Hair Loss: Understanding the Impact of Hormones and Stress
When it comes to hair loss, a lot of attention goes to heredity. That’s understandable, as it’s the driving force behind male pattern baldness, which is the most common type of hair loss. However, it is not the only type, and heredity is far from the only cause of hair loss. Hormones and stress also play critical roles in hair growth and loss. This is particularly true for women, but can also affect men.
Balanced Hormones Lead to Healthy Hair
In a healthy body, balanced hormones mean healthy hair. This applies even to those with a family history of hair loss. There are over 200 different types of hormones, and each is responsible for specific roles in the body. That includes regulating hair and nail growth. However, many factors can affect your hormone balance, from diet and exercise to medications to stress.
The Loss of Estrogen
The female body produces high amounts of estrogen, but also small amounts of testosterone. Both are necessary. However, production levels change over time. During pre-menopause, the body begins producing less estrogen. At the onset of menopause, production declines yet further. However, testosterone production does not decrease.
Because of this, the level of testosterone in the body increases proportionate to the level of estrogen. Testosterone in the hair follicles then begins to convert into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), causing the follicles to become inactive and leading to hair loss and even balding in women (DHT is the leading cause of male pattern baldness).
Stress Hormones and Hair Loss
Many factors affect hormone production in the body, and stress is one of the largest. We’re all familiar with the physiological effects of stress – elevated heart rate, difficulty focusing, the fight or flight response – but it actually does much more. Stress releases specific hormones in the body. Cortisol is one of those, but there are others.
When stress hormones are released, they trigger specific reactions within the body. For instance, blood flow is diverted from your skin to your brain and muscles. This is your body’s preparation for action. The result is that the blood vessels supplying your hair follicles constrict, limiting blood, oxygen, and minerals, effectively starving those follicles of what they need to thrive.
This stress reaction does not immediately cause hair loss. However, prolonged stress creates long-lasting ramifications, including severe nutrient deficiency in the hair follicles. In addition, stress causes physical reactions in hair follicles by disrupting the growth cycle. The result is a sudden shedding of hair, causing temporary hair loss.
Hormones and Stress Need Not Rule Your Life
It can feel frustrating to have your self-confidence at the mercy of hormone levels and stress reactions. However, understand that almost all types of hair loss are treatable. The most important thing is to determine the underlying cause so that an accurate treatment plan can be created. From topical solutions, to hormone therapy, to hair restoration surgery, there are many paths back to having a full, healthy head of hair.