Stress and Hair Loss

Woman who is suffering from hair loss
Photo: Franz Pfluegl/Shutterstock
Q: Does stress affect hair loss? My friend has patches of hair loss, and she is stressed. How can she stop the loss? Shampoos are not stopping it! Thanks. A concerned friend.
A: Stress can definitely be a factor in hair loss. It’s the same with diet, overall health, hormonal balance, etc. If your friend’s hair loss is significant enough that you are concerned for her then it’s time she visited a doctor to determine the cause of the hair loss.
All hair loss is called “alopecia”, but there are many forms of alopecia and they have many causes. Only a physician can diagnose your friend’s condition and make treatment recommendations. The symptoms you describe sound like they could be the result of alopecia areata, but only a doctor could say for certain. There are treatments available, so make sure she goes.
And if her problem is medical, it’s no wonder that shampoos haven’t had any beneficial effect. Shampoos can help with hair loss that is caused by surface irritants or clogged pores and follicles, but don’t provide any help in situations of medical hair loss (that is caused by illness or hormonal imbalance).
If she is hesitant to go to the doctor, or just plain stubborn, do tell her that if left untreated, and if she does have Alopecia Areata, it can only get worse. Hopefully, her problem is simpler, perhaps hormonally based, or the result of an unidentified ‘agent’ affecting her scalp. In those cases, the doctor can usually give a prescription that will clear up the problem, and her hair will begin re-growing as normal.
No matter what the cause or what the treatment might be, she can’t begin to resolve the issue until she has identified the cause. And don’t let her go to a salon to ask the “opinion” of a stylist there. One of two things will happen: Either the stylist will be a good one and will immediately refer her to her physician, or will be a bad one and suggest a wide variety of “tips” and remedies that will be ineffective and possibly do more harm in the long run by delaying your friend from seeking proper care and advice.
Stylists are not trained in diagnosis nor are we licensed to dispense medical advice. We are trained to spot potential problems that should be seen by a doctor, but we should never try to suggest any treatment for a condition with a medical source.
See also:
Hair loss
The different forms of alopecia
Hair loss caused by stress