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Signs Stress Is Causing Your Hair Thinning

Hair Health

4 Min Read

By April Walloga2020-12-14

Medically Reviewed by


If you’ve noticed more hair shedding than usual in 2020, you’re not alone. 

According to the New York Times, “doctors are seeing a huge increase in patients who have been shedding abnormal amounts of hair, and they believe it is related to stress associated with the coronavirus.” A study published by the American Psychological Association also shows that eight in ten adults say the pandemic has been a significant source of stress in their lives. How does the heightened stress and anxiety of 2020 manifest as hair thinning?

“When the body feels stress, it will pull resources internally for survival,” explains Dr. Sophia Kogan, MD, co-founder and chief medical advisor at Nutrafol. “Hair is important to us, but it’s not the number one organ to the body. As stress rises, the hormone cortisol signals the hair follicle to stop growing and prematurely shed. Additionally, the body diverts nutrients away from the hair follicle to other key areas of the body during stress, depriving hair from the essential vitamins and nutrients it needs.”

The tricky thing about stress as a root cause of hair thinning is that we all have stress in our lives, and it can build slowly over time, making it harder to recognize and address. To learn more about stress, hair thinning, and how to spot the signs and take control, we spoke with Dr. Rana Mays, a dual-board-certified dermatologist who specializes in hair loss and restoration. 

Types of stress that affect hair

Ongoing or chronic stressors brought on by the pandemic, like financial difficulties and feelings of uncertainty and fear, can certainly contribute to stress as a root cause of hair thinning. But stress isn’t just mental: “Any type of stress to the body, including psycho-social, physical, such as illness, and mechanical, such as surgery, can result in hair thinning,” notes Dr. Mays. Sudden weight gain or loss is another example of physical stress that can affect the hair growth cycle. And, as pointed out by the New York Times, COVID-19 patients can experience hair thinning due to the physiological stress of having and fighting off the virus. 

Any type of stress to the body, including psycho-social, physical, such as illness, and mechanical, such as surgery, can result in hair thinning.
Dr. Rana Mays
Dr. Mays treats hair thinning at Mays Dermatology & Cosmetic Center in Louisville, KY.

Signs to look for

If you’re experiencing hair shedding but aren’t sure if it’s from stress, there are some physical signs to look for. “Stress can present in many ways physically and emotionally,” says Dr. Mays.

In addition to hair thinning, here are some physical signs of stress:

  • Mood changes
  • Fatigue  
  • Appetite changes 
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss

Taking control of stress and hair thinning  

Seeing a dermatologist is a great first step to taking control of your hair health. Hair thinning is a multi-factorial issue, meaning most people have more than one root cause. In addition to stress, factors like hormones, metabolism, nutrition, and your environment may be affecting your hair growth cycle.

“Managing stress is always part of the hair treatment plan, although it is not always the most important part,” notes Dr. Mays. “Most hair thinning is worsened by stress but not 100% caused by stress.” That’s why Dr. Mays recommends Nutrafol, which addresses multiple root causes of hair thinning and is the only hair growth supplement to target stress with Sensoril ashwagandha, the highest quality stress adaptogen.

To learn more about the ingredients in Nutrafol, such as ashwagandha for stress relief, saw palmetto for hormonal balance, and collagen for scalp health, click here.  


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