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Chronic Stress is a Major Factor in Causing Hair Loss


Written by Professor Anna Gray, Updated on June 15th, 2021
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Have you noticed as you’ve gotten older that your hair is thinner and less lustrous? Maybe it’s prone to split ends and is dried out all the time.

All these issues are probably linked to your stress level and mainly hair loss. Researchers from Harvard have found a link between chronic stress and hair loss. Read on to learn more!

Stress Hormone Inhibits Hair Follicle Activity

The study described in this article was conducted by some big players. The researchers were from Harvard, MIT, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, Massachusetts General Hospital, and University Hospital Würzburg in Germany. The study was published in the journal Nature.

What they found was that a specific stress hormone called corticosterone actually inhibits hair follicle stem cell activity and hair growth.

Their subjects were mice and they found that when corticosterone levels were low, hair follicle stem cells regenerated a lot more frequently than when levels were high. When corticosterone levels were high, being caused by chronic stress, the hair follicles actually entered a dormant phase.

Follicle Stem Cells are Responsible for Hair Growth and Color

A researcher from Harvard, Ya-Chieh Hsu, mainly focuses on stem cells and tissues, with an emphasis on how stress impacts them.

In addition to the hair loss connection, Hsu also found that stress depletes melanocyte stem cells which produce the color of our hair.

Hsu stated, “We found that chronic stress, through up-regulation of the stress hormone corticosterone (the mouse equivalent of the human stress hormone cortisol), inhibits an activation signal (Gas6) in dermal cells surrounding hair follicle stem cells that normally promotes stem cell activation and hair growth.”

Yikes! We know that chronic stress is bad for our health but it also affects our hair! Nobody wants to have thinning hair, especially if you’re still relatively young.

Mice Were Subjected to Similar Human Stressors

The expert on psychosocial stress and cardiovascular disease in mice, Matthias Nahrendorf, helped to develop the best and safest way to replicate chronic stress in the mice.

There are multiple scientific models on how to accomplish this task so that it can be replicated and is scientifically sound.

Hsu and colleagues directly fed the mice corticosterone (the stress hormone) in addition to exposing them to stressors.

These included isolation (similar to what we have experienced with COVID-19 restrictions), crowding (like living in the city), damp bedding, restraining, sudden changes in light, and more.

Even though some of these stressors are very similar to what humans can experience on a daily basis, leading to chronic stress, it is still up in the air how much we can take from these findings and translate them to humans.

According to Nahrendorf, the “major components” of the stress systems in mice and humans are “fairly similar,” but the real test is when humans are actually the subjects. However, deliberately subjecting humans to chronic stress may have some issues in the scientific community.

At least it is safe to say that stress, and especially chronic stress, is probably not something that we want to experience for months or years on end.

It probably affects your hair as well as other important bodily functions, such as digestion and cardiovascular health. Chronic stress is not something to mess around with.

Consider finding ways to de-stress on a daily basis and seriously evaluate the major stressors in your life and how you can reduce their impact on your mental and physical health.

It’s incredibly important, not just for your hair, but for your overall health and longevity!

If you are having serious hair loss issues, such as increasing baldness as a male and lowering your stress levels are not helping, consider growth hormone treatments as they have been proven to increase hair growth!

Reference

Harvard Crimson

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