beauty

Noticed your hair is falling out? Here's what could be causing it.

“The last few weeks and months, I have been losing huge amounts of hair. It’s been really difficult seeing my hair covering the bathroom floor and constantly removing it from my brush.”

“I’ve always had fine hair that sheds. I literally have a head of hair on my hairbrush every time I brush it.”

“Is anyone else finding hair everywhere? I’m heat styling and washing my hair less, but somehow, my hair is falling out more than normal.”

These are just a few of the hair loss concerns I’ve heard anecdotally from friends, family and women in Mamamia’s You Beauty Facebook group in recent months. 

For many women, thinning hair, hair falling out and hair shedding is something they've been living with for years. And some have reported finding even more hair around the house since isolation started back in March.

WATCH: Here’s a few ways to up your hair game, post continues after video.


Video by Mamamia

If you feel like you’re seeing more hair on your bathroom floor or in your hairbrush than usual, know you’re not alone. Rest assured, it’s normal for your body to be feeling the effects of change and turbulence – think quarantine pimples, isolation skin, decreased energy levels and changes in our mental health, for a start.

But it's important to know that stress isn't the only reason your hair could be falling out. It could also be your body's way of letting you know something else is going on.

From understanding our hair growth cycle to whether stressful times in our lives can actually cause your hair to fall out, keep scrolling for all the information you’ll ever need on hair loss.

Can stress make your hair fall out?

Yes, and no. In men, hair loss is more commonly a genetic factor. For women, hair loss can be genetic, but it’s also ruled by our hormones. Hormones are basically the effective but moody overlords of the female body.

That said, Anthony Pearce, Specialist Integrative Medicine Trichologist at Anthony Pearce Trichology (note: trichology is the scientific study of the hair and scalp), says language is really important when we’re talking about how stress affects the body.

“It’s not ‘stress’ per se that causes female hair loss, like a bad day at the office, but a sudden, intense or prolonged unrelenting period of stress, anxiety and/or pressure from those horrible times in life which can happen to any of us: loss of livelihoods, relationship upheavals, poor health, the death of someone close etc.,” he told Mamamia.

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Another fact: stress doesn’t have an immediate effect on your hair follicles. Pearce says it takes between one to three months for stress to manifest as hair falling out, which means your current hair loss isn’t related to the stress you felt yesterday or today, but weeks and months ago.

How does stress affect hair loss in women?

Before we get into the link between stress and hair loss, here’s a quick science lesson in hair. Our hair grows and falls in two phases: the growth phase (anagen phase) and the falling phase (telogen phase).

What your hormones are doing can affect these two phases. For example, when a woman is pregnant, the growth phase gets longer and the falling phase gets shorter = the best hair of your life.

Similarly, you’ll hear any women in your life who’ve recently had a baby comment on their postpartum hair loss, which is the body’s way of readjusting the hormones back to pre-pregnancy levels and taking your previously jacked up hair follicles down a notch.

Apply this thinking to how stress messes with your hormone levels and it’s easier to understand why hair loss occurs after stressful times in our lives.

“Stress wears your body down. You start running more and more on adrenal hormones, which then displace your normal hormonal balance. For example, producing high levels of cortisol because you’re really stressed will displace your female hormone progesterone, which will immediately cause a hormonal imbalance. Your body is very sensitive to any kind of change, be it internal or external. And more so for women,” Pearce says.

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“I’ve seen women who have been in terrible relationships, are looking after sick parents or living through something really stressful that wears you down hormonally, and what happens is it causes a disruption in the growing phase, and a percentage of your hair follicles will prematurely pass into the falling phase, where they can sit dormant for one to three months before you see hair falling out.”

LISTEN: We discuss hair loss after pregnancy in this episode of the You Beauty podcast. Get it in your ears below, post continues after audio.

Other hair loss causes.

For some, this is where the story ends. But Pearce says it’s really important to understand that hair loss, especially in women, can be an indication of an underlying health issue.

“I don’t like it when doctors dismiss women’s hair loss or concerns as stress because, at the same time, hair loss in a woman is an indicator of underlying disturbance or deficiency. It’s something that needs to be investigated,” he explains.

“If a woman is low in iron, vitamin D, vitamin B and iodine, or their insulin levels are off, these things drive your thyroid function and it won’t take much, say, a stressful situation, to rock the boat. And women are more prone to be deficient in those nutrients than men.”

On top of that, hair is one of the first things to go when something isn’t right with your body because it’s a non-essential tissue.

Pearce adds, “If you’re low in iron and your body needs that iron to deal with your liver function, it’s not going to worry about your hair, it comes down to priorities. In the same way, hair follicles are the last to recover.”

How to stop hair from falling out.

The first thing to do if you notice your hair is falling out more than usual is to get a full blood test done under the supervision of a medical practitioner to check where your levels are. Once you know what’s causing your hair loss, a professional can help manage and treat it.

For some, this will be addressing low iron, iodine and vitamin deficiencies. Others may look at a clinical option for severe hair loss (telogen effluvium), like laser treatment. And then, there are those who will find their hair loss simply regulates itself one to three months after the stress you’re feeling calms down.

As highlighted above, this process takes time, and you’ll likely notice an improvement in other symptoms like energy levels and overall wellbeing before a reduction in hair loss, and an increase in hair growth.

Using good quality shampoos and conditioners not only keeps the scalp and hair healthy, but they feel nice to use, which is just as important when you’re experiencing hair loss. (Side note – washing your hair won’t make a difference to how much hair you’ll lose, and avoiding hair washing for this reason can irritate your scalp.)

Another option is using volumising and thickening hair products (shampoos, thickening dry shampoo or volume powders) to help you feel better about your hair as you’re riding this fun wave. Cutting long hair shorter a la Margot Robbie, Jenna Dewan and Phoebe Burgess can help, too.

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What about hair growth supplements?

Different experts will tell you different things about hair loss supplements and whether they work.

Unless the supplements have been designed using medical research, they won’t do you any harm... but they might also do nothing at all considering the levels of various nutrients we need to stabilise hair growth are quite high.

One expert-backed option is The Hairy Pill, a supplement created by Director of Sinclair Dermatology, Director of Dermatology at Epworth Hospital Melbourne and Professor of Medicine at the University of Melbourne, Professor Rodney Sinclair

This online 'prescription' hair loss treatment is personalised to each individual's needs by Australian doctors and pharmacists, and uses patented technology that has been clinically tested with evidence supporting hair loss prevention and hair growth.

As for some of the buzzy, too-good-to-be-true hair growth "gummies" and shampoos out there, Pearce adds, “As it’s an issue that comes from the inside, it’s about building back up all the nutrients lost. Be aware it’s a process of rebalancing, and don’t get conned into hair growth marketing.”

Finally, hair loss is your body trying to get your attention. You know your body better than anyone, so if something feels off, don’t wait for this global pandemic to end before seeking professional advice.

Feature image: Getty.

Have you experienced hair loss recently? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.

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