Deep down, we probably all knew that it wasn’t just a myth that stress causes our hair to grey and fall out. There is now strong scientific evidence that proves too much of a bad thing is not only harmful to our bodies but the health of our hair too.
Damaged hair follicles
Stress at the cellular level damages hair follicles and leads to grey hair through a protective mechanism that stops hair colour stem cells from renewing themselves. On a hormonal level, stress leads to an increase in cortisol levels which induce the hormone changes responsible for hair loss.
A recent study showed that accumulated DNA damage in long lived stem cells may cause symptoms of aging, with hair loss being the most obvious. A single cell can encounter an estimated 100,000 DNA-damaging events in one day, said the study’s leader, Emi Nishimura of Tokyo Medical and Dental University.
“The DNA in cells is under constant attack by damaging agents such as mutagenic chemicals, ultraviolet light and radiation,” she said.
Researchers say that because the DNA in cells is under constant attack by internal and external DNA-damaging vehicles, they have developed ways of repairing the damage and preventing it from being passed on to their daughter cells. However, once stem cells are damaged irreversibly they are not only lost, but turn into fully committed pigment cells in the wrong places.
The damage can reach the stem cells within hair follicles that are responsible for making pigment-producing cells but the good news is that limiting the amount of stress you’re under can stop grey hairs growing – or at least slow their progress.
Similarly, other studies have shown that stress can prematurely terminate the normal duration of hair growth as a result of a sustained rise in cortisol levels. Commonly referred to as the stress hormone, cortisol is part of the adrenal gland which has the basic task to rush all your body’s resources into “fight or flight” mode. The adrenal function takes priority over all other metabolic functions and the problem with that is that in today’s society we’re under constant stress, meaning the adrenal glands are frequently on high alert. Sustained high levels of cortisol has a myriad of negative effects on the immune system, cell regeneration, hormones, digestion, and metabolic, mental and endocrine functions and has been associated with hair loss.
Preventing stress-related hair loss
There are three basic steps one can take to reduce stress and avoid the resulting premature greying and hair loss:
1. Reduce Stress
Keep a positive attitude, take time out for yourself and exercise more. Learn to manage your time more effectively but be ready to accept that there are events that you cannot control. Set yourself limits and say no to requests that would create excessive stress in your life and assert your opinions and feelings instead of becoming defensive or passive. Your body can fight stress better when it is fit so exercise regularly, practice relaxation techniques like yoga, or tai-chi, and make time for hobbies and interests.
2. Improve diet
Saying no to sugar cravings can be hard as the hormones released in response to stress can cause carbohydrate cravings by lowering levels of serotonin. But while carbohydrate intake can strengthen tolerance to stress by boosting levels of serotonin it can also cause weight gain and overeating, particularly as people tend to go for sugar and caffeine laden carbs. Instead, stick to bananas, fish, baked potatoes, avocados, chicken and dark green leafy veggies during stressful times. All are loaded with B vitamins which help maintain our nerves and brain cells.
3. Get more rest
Stress and lack of sleep go hand in hand but your body needs time to recover. You’ll get a better night’s rest if you have regular sleeping patterns so try to go to bed at the same time each night. Most people need eight hours rest but you should never oversleep and you should get out of bed the same time each morning. Sleeping late for just a couple of days can reset your body clock to a different cycle. If you’re constantly thinking when trying to sleep, keep a pad and pencil by your bed and jot any thoughts down so you don’t need to lie awake worrying about remembering them, then let them go. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, exercise and showers before bed. Instead, warm milk contains the calming chemical serotonin, a hot bath will help relax and soothe muscles and gentle stretching and relaxation techniques can help induce sleep.
Controlling stress levels will help maintain one’s health and the hair’s condition. However, stress is not the only factor involved in greying and hair loss. Both conditions are largely predetermined by genetics and if you can’t avoid them, there are ways to control and treat them.
Hair loss treatments can work to control the thinning or loss of hair and even reverse the effects in many cases. Greying hair on the other hand cannot be reversed but hair dyes can mask its appearance. Men and women of all ages use hair dye regardless of greying and with many natural and organic products available these days there’s no reason why anyone should put up with greying hair if they don’t want to. Similarly, scientifically proven hair loss treatments are being used by thousands of people around the world who are thinning as a result of stress. Combating stress-induced hair loss may be most effectively treated with a holistic approach which includes a combination of effective hair loss treatments.
To find out more about treating stress-induced hair loss, contact the Belgravia Centre on 020 7730 6666 or send an email. Alternatively, for a quick an easy way to discover more about your hair loss condition and what can be done, fill in the online diagnostic form and you’ll be contacted shortly with the results and personal recommendations.
The Belgravia Centre