why does our hair fall out when we’re stressed or anxious?

It’s the big question: why does our hair fall out when we’re stressed or anxious? We may already feel like we’re at breaking point and then our hair joins the party, too! It can often feel like the final straw when you’re already struggling with stress or anxiety, so why does our hair suffer when we do?

When we’re stressed there are hundreds of things happen in our bodies – not just the outward signs that you might be aware of like poor sleep, a low sex drive and the familiar frazzled-brain feeling. While you may be feeling stressed, your body is dealing with stress too, in its own special way.

Loss of appetite

Stress can wreak havoc on your appetite but did you know this could have a knock-on effect on the health of your hair? Calories (energy) are required for the growth of new hair follicles (anagen phase), and if you experience extended periods of inadequate calorie intake, this increases the risk of you hair follicles entering an extended telogen (resting) and exogen (shedding) phase.

If stress affects your appetite and you find yourself eating less, your body will start to conserve the calories you do eat for vital bodily functions, like those of your brain, heart and liver. Unfortunately, hair growth isn’t top of the priority list for a stressed-out body.

Added to this, a chronic deficiency in any of the essential vitamins and minerals required for hair follicle development, like zinc, biotin and vitamin C, will also cause your hair to shed. Zinc plays a critical role in hormone regulation and is a co-factor for many enzymes that support hair growth, and vitamin C is a key cofactor for collagen synthesis. While many of the B-vitamins are supportive of healthy hair growth, research has shown that biotin (vitamin B7) is a real star.

Reaching for the wrong foods

When we feel frazzled, sometimes we just can’t muster up the energy to cook a meal from scratch – we hear you! However, reaching for high-energy fast foods and ready meals isn’t the answer; in fact, we’re sorry to say, they can make it worse.

Foods that are low in micronutrient content are a bad solution for hair health. A diet low in micronutrients actually slows hair growth and increases the risk of shedding; all while dehydrating hair and leaving follicles brittle and weak. If you need a healthy helping hand in the kitchen, food delivery boxes like Hello Fresh and Gusto come with readily measured ingredients and often only take 20 minutes to cook. Plus they contain a good serving of both macro and micronutrients to keep your hair health on track.

Haywire hormones

Our hormones are finely tuned and the symptoms of stress, like a lack of sleep, over stimulation and adrenal fatigue, can result in excessive cortisol production; a hormone secreted as part of the body’s primary mechanism in dealing with stress.

Long-term stress can result in a low sex drive and poor quality hair health among other symptoms. Unfortunately for our hair health (and our sex life!), energy and micronutrients are diverted away from sex organs and hair follicles when we’re suffering from long-term stress; instead they’re shuttled to the adrenal gland, the central nervous system and cardio-respiratory centres.

Taking time to de-stress is important for mood, sleep and ultimately hair. Try to give yourself an hour every day to unwind and relax. This should help alleviate unnecessary adrenal strain and help keep your hormones balanced. Read a book, have a bath, practise mindfulness or even yoga – all of these will help you relax.

Sleep can really help improve your hair (and overall health, too). Try to sleep in a cool, dark, well-ventilated room. Avoid using your tablet or phone an hour before bed and try adding warm milk or herbal teas to your bedtime routine – they’re a great way to relax and unwind before bed.