Researchers May Have Identified Why Stress Can Induce Hair Loss
Over the course of this past year, a number of times, we have touched on the importance of de-stressing, as we always knew that stress could cause hair loss. As April is Stress Awareness month, we are excited that there may be some good news when it comes to hair loss from stress. In a study released on March 31st, researchers from Harvard believe they have identified why hair loss occurs due to stress. While the study was conducted on mice, they hope it will provide greater understanding for why this phenomenon occurs in humans, with the goal to help with prevention in the future.
Hair loss caused by stress is known as Telogen Effluvium. Telogen Effluvium is the second most common form of hair loss. Telogen Effluvium typically presents as diffuse thinning, meaning coming from all parts of the scalp and most woman will experience an increase in shedding of their hair. While it is normal to shed between 50 and 100 hairs a day, during a Telogen Effluvium episode you can notice more excessive shedding. The telogen phase of the hair cycle is the resting phase, which is when shedding normally occurs, however, during a Telogen Effluvium either the telogen phase is extended or an abnormal number of hairs enter this phase. This can be caused by pregnancy, rapid weight loss, protein deficiency, physical illness, surgery, trauma, some medications, and of course stress. Fortunately, it is usually reversible and complete regrowth occurs in about 1-2 years.
So why does stress cause a Telogen Effluvium to occur? According to the researchers, they found that sustained exposure to stressors increased the amount of the stress hormone corticosterone in mice, which is the equivalent of cortisol in humans. The researchers found that an increase in the stress hormone led to a shortening of the growing phase and a lengthening of the resting phase, which is consistent with shedding and telogen effluvium. Initially the scientists thought the stress hormone was directly affecting the stem cells responsible for regenerating the follicle and hair. However, the scientists realized that instead, the increased levels of the stress hormone were preventing secretion of a certain molecule, called Gas6, which plays a key role in regenerating the follicle and the hair follicle cells. More importantly, the scientists found that manually increasing the molecule Gas6, could activate hair growth even when stress hormone levels were increased.[i]
While this study was only conducted on mice and research has a long way to go before we will know if there is potential to apply this to humans, it is important for us to better understand the mechanisms behind the causes of hair loss. Stress management is so important for many reasons and the health of your hair is one of them.
Posted by Your Medi Tresse Team
[i] Choi, S., Zhang, B., Ma, S. et al. Corticosterone inhibits GAS6 to govern hair follicle stem-cell quiescence. Nature 592, 428–432 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03417-2
Happy August everyone. I know for myself that when we get to the middle of August, I start to get very sad about the end of the summer. This year, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it has been one of the hardest summers for many of us. I know it has been for me. The anxiety surrounding children going back to school has only heightened the stress for many people. My son and daughter-in-law are both teachers and I have several grandchildren who desperately need the social connection that school provides. And yet, they still aren’t sure what school is going to look like. Again, more stress for parents, teachers (and concerned grandmothers!)
In light of what we are all going through, I thought it would be helpful to discuss the effects of the COVID-19 infection, as well as stress, on our hair health. Many of you may have seen the headline on CNN, “Alyssa Milano says she’s losing her hair after battling COVID-19 for months”. Included in the story was a video showing her hair brush full of hair. In the last couple of months, I have spoken to several women who did have COVID-19 infections, and like Alyssa Milano, have experienced significant shedding about 2-3 months after being ill. We know very little about the long term consequences of this new virus, so it is unclear whether the shedding is a direct result of this particular infection or a telogen effluvium (TE) which can occur with any significant illness or stress. What I will say is that these women who did have documented COVID-19 infection seem to have a rather aggressive shedding experience. Only time will tell if their recovery follows a similar pattern as most telogen effluviums, with shedding stopping after 3-6 months, followed by complete regrowth.
As with those of us, myself included, who have noticed increased shedding during this difficult time, I recommend that women with post COVID-19 shedding try to improve their diet with increased protein and fresh fruits and vegetables, take a good hair loss supplement like Lock Rx or Nutrafol, and be very gentle with their hair. This means using less styling products which dry and damage hair, perhaps shampooing a little less often, and avoiding chemical treatments as much as possible.
If you think you are shedding as a result of stress or recent infection, we would be happy to see you, either in person or via video consult. It’s important to get a thorough evaluation and expert advice. While we adhere to very strict COVID-19 precautions in the office, we know some of you just aren’t quite ready to venture out yet.
So, I hope you and your families stay safe, and enjoy the rest of your summer. I know we will all get through this difficult time together.
Posted by Dr. Mary Wendel
Recent Study May Prove that Stress Does Cause Your Hair to Turn Gray
Anecdotally we have believed that stress can cause our hair to turn gray. If you have ever seen pictures of a president’s first day in office versus their last, they certainly leave with a head full of gray hairs. For ourselves, at the first sign of gray hairs we often blame our children, spouse, or work for these stress induced gray hairs. Well it turns out we may have been right, as researchers at Harvard may have found a link between stress and premature gray hairs in mice.
The study, Hyperactivation of sympathetic nerves drives depletion of melanocyte stem cells, was published this month in the journal Nature and found a link between the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our fight-or-flight response, and premature greying of hair in mice. So how does this happen? The hair follicles get their pigment from melanocyte stem cells, which deplete as we age. However, the researchers found that during the fight-or-flight response, the sympathetic nerve in the follicle releases norepinephrine, which is causing the pigment producing cells to activate and deplete prematurely.
Obviously, more research needs to be completed to see if the link is the same for humans, but the researchers believe that the sympathetic nervous system and pigment producing stem cells in mice are very similar to those in humans. Overall, it is important to understand that stress can have significant impacts on our hair and body. Even if we are still not 100% sure that stress can cause hair to turn gray prematurely in humans, we know it can impact the health of the hair and cause shedding. We cannot always mitigate stress completely, but it is important to be proactive to try to de-stress and we all should consider stress reduction activities like yoga and meditation. Lastly, it is important to utilize treatments like vitamins and supplements and low-level laser therapy that can counteract the effects of stress and improve hair health and decrease shedding.
Posted by Your Medi Tresse Team
Recent News Stories About Hair Care Products Causing Hair Loss
You may have heard one of the many stories in the news recently about claims being made that certain hair care products are causing hair loss. Many of these products are sold to consumers with the promise to achieve thicker, stronger and more beautiful hair. From these news stories it can be very difficult to know for sure if these products are actually the source of the hair loss. It is always possible that these products had some form of irritant in them that could cause hair loss. There is also the possibility that a number of consumers who purchased these products were already suffering from hair loss, and purchased them hoping to stop their loss, but over time their loss has just continued. Regardless of the cause of the hair loss, these types of news stories highlight some important questions that we should be asking ourselves, what is in our hair care products, and could our hair care products cause hair loss?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes it is possible that your hair care product could be a cause of hair loss. So how can you avoid this, and what do you do if this happens to you? The answer is to be savvy about hair care. If you start using something that creates a change in the way your scalp feels for the worse; such as tingling, burning, itching, redness, or general irritation STOP USING IT! Your body (or more specifically, your follicles!) are telling you that this is not the good kind of stimulation, and that it may even be harmful. Do not ignore these signs thinking things like “pain is beauty” or “if it tingles that means it’s working”. Although there is a lot of research out there supporting the use of products free of harsh sulfates and parabens, we also need to be more in tune with our bodies as well. Certainly shampoos and hair products that are lacking in these proven harmful ingredients will more than likely be better for your follicles, it doesn’t mean you need to drop your Pantene and switch to Castor Oil and Avocados. I personally love more natural products that are free of chemicals, harsh sulfates, and parabens, but I also promote products that are aimed to treat hair loss, that are scientifically proven by good ol’ fashion clinical research, such as our Tricomin Products for female hair loss treatment. These products are specifically designed to treat the follicle and encourage hair regrowth.
Overall, if you think you may be experiencing hair thinning or loss, whether due to a new hair product, treatment, or styling technique, it is important to do a little investigating to see if you can find a direct correlation or cause. When in doubt, it is always recommended to seek an expert’s opinion to help identify any potential causes for what’s going on with your hair.
If you are curious to find out ways to prevent and or treat hair thinning or hair loss, get in touch with us, or come see our female hair loss treatment specialists here at Medi Tresse. We are dedicated to helping you preserve and promote growth of strong, healthy hair!
Posted by Your Medi Tresse Team