If you've been a reader for a while (THANK YOU, btw!), you know I've spoken a quite a bit about hair loss. I've talked about my own struggle with sudden illness and significant hair loss, and just recently covered how there seems to be a strong connection between contracting Covid and hair loss in women.
But what if neither applies to you, but you're still shedding all the time? Like WHAT THE HECK??????
Here's the deal: there is also a strong correlation between stress and hair loss.
Cortisol and a Slowing Metabolism
It's not like 2020 has been a total breeze for any of us, no matter how it's shaken out for you. Think about your life back in February, and what you've been through in the last 8 months. I'll wait a second....
YIIIIIIIIIIIKES, right? Here's the scoop:
When humans are under stress (physical OR emotional), we increase production in cortisol as part of our fight/flight/freeze response. Increased cortisol levels are tied to increased weight gain and a slower metabolism.
You know what controls your hair's rate of growth? Your metabolism.
Feel like your hair just hasn't been growing lately? That's not a coincidence. And you're not alone: I have pushed out more clients' appointments in the past 4 months due to having no roots to retouch than I have in all previous 12 years of my career.
Then There's The Shedding
This year we have experienced more collective stress (Covid), uncertainty (your employment situation/how to get your kids educated), grief (of what our lives used to be like), and fear (wildfires, anyone???). Your body really doesn't know if you're running from a T-Rex or if the stress is "all in your head" when that much cortisol is dumped into your system.
Add enough stress to your life and your hair's growth cycle will end up disrupted, just as if you had been through an illness/surgery/physical trauma. There is a lag between acute stress and shedding, approximately 4-12 weeks. You can check out this blog, and this other blog for more thorough details on the science behind it.
If you're feeling like there is an ever-growing amount of hair in your brush (or your shower drain), I promise it's not completely hopeless!
What To Do?
First off -- and no judgement -- how's your nutrition? Increasing your intake of leafy greens, seafood, and lean meat will provide you with iron, zinc, and the B vitamin family that will help support hair growth.
Also BIOTIN. There are so many great supplements on the market that are also vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free, just be sure to check the label. I have personally found better luck with a strictly Biotin supplement (not a hair/nails/skin combo), and maybe add Vitamin E if you're feeling extra spunky.
I have also had several clients have to discontinue taking the SugarBear hair growth gummies because their hair grew so fast that they couldn't budget in a grey-root retouch appointment every two weeks! Totally not an exaggeration here -- they came back with almost a 1/2 of root in about 2-3 weeks. If you're really needing some hair growth support, SugarBear might just be the ticket.
Don't forget about exfoliating your scalp! Letting product/dead skin cells build up on your scalp with smother active hair roots and encourage them to dry, shrink, and slip out of the hair shaft. My favorite strategies are either the ACV Scalp Scrub (always in stock in the studio) or an in-shower shampoo brushthat you can pick up right off of Amazon.
I am also in the process of investigating all-natural scalp serums designed to regrow lost hair. I'm about half-way through my first month of treatment, I'll be sure keep you posted on if I this ends up becoming a solid winner.
All of these strategies are intended help to activate a new hair root inside your follicle and support high-quality hair to be grown. In theory they will also encourage your hair strands to continue to be in the 2-8 year "growth phase" and not to cut that portion of the cycle short to move into the "rest phase" early.
Don't forget it's equally important to be kind to the hair you already have! By reducing stress and tugging on your strands, you're likely to keep them anchored inside your scalp. My key strategies are:
* Liberally spray a dry conditioner on your length before brushing out dry hair. This will cut back on the resistance while brushing/coming hair, plus add hydration to make the strand more pliable and less likely to snap or break.
* Only use a Wet Brush on your hair to brush out tangles. Use light pressure and start at the bottom of your hair, working up the section as you remove knots. Also hold on to the section with your other hand while you brush to reduce tension at the scalp.
* Be sure to brush out your hair before you shampoo. Removing loose strands will prevent a larger snarl that will need to be brushed out post-shampoo. Wet hair is more fragile than dry hair, it's by far better to brush it out when hair is at its strongest.
* Tie up longer hair in a silk scrunchie at night to reduce knots that will need to be brushed out.
* Sleeping on a silk pillowcase will reduce friction and create fewer knots that will need to be brushed out.
* Don't wear your hair up in a pony tail or bun too many days in a row. This creates a lot of tension at the scalp/hair root and can cause hair loss (aka traction alopecia).
Have you been struggling with increased hair loss? If you have, please know you're not alone. And if you try out one of these strategies and have some luck with them, please leave a comment! I want to share as much effective tools as possible with our little hair community!