“All that worry’s going to make them go grey” – it’s an oft-heard refrain whispered behind the backs of stressed out individuals, but does it hold water? And what of the other common suggestion that anxiety will lead to hair loss?
There is a degree of truth to both – though medical research clearly indicates that stress can have a more profound influence on hair and hair growth.
That isn’t to say that it is only worriers who will go bald, of course – far from it. People who have an inherited predisposition towards hair thinning will start losing their hair as soon as their genes dictate – unless they take preventative measures, such as following a bespoke hair loss treatment course.
Greying happens when the production of pigment in the hair shaft decreases – it’s a normal part of the ageing process that affects many of us: we simply become worse at making the magic ingredient. Surprisingly perhaps, greying is only considered to be premature when more than half a person’s hair has lost its colour by the age of 40.
And yes, it seems that greying can indeed be brought on by stress. The Mental Floss website recently interviewed Miri Seiberg of the Global Dermatology Institute who explained that a “very strong, chronic stress” could lead to a hike in something called oxidative stress – damage to the cells that make the hair pigment.
While some studies have shown that extreme stress can lead to greying, Ms Seiberg says that “stress is more likely to cause hair loss and to increase shedding rather than cause greying.”
This is because stress – whether physical or emotional – can have a rather more devastating effect on hair health. Many people may not consider themselves ‘stressed’ but issues including an underlying illness or even not getting enough sleep on a regular basis can fit into this category just as well as more traditional definitions.
Stressful incidents can cause the body to enter into “fight or flight” mode, which causes the release of certain hormones – including cortisol, noradrenaline and adrenaline into the blood stream.
In turn, these suppress the immune system and increase both blood pressure and blood sugar. The bad news for hair is that blood is diverted away from non-vital areas (like the scalp) while the body is primed for response to the stressful situation. This, it is believed, can cause a number of hairs to prematurely enter the resting (Telogen) phase, and then fall out around three months later.
What is described above would be classified as Chronic Telogen Effluvium, a general all-over thinning that can be brought on not just by stress but by anaemia, thyroid conditions, birth control pills – any number of things that “shock” the body. What’s especially discomforting is that Chronic Telogen Effluvium, or its milder form which can last up to – as opposed to more than – six months, Telogen Effluvium can also spark or exacerbate genetic hair loss, which is a permanent condition.
Dealing with stress-related hair loss
Sometimes stress-related hair loss isn’t caused by Telogen Effluvium at all: stress can simply speed up the shedding from or onset of genetic hair loss (Male Pattern Baldness and Female Pattern Hair Loss) in its own right.
It can also play a part in Alopecia Areata, an autoimmune disorder that leads to sudden, patchy hair loss. This condition is the most common reason for hair loss behind androgenetic alopecia and its precise cause remains a mystery. Certain triggers are believed to bring this condition on, however, including sudden shock or trauma – though people with the condition who have been told it was caused by stress may struggle to put their finger on when this “nightmare” moment supposedly happened.
Fortunately, all of the above conditions can be treated at a specialist hair loss clinic, where custom courses featuring medically-proven products have resulted in thousands of regrowth success stories. As a general rule, the earlier the diagnosis the better the prognosis, though many men have found that Male Pattern Baldness that has been left untouched for some years can still be effectively treated.
In fact, reversing a hair loss condition is considerably easier than reversing greying: there is currently no scientific evidence to demonstrate that a product can rejuvenate the pigment-making cells in hair follicles once they have stopped working.
The Belgravia Centre
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.