How Stress Affects Your Scalp & What To Do About It
In this Article:
- Stress and the scalp
- Stress and hair loss
- Lifestyle changes that can help curb stress
- Products to help combat stress-related scalp problems
We know that chronic stress is problematic for our health. It can lead to high blood pressure, kidney failure, weight gain, and mood disorders. It can also lead to skin problems on your scalp, which many people do not realize. So, if you have been struggling with hair loss or an itchy, dry scalp, you may need to consider how stress impacts your body. Here's a look at what stress does to your scalp and what you can do about it.
Stress and the scalp
When our bodies are under stress, we release certain hormones that help our bodies fight through stressors. Getting more technical, our adrenal glands (which sit above the kidneys) release the stress hormone called cortisol. The primary role of cortisol is to increase blood sugar in the circulatory system so your tissues can get plenty of energy to protect your body in a fight-or-flight situation. Cortisol also turns off non-essential functions that would not serve you if you were trying to protect your body (such as slowing down digestion). Another function of cortisol is to release pro-inflammatory chemicals. We know that inflammation is a necessary mechanism for healing wounds and infected tissues. However, too much inflammation can be a bad thing, especially when it becomes chronic.
So, what does all this have to do with this scalp? High levels of stress and cortisol frequently present in our bloodstream at higher than normal levels can affect all of your body systems, including your skin. Indeed, cortisol pulls moisture away from certain parts of your body, which can leave your skin dry. For this reason, many people who are under chronic stress have dry, flaky scalps.
What is more, a dry scalp not only leads to uncomfortable symptoms like itching, but it can also make your skin prone to fungal infections that interfere with healthy skin turnover and even hair growth.
Stress and hair loss
Like your scalp, your hair is also affected by your cortisol levels. Acute or chronic stress can cause temporary hair loss because high cortisol levels can interfere with the hair growth cycle, causing follicles in the growing phase to enter the resting phase and eventually shed.
Stress-related hair loss is called telogen effluvium. Most people will experience telogen effluvium at some point in their lives following a particularly stressful event. This event may be something physical that happens to you like surgery, trauma, or illness, or it can be emotional, like a job change, divorce, or loss.
Typically, people who have stress-induced hair loss will find their hair starts to fall out about three months after the stressful event occurs. Then, their hair begins to grow back within a 6-12 month period.
Of course, some people who have chronic stress will have gradual hair loss and may notice hair quality and texture changes because of an unhealthy scalp. For example, if you suffer from a dry, itchy scalp, you may see your hair does not grow back very quickly, and the hair you do have becomes dry and weak.
Bring your hair back to its shining glory
Lifestyle changes that can help curb stress
Stress is often related to lifestyle factors. Many live a busy, on-to-go lifestyle that does not allocate much time to rest our bodies and minds. Indeed, when our schedules become too jam-packed, we usually compromise our sleep and dietary needs before canceling any activities. Along with busy schedules, many people also suffer from chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, thyroid conditions, and mental health conditions that place our bodies under severe stress.
While we cannot always escape the things that make us feel stressed, there are ways to reduce stress overall in our lives. For example,
- Diet - Make sure you are eating the right foods to support your body's needs. When we are stressed, it is all too easy to swing by the vending machine for a quick lunch bite before getting back to work. Consider meal planning ahead so that you always have something nutritious to fuel your body. After all, your scalp and hair need plenty of protein, vitamins, and healthy fats to stay healthy.
- Sleep - Give yourself a bedtime and stick to it. Your circadian rhythm is intricately intertwined with other hormones, including cortisol. Ensuring you get plenty of sleep each night is vital for your overall health and wellbeing.
- Disconnect every day - being connected to e-mail, friends, family, and social media is wonderful, but it is also detrimental when overused and abused. Like your bedtime, set strict parameters for yourself about when you will be available and when you won't.
- Daily exercise - Getting regular physical activity not only curbs weight gain and keeps your muscles fit, but it also boosts your circulation throughout your body and releases feel-good neurohormones.
If you feel stressed out about implementing any of these changes, start by making one small change a day and try to grow from there.
Products to help combat stress-related scalp problems
Aside from lifestyle factors, using the right products to cleanse your scalp is key. Use products that treat any underlying fungal infections that can accompany conditions like sebaceous dermatitis, and look for products that moisturize your scalp.
To combat stress-related scalp problems, add these products to your arsenal:
- DANDRENE Exfoliating Anti-Dandruff Shampoo and Conditioner, or
- REVITA High-Performance Hair Stimulating Shampoo and Conditioner (for hair loss)
- REVITA Nutraceutical Tablets for Hair Growth Support