Noticed yourself losing more hair than normal? You’re not alone. Hair loss is a common issue that affects two thirds of American men by the age of 35 and approximately 85 percent of men by the age of fifty.
Although most hair loss in men is caused by male-pattern baldness, other factors can also take a toll on your hairline.
One of these factors is stress. Stress and anxiety are linked to several forms of temporary hair loss that can cause everything from mild thinning to patchy hair loss or even complete hair loss across your scalp.
Below, we’ve explained how hair loss from stress happens, as well as the numerous factors that may cause you to feel stressed. We’ve also discussed the options that are available for treating hair loss from stress, from medications to therapy, lifestyle changes and more.
Stress can take a major toll on your health, affecting everything from your mood to the strength of your immune system. When stress is severe or ongoing, it may also affect your hairline.
Although it’s normal to feel stressed from time to time, chronic or traumatic stress may lead to a form of hair loss called telogen effluvium.
Telogen effluvium isn’t like male-pattern baldness — the form of hormonal and genetic hair loss that affects many men. Instead of being caused by a hormonal factor, telogen effluvium occurs when stress or trauma causes your hair to prematurely enter a telogen, or shedding, phase.
Telogen effluvium usually follows a stressful or traumatic event, and tends to cause steady hair shedding over the course of a few months. If you have telogen effluvium, you may notice more hair shedding than normal a few weeks or months after a period of extreme stress.
Hair loss caused by telogen effluvium typically isn’t permanent, meaning you’ll usually grow the affected hair back over time. In general, it’s rare for telogen effluvium to last for longer than six months.
If you’re experiencing hair loss due to stress, you’ll usually notice the classic symptoms of hair loss:
Hair loss is often subtle, meaning you might not notice it day to day until you look at yourself in a mirror or see your hair in a photograph.
If you’re worried that you might have hair loss due to stress, it may help to take regular photos of your hair to track any changes in thickness over time.
You can also try counting the hairs that you lose. It’s normal to lose about 100 hairs per day. If you have telogen effluvium, you may lose an average of about 300, making it easy to detect a change in your hair shedding.
Hair loss from stress is often confused with male-pattern baldness. When you start to notice extra hairs on your pillow or in the shower drain, it’s easy to assume that it’s an early sign of long-term, permanent hormonal hair loss that affects many men.
There are several key differences between stress-related hair loss and male-pattern baldness, from their cause to how they’re treated:
If you’re worried that you’re losing hair because of stress, or just have concerns about hair loss in general, it’s best to talk to a healthcare provider..
Telogen effluvium can be diagnosed via examination of your scalp and hair, or through a hair pull test. To do this, your healthcare provider will pull on a cluster of your hairs to check for loose strands that may be affected by telogen effluvium.
Hairs that fall out in the telogen phase of the growth cycle tend to look different from those that fall out naturally. Hairs in the telogen phase usually have a white bulb at their end -- a sign that can be used to diagnose stress-related telogen effluvium.
If the cause of your hair loss isn’t obvious, your healthcare provider may recommend a scalp biopsy to rule out other potential causes of hair loss.
Depending on your symptoms, health history and the factors contributing to your hair loss, your healthcare provider may recommend one of the following treatment options:
Because hair loss from stress isn’t directly caused by the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), medications like finasteride, which works by blocking the production of DHT, aren’t effective at stopping or reversing this type of hair loss.
Most of the time, any hair that you lose due to stress will grow back over time. If your hair isn’t growing quick enough or it hasn’t grown back fully, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication such as minoxidil (commonly sold as Rogaine®) to speed up and improve your hair growth.
Minoxidil works by increasing the blood supply to your hair follicles and prompting your hair to enter the anagen, or growth, phase of its cycle. Studies have found that it’s highly effective at promoting hair growth, although it can often take several months to see results.
Changing your lifestyle and habits can often help to reduce stress. If you often feel stressed, try using the techniques below to limit your exposure to sources of stress and manage stress when you experience it:
Although stress doesn’t contribute to permanent hair loss caused by male-pattern baldness, it’s possible to lose hair after a stressful or traumatic event. This type of hair loss is typically known as telogen effluvium.
Hair loss from stress typically isn’t permanent. By taking steps to reduce stress, your hair should grow back over the course of months. In the meantime, treatments such as minoxidil may help to promote hair growth and may speed up your results.
Worried you’re losing your hair? The faster you take action, the easier you’ll find it to slow down or stop hair loss and keep your existing hair. Our guide to the earliest signs of balding goes into more detail about what to look out for, as well as the steps that you can take to treat hair loss.