Hair health, confidence and the cycle of stress
It seems that we have just come to accept that stress, anxiety and worry are a part of everyday. We build our lives around it, treat it as a norm – until it becomes untenable in relation to health, wellbeing, relationships, work. Stress and worry can impact our lives in many ways. But did you know that even hair can get stressed too?
First, we need to fully understand the difference between worry, stress and anxiety.
Put simply, worry is mental; dwelling on negative thoughts. Whereas, stress is physiological; a biological response connected to an event, a trigger, a situation – a deadline, a medical concern, a financial worry.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is physiological and mental; the manifestation of worry and stress. The physiological responses are similar to acute stress, yet there is no threat.
Stress is not atypical. There are varying types of stress that impact on our wellbeing in different ways:
Eustress is a positive-negative. A nervous, energetic stress caused by exciting events (weddings, births, new jobs, holidays etc)
Distress brings an overwhelming sense of negativity that impacts daily life; redundancy, state of the world, financial concerns.
Acute stress – adrenal stress where the body responds to perceived threat with fight or flight reactivity.
Chronic day-to-day stress, living…coping, living in a state of sustained reactivity. When situations that caused the stress remain unresolved. This state is key to the indication of various health and wellbeing concerns.
What is happening when stress takes hold?
When stress responses are initiated, the body releases the hormones adrenalin and cortisol (the stress hormone). This alarm phase of response is the bodies way of protecting vital organs as blood courses through our bodies, heart rate is elevated and breathing increases. In the resistance phase our bodies adapt to the conditions of stress, focusing on minimising the impact of stress reactors on essential functions. Cortisol itself isn’t the enemy, it helps us cope with the day to day; issues occur when we learn to accept a heightened state of cortisol as normal.
The effect of stress on skin
Skin is our largest organ. It is our first line in defence to daily environmental aggressors, the guardian to our internal resilience. Stress can also cause a flare-up of pre-existing condition such as psoriasis and eczema as our skin barrier becomes compromised and dehydration occurs, leading to fine lines becoming more pronounced. Cortisol triggers our sebaceous glands boosting oil production causing imbalance, blocked pores and breakouts.
When in these sustained periods of stress, we may develop ‘body-focused repetitive behaviours’ – impulses that include picking at skin, hair, nails, lashes, or simply a negative cycle of compromise with good habits being side-lined. This then can lead to unhelpful mental chatter as you observe shifts in your reflection and boom…the cycle continues.
So if hair can get stressed too…then what are the effects?
Our bodies are networks, connected systems. When put under duress, essential biological function becomes our body’s priority. Hair is non-essential, so nutrients are pushed to more vital biological functions, meaning hair becomes lacking in nourishment, affecting the natural cycle of hair growth:
Anagen – growth phase. Around 85-90% of the hair on your head on average, is in the anagen stage. This is an active stage of creation of new hair can last for an average of 3-5 years.
Catagen – transition phase. Around 5% of the hair is in this stage of the cycle, which lasts on average 10 days. This is where the follicular stimulated growth slows down, the hair is separated from the blood supply
Telogen – resting phase. Around 10-15% of hair is in this stage of the cycle, which is around 3 months. At this point, the hair follicle is inactive and at the end of the period, hair begins to shed.
Exogen – shedding phase. Around 50-100 hairs a day is normal. Shedding lasts for 2-5 months on average.
Each follicle is independent; growing and shedding at different points.
Our hair is often seen as part of our self-expression, so when our hair changes, falls, seems lacklustre and loses “personality” it can be detrimental to our mental health, as much as a reflection of our physical wellbeing.
There are various types of stress/illness related hair loss:
- Telogen Effluvium (excessive daily hair shedding) – this is when the anagen phase (growth) is cut short and the hair detaches from the blood supply prematurely.
- Alopecia Areata (hair loss in areas)
- Trichotillomania (hair pulling)
- Androgenic Alopecia (hair thinning)
Menopause hormonal imbalance can also lead to hair loss. Oestrogen helps hair remain in anagen phase; so, when our biology shifts another external change can be in hair strength, texture and resilience to shed. All of which can lead to additional stress as we face this transformative journey in our lives. But menopause and our skin, hair and wellbeing – that’s a whole other article!
Illness Related Hair Loss
Perhaps previously, illness and hair loss has been largely associated with the trials of cancer treatment, however, one of the phenomena of the recent global pandemic was the ensuing cases of post-acute Covid-19 telogen effluvium, with studies showing direct correlation to hair loss and Covid-19. Coming out of the pandemic, the stress of lock-down, job insecurity, loved-one separation and into a future of financial pressures and international unrest – has prolonged the effects of wellbeing depletion.
What can we add to our self-care to help counteract the impact of stress/illness related effects?
By building sustained, effective and considered rituals of self-care, we can help fortify our skin barrier and our hair vitality to help reset the damage, it’s simple common sense really and remember, skin is skin – from the top of your head to the tips of your toes, so:
Let’s face it, we love a product that does more than just one job. We are time-poor and when a product performs in an effective, multi-layered way, it’s a win-win.
For your stressed out hair, we love Centred En-Root Scalp Oil here. It is a unique treatment that transforms from oil-to-milk when rinsed. This deeply clarifying scalp treatment helps lift impurities and dead skin to soothe reactivity and discomfort, while stimulating natural hair growth with the viral trending Rosemary Oil. The result is a balanced, comforted scalp that is optimised for hair health to flourish.
For skin in a spin, whether you are suffering a breakout, experiencing inflammation or increased texture, we love Juice Beauty. Their whole range is curated to work with modern life and the Beauty Blemish Clearing Solution collection is a treatment ritual for clarifying and soothing troubled skin here
If your skin has become hormonally stressed, we suggest trying the collection from FAACE for tackling skin that is heading off the rails.