands. They can cause breakage and damage.
Kick bad habits to the curb. Cigarettes are a big no-no for so many reasons. Aside from the obvious (ahem, cancer), researchers have identified a possible link between smoking and hair loss. Not only that, but cigarette smoke is a pollutant that damages your strands and even negatively impacts the DNA of your hair follicles.
There’s no doubt that stress sucks. It can leave you with a pit in your stomach and have many different physical effects, including temporary hair loss.
Physiological stress (such as living with an autoimmune disorder or undergoing surgery) can cause a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium, which means your strands enter the shedding phase sooner than they normally would.
There’s some evidence that emotional stress can also result in this type of hair loss. When it comes to how to regain hair loss from stress, there are a few things that may work.
Lower your stress. One of the best ways to deal with stress-induced hair loss is to lower your stress. There’s evidence that meditation, regular exercise and talk therapy can all help do this.
Consider hair-loss medication. One hair-loss medication that may help is minoxidil, a topical treatment you can get without a prescription.
Practice healthy hair habits. If your hair is falling out because of stress, the last thing you want to do is make it worse through bad hair rituals. Eating a nutritious diet can help keep hair in check, as well as using a thickening shampoo and avoiding cigarettes.
To learn more about ways to address hair loss, read our guide on how to prevent hair loss and our blog on figuring out what is causing your hair loss.
When you are ready to address your hair loss, schedule a consultation with a healthcare professional to start figuring out what may help.