Hair loss due to stress - here's how you can help your hair

Hair loss due to stress

Constant availability, overtime, sports and a full schedule - stress is a constant companion for many. Constant stress can have a negative effect on our health - and also on the scalp and hair. It is well known that stress can lead to gray hair. But stress can also negatively affect hair growth and trigger hair loss.

In this article you will learn everything about the connection between hair loss and stress and how you can counteract stress-related hair loss.

What happens in the body during stress?

Stress is a feeling that we have all experienced at one time or another, for example when we face particular challenges or feel overwhelmed. But stress is also a real physical reaction of our body to certain situations.

Evolutionarily, stress is a mechanism that has ensured the survival of mankind. In dangerous situations, the body could quickly switch to fight or flight by releasing cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine through the adrenal glands. 

In our modern age, however, we rarely experience situations to which our bodies respond with this evolutionary response pattern. Instead, the stress hormones are released either more frequently or over a longer period of time. The stress becomes chronic and can have a negative effect on our bodies - especially on the cardiovascular and nervous systems, but also on the scalp and hair roots.

Why does stress promote hair loss?

The body reacts to long periods of high performance by releasing stress hormones. These reduce the feeling of hunger, for example, and redirect the body's energy balance so that sufficient capacities are available for the performance to be achieved. For the beginning this is the right reaction of the body, but in the long run it has a rather negative effect.

All other functions that are not essential for survival at the moment, including natural regeneration, are reduced to the absolute minimum; including the regenerative capacity of the hair roots.

The initial trigger comes from the messenger CRH (corticotropin-releasing), which causes an increased release of cortisol. Scientists have observed that these stress hormones lead to a lack of energy, which has a negative effect on hair growth. The consequences are:

  • The growth phase of the hair root is significantly shortened
  • The proportion of hair in the so-called resting phase (telogen phase) increases
  • Hair loss is accelerated
Shortened growth phases of the hair

Common causes of stress

In a representative survey conducted by Techniker Krankenkasse1 in 2016, the biggest stress factors for Germans were examined. Men are most often stressed by:

  • Work
  • High demands on themselves
  • Having to be constantly available

The perception of stress is very subjective - what stresses one person may be completely irrelevant to another. It is therefore important to identify one's personal stress triggers in order to be able to actively counteract them.

If, on top of that, the persistent stress has an effect on the hair roots, the hair becomes thinner and results in premature hair loss, this situation triggers additional stress for many of those affected. Therefore, it is important to combat the causes of stress and promote hair growth.

Combat stress and promote hair growth

The best way to counteract stress-related hair loss is to minimize the stress. Either the stress triggers can be avoided - which may not be easy, especially with external stress factors such as work - or a counterbalance to the stressors must be found.

Support and relaxation can be provided, for example, by the social environment, family and friends, a hobby as a counterbalance, sports or simply a bit of rest and lazing around - whatever helps you to reduce stress

Stress-related hair loss can also be countered with the right hair care.

Caffeine against hair loss due to stress

Prolonged growth phases of the hair

For Alpecin Research, chronic stress is a known problem that is common in connection with hair loss. An in vitro study from 2020 was able to prove that caffeine has a positive effect on hair growth in CRH-induced stress3.

Daily hair washing with a caffeine shampoo effectively promotes hair growth and additionally prolongs hair growth phases. After an application time of two minutes, the caffeine penetrates to the hair root and forms a caffeine depot there, which can act directly on the hair root for 24 hours.

Caffeine liquids, which are applied directly to the scalp like a hair tonic and remain there, are an ideal supplement if you do not wash your hair every day or would like to intensify the caffeine effect. The hair roots are thus optimally supplied with growth energy.

The Alpecin product recommendation for stress-related hair loss

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1„Entspann dich Deutschland“, TK-Stressstudie, 2021;

2C. Bussoletti et al, „Wirksamkeit eines coffeinhaltigen Liquids gegen vorzeitigen erblichen Haarausfall beim Mann“, 2011;

3T.W. Fischer et al, „Neue Effekte von Coffein auf CRH-induzierten Stress entlang der intrafollikulären klassischen HPA-Achse und die neurogene non-HPA-Achse in männlichen, androgenetischen, menschlichen Haarfollikeln der Kopfhaut ex vivo“, 2020;

4Zhang B, Ma S, Rachmin I, He M, Baral P, Choi S, et al. Hyperactivation of sympathetic nerves drives depletion of melanocyte stem cells. Nature. 2020;577(7792):676-81.

5Clark SA, Deppmann CD. How the stress of fight or flight turns hair white. Nature. 2020;577(7792):623-4.

6Fischer TW, Bergmann A, Kruse N, Kleszczynski K, Paus R, Fischer TW, et al. New effects of caffeine on CRH-induced stress along the intrafollicular classical HPA-axis (CRH-R1/2, IP3 -R, ACTH, MC-R2) and the neurogenic non-HPA-axis (substance P, p75(NTR) and TrkA) in ex vivo human male androgenetic scalp hair follicles. Br J Dermatol. 2020.