Let’s cut to the chase—these past few years couldn’t have come with more surprises. The news cycle is enough to send us into a stress spiral. As a result, you may have noticed more shedding or flakiness on your scalp than normal. You better believe the two are related, which is why we tapped two major experts to discuss how stress can affect your scalp. Read their expert advice below!
Lars Skjøth is the founder and lead researcher for Harklinikken. He pioneered a secret formula that has helped people worldwide halt hair loss. Harklinikken’s process is nothing short of magical and being in that space for years has given Lars a lot of experience when it comes to scalp health.
How Stress Affects Scalp Health
“Prolonged stress can result in hormonal imbalance which can have a very negative impact on the scalp’s biological environment and hair health in multiple ways,” Lars advises. He goes on to explain that stress can cause increased production from oil glands in the hair follicles and cause severe scalp issues such as buildup from oil which can result in other issues like seborrheic dermatitis. “Lack of scalp health plays a part in hair thinning for approximately 20% of our clients,” he admits. Lars also explains that excessive stress-related shedding can result in massive oil production on the scalp and cause havoc for longer periods of time.
Our second expert, Gretchen Friese, is a Bosley Professional Strength Certified Trichologist. She explores other, less conventional ways that stress can affect your scalp like trichotillomania. “[This] is an irresistible urge to pull out hair from your scalp, eyebrows, or other areas of your body. Hair pulling can be a way of dealing with negative or uncomfortable feelings, such as stress, anxiety, or depression,” she explains. Gretchen also explains stress can bring on alopecia areata. “A variety of factors are thought to cause alopecia areata (when hair loss happens in specific visible spots) possibly including severe stress. With alopecia areata, the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles which can cause hair loss,” she says.
Like Lars, she believes stress causes an increased release of cortisol which can cause increased shedding of scalp hair. “In response to chronic stress, levels of male hormones, such as testosterone and DHEAS, also rise, leading to increased oiliness of the scalp as well as the premature shedding of mature hair follicles,” she explains.
How to Combat Stress
Lars recognizes that you can’t fully remove stress in many cases. That being said, he advocates for a regiment that can help relieve part of the stressors. His top tips? “Increase sleep to a minimum of eight to nine hours daily. When your body is overloaded it needs a lot more sleep,” he begins. “When you get enough sleep the brain works like a washing machine, it gets rid of waste and it reenergizes your body’s cells. If you get enough sleep you have a 60% to 80% better chance of overcoming stress,” he says. More sleep equals lowered cortisol levels. Lars believes that more sleep will hinder the negative impact stress has on your body, including your hair and scalp. “Go for walks, exercise and move your body as it reduces cortisol and other stress hormones,” he also says.
Lar’s last tip involves diet, “Focus on whole, nutrient-dense, non-processed foods as this can work magic,” he asserts. “Eating the right foods helps to send the right signals in your body, fill nutrient deficiencies, and restore hormonal balance,” Lars says. His favorite foods to munch on? Avocado, unsalted almonds, blueberries, flaxseed, and extra virgin olive oil are just a few.
Our two experts agree, stress can certainly wreak havoc on your scalp and consequently cause hair loss or other skin conditions. Although removing stressors from everyday life during these times is nothing short of impossible, remember to take a breath.
Want to dive even deeper into the impacts of stress on your hair? Find out what it does to your strands here!