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How Stress Can Cause Hair Loss

March 3, 2021

4 Min read

When we talk about stress and hair loss, the conversation tends to focus on psychological stressors, like a toxic relationship or job. But the hair growth cycle is vulnerable to both psychological and physical stressors—and those stressors can be sudden (acute) or ongoing (chronic). 

Stress signals the body to pull resources internally, diverting essential nutrients from the hair follicle. Dr. Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, says “significant hair shedding” can occur within two to four months of a stressful event. The good news, Dr. King says, is that with proper nutrients, stress support, and good hair and scalp care, hair loss from stress can grow back within six months.

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Why is my hair shedding?

The most common type of hair shedding from stress is telogen effluvium. “In this condition, emotional or physical stress pushes large numbers of growing hairs into a resting phase. Within a few months, the affected hairs may fall out suddenly when simply combing or washing your hair,” explains Dr. King. People with telogen effluvium lose over 100 hairs per day, with shedding usually being generalized across the entire head rather than concentrated in one area. 

Some stressors that can cause telogen effluvium include:

  • Surgery or giving birth
  • Losing 20 pounds or more
  • Acute stressors like the death of a loved one or sudden trauma
  • Chronic stress due to your job, finances, or relationships 
  • Recovering from an illness 
  • Stopping hormonal birth control 


With anxiety and psychological stress, our bodies produce excess free radicals without enough antioxidants to balance them out, resulting in oxidative stress, which has been shown to play a role in aging, scalp health, and our ability to grow hair.

What physical effects does stress have on my body?

Stress affects all systems in the body, from heart to lungs to hormones, gut health, and even sexual function. In the moment, stress causes our muscles to tighten, breath to shorten, heart to race, blood vessels to dilate, and body to pump out stress hormones. People with chronic or acute stress may suffer from migraines, lower back pain, tension in the neck and shoulders, increased risk for hypertension, and hair loss, among other symptoms

Experiencing an acute stressor, like being in a car accident or losing a loved one, is extremely taxing on our systems. To respond to the threat, the body pulls energy resources, including vitamins and nutrients essential to hair. While our systems recover and rebalance naturally after a sudden stressor, if the stress is prolonged or becomes chronic, it can result in a long-term drain on the body. “If your hair growth cycle is constantly challenged or not supported by proper nutrition, you may notice that it doesn’t grow as long or as fast as it used to,” says Dr. King.

Some ingredients that help re-fuel hair with the nutrition it needs include zinc, vitamin B, vitamin C, biotin, and amino acids,  which are all ingredient sources of Prose Root Source™ custom hair supplements.

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How can I stop my hair shedding?

Encouragingly, Dr. King says hair loss from stress can grow back within six to nine months if you address your stress, eat a well-rounded diet of proteins, vitamins, and minerals, and choose the right hair and scalp products.

In addition to de-stressing through practices like meditation or yoga, you can supplement the effects of stress with a powerful antioxidant like the saffron used in Prose Root Source™ custom hair supplements. The saffron selected by Prose is harvested in a mountainous region of Spain, where it’s extracted using a gentle, low temperature method that not only ensures the ingredient’s potency, but makes it energy- and environment-friendly to its surrounding area.

Protein is an important building block of hair, so make sure to get the daily recommended amount (46 grams for women, 56 grams for men). Other foods to load up on include salmon and fatty fish for omega-3s, avocados for zinc and vitamins E and C, and nutrient dense, detoxifying broccoli and cruciferous veggies. Remember: You can get all of your hair nutrition essentials from a daily dose of Prose Root Source™ supplements, which also contain biotin, a hair-building* ingredient recommended by Dr. King.

Finally, our favorite: hair and scalp care. Did you know that the hairs on your head are all… dead? “Once a hair strand reaches beyond the surface of the scalp it is physiologically dead,” says Dr. King. “Because of this, the hair cannot be nourished, only preserved.” To keep hair looking soft and lustrous while you’re working on curbing shedding and encouraging new growth, fortify it with hydrating, clean ingredients and avoid harsh sulfates, parabens, and alcohols that cause dryness, damage, and breakage. 

You’ve got this! Don’t stress about hair shedding. It happens to everyone. Focus on self-care, calming rituals that take you out of stress mode, and supporting your body and hair with good nutrition and supplements. If you need help, a board-certified dermatologist like Dr. King can expertly guide you back to hair health.

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

April Walloga is a beauty and lifestyle editor who’s written extensively on hair health and the root causes of hair loss. She is the former and founding editor in chief of Revelist.com and has been a lead editor at publications like Business Insider, Gotham magazine, and xoVain.com. In her spare time you can find her perusing what’s new at Sephora or enjoying Riverside Park with no less than her third cup of coffee that day.

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