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How stress affects our hair

Blue Monday is considered the most depressing day of the year. In 2022, that’s 17 January. As you well know, your mood and how you feel have a real impact on your hair. Stress is particularly harmful to your body and hair. So why is this? And what can you do about it? Let’s find out more.  

Whether you’re in a stressful situation, an anxiety-inducing environment, you have family problems, or too much on your plate at work…life can serve up a lot of opportunities for stress. It’s well known that stress is bad for your health, but it’s also just as harmful to your hair.  

The effects of stress on your hair  

Hair loss 

At times of intense stress, you can lose up to 300 hairs a day, compared to 50-100 under normal circumstances. Stress is actually the second biggest cause of hair loss.  

So what causes this? It is quite simply a biological response from your body. 

It only takes one traumatic event or major stressful situation to induce significant hormonal changes. Your body produces cortisol (the primary stress hormone) in large quantities, which reduces the production of the hormones that promote hair growth. This causes the hair follicle to shrink, leading to that dreaded hair loss problem. Don’t worry, this is just a temporary response from your body. As soon as the stress has gone, your hair will return to its natural cycle and will regain its strength and vitality.  

Excess sebum: greasy hair, itchy scalp, and dandruff  

Stress also provokes a physiological reaction: your body secretes more sebum. And, as you know, sebum is the enemy of healthy, supple, and light hair… Sebum is the cause of greasy hair: the more your scalp secretes, the greasier your hair will become. This makes your scalp more sensitive and irritated. You can then get dandruff, an itchy scalp, and even psoriasis. 

The appearance of gray hairs 

People often talk about going gray from stress, but is it really true? Well, the answer is yes! 

A stressful event or a difficult period can lead to the appearance of gray hairs. While graying is normal with age, it is less common to end up with a gray strand or lots of gray patches at 20 or 30. This phenomenon, known by the medical name “canities subita,” can be caused by stress, which damages the stem cells responsible for hair pigmentation at the base of the hair follicles. Stress can cause them to stop functioning properly, leading to the appearance of gray hair. Luckily, studies have suggested that this is not completely irreversible. These cells seem to be reactivated when stress has subsided, so pigmented hair strands start to grow again. However, be careful, as if the cells are too often affected by stress, the damage will become permanent, and gray hair will be irreversible.  

What about environmental stress? 

Less well-known and less talked about, environmental stress also has harmful effects on your hair. Unlike “classic” stress, which is unique to each individual, environmental stress is due to the negative 

impact of the environment on our health (pollution, heat, sun, humidity, too loud noises, etc.). For instance, pollution is caused by an excessive number of harmful molecules in our environment and particularly in the air we breathe. 

Variations in temperature, pollution, humidity, ultraviolet light, noise… on a daily basis, we all come under attack from constant small aggressions, some of which are even invisible and imperceptible. While there may be no immediate effects, over time, it can lead to the premature aging of our cells, particularly of our skin. But skin is not the only victim, as our hair is also at risk. Environmental stress and pollution alter our hair, making it greasy, dull, fragile, and brittle. City life can make us all a bit gray and can also strip our hair of its shine, vitality, and beauty.   

So, what can you do? 

As you can see, we should all try to avoid stress, whether environmental or not, for the sake of our hair. To look after and protect your hair, the first thing to do is to take care of yourself. Adopt a healthy lifestyle, eat a balanced diet, exercise, take up yoga, and above all, learn to relax!  

It is also important to avoid major temperature changes, overexposure to the sun, and stay out of pollution by walking in the countryside, not the city. Try to choose the right products and hair care treatments specially designed to combat the effects of environmental stress. Many organic products, which are gentler on your scalp and more environmentally friendly, are perfect for protecting your hair and enhancing it naturally. 

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