Is stress the root cause of your hair loss?

Stress wreaks havoc on more than just our peace of mind. A leading medical expert warns that it’s also taking its toll on our tresses, sparking a rise in hair loss and balding among both men and women. 

Hair restoration specialist Dr Kashmal Kalan, medical director at the Alvi Armani hair transplant clinic in Sandton, notes that he’s seen a substantial uptick in patients over the past few years. He attributes this surge to the growing prevalence of hair loss issues related to lifestyles, as well as changing public attitudes toward hair loss treatments and transplants. 

“Hair loss can be brought on by a variety of factors including genetics, hormonal imbalances and autoimmune disorders. That said, environmental and emotional stressors resulting from modern-day lifestyles do seem to be having an increasing impact on our hair,” he says.

“In particular, poor diets, mounting levels of work pressure and even rises in relationship conflicts, like so many people experienced during the pandemic years, can exacerbate hair loss.”

The cost of stress on our hair

Stress triggers a range of physiological responses that can directly impact the hair growth cycle. For example, stress hormones such as cortisol can cause inflammation and constrict blood flow to hair follicles, disrupting hair growth cycles, and resulting in abnormal shedding and thinning. 

Likewise, stress can lead to a condition called trichotillomania, which involves the irresistible urge to pull out one’s own hair from various parts of the body.

Then there’s alopecia areata: when the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles. Although the exact cause of alopecia areata is not yet fully understood, both emotional stress and illness may raise a person’s risk.

Females can also experience significant hair loss postpartum, as the hormonal changes and stresses of having a new child significantly impact the hair growth cycle – leading to excessive hair shedding and hair loss.

“It also appears that sleep, stress and hair loss may be connected. Stress can result in poor sleep, and poor sleeping patterns disrupt your circadian rhythm – your body’s natural response to the day-night cycle. This in turn affects follicular stem cell activity, leading to a disruption in hair growth, and in turn worsening your stress in a vicious cycle,” Dr Kalan explains. 

“Fortunately, managing stress can help manage hair loss. Simple things like exercise, meditation and a balanced diet can make a big difference. And if those don’t do the trick, there are many treatments available that can help your hair get back on track.”

Hair restoration solutions

Lifestyle changes are not necessarily a silver bullet for hair loss. So, if the hair loss is more severe or permanent, Dr Kalan encourages sufferers to seek advice from a medical professional to find a long-term solution, and even consider a hair transplant procedure.

“After undergoing a consultation and understanding the true cause of your hair loss, we will first recommend either a platelet-rich plasma therapy, or Armani VITADRIP or Armani MESO treatments. This can help reduce the aggressive hair loss a person is experiencing and will promote healthier and fuller hair. We may also propose scalp micropigmentation, which creates the impression of naturally thicker hair.

“While some patients find that these hair loss treatments or other medications like finasteride and minoxidil help with symptoms, hair transplantation is the most long-term solution to gain back your hair. The good news is that modern techniques like follicular unit extraction have become more refined, offering natural-looking results with minimal downtime. This means hair transplants have become a viable option for a much wider demographic, and not just celebrities or the ultra-wealthy,” he explains.

Advancements in the field have further translated into fewer hours in the operating room, limited discomfort and faster recovery times. As a result, hair transplants are rapidly gaining popularity as more people turn to them to restore their locks, reducing the stigma around the procedure, and even seeing people openly share and celebrate their transplant journey on social media.

“A hair transplant can significantly improve a person’s quality of life by reversing the effects lifestyle stressors may have had on their hairline. In addition to restoring their hair, I’ve often seen that transplants restore people’s self-esteem and confidence. So, ultimately, there’s no reason to suffer and stress in silence if you’re experiencing hair loss – consulting a professional and getting a hair transplant is simply one of the best things you can do for yourself,” Dr Kalan concludes.

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