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Have you noticed more hair in your brush – hair loss? Does your scalp feel itchier or more sensitive? You may have not made the connection, but stress can have an impact on your scalp condition, according to leading trichologist Stephanie Sey. Stress has been a universal response to 2020, with a number of studies showing a global increase in stress and anxiety, as a result of the changes in our daily lives caused by the pandemic.
When we are under a lot of pressure or have heightened anxiety, our bodies release high levels of a hormone called cortisol which can cause an increase in the production of sebum and change the scalp environment.
Sey explained: “Increased levels of stress can lead to excessive hair shedding known as telogen effluvium. During stressful periods your hair may be shocked from the growing phase to the resting phase resulting in shedding a few months later.”
And there are other ways stress can impact your locks.
Sey continued: “If someone is pulling their hair out as a result of stress, then it is likely you have developed a condition known as trichotillomania, women are slightly more susceptible to starting this than men.
“Stress can also weaken your body’s natural defences against naturally-existing microbes in the scalp which will lead to dryness, flakiness and dandruff.
“Men are often more affected than women. It is likely to be because men have more active sebaceous glands.”
Stress can also lead to bad hair habits. Sey added: “Stress can often trigger excessive tugging of hair when styling or habitual scalp scratching. These habits will damage your scalp and affect the condition of your hair.”
So how can you reverse the damage caused by stress? Sey offers some top tips.
Maintain a healthy diet
“Do your best to eat well during times of stress as it will impact how you feel and look. After a month or so you will definitely start to notice a difference. Stick to it and you’ll soon see the changes,” said Sey.
- Pump up the protein – meat, fish, beans and eggs
- Add more minerals – nuts, seeds and leafy greens
- Feed your strands with silica – oats and bananas
Regular exercise and extra sleep will help control the damage to your hair caused by stress.
“Try doing at least 150 minutes a week of moderate activity such as a brisk walk, or around 75 minutes a week of jogging,” advised Sey.
Be kind to your hair
A good hair care routine is important to maintain healthy hair during stressful times.
“Make sure you use a good quality shampoo and conditioner for your hair type and refrain from over-using heat. Using coconut oil will also help strengthen the hair,” said Sey.
For dandruff, the NHS recommends using an anti-dandruff shampoo.
The health body recommends buying an anti-dandruff shampoo containing one of the following ingredients:
- zinc pyrithione
- salicylic acid
- selenium sulphide (or selenium sulfide)
- coal tar
Nizoral anti-dandruff shampoo contains 2 percent ketoconazole – a powerful anti-fungal ingredient which treats skin infections by preventing the growth of the fungus which causes dandruff symptoms.
The NHS recommends using anti-dandruff shampoo for a month to see if your dandruff improves.
You may need to try more than one type to find one that works for you.
If you still have symptoms after using anti-dandruff shampoo for a month, your dandruff is bad or your scalp is very itchy, or your scalp is red or swollen, speak to your GP.
Your GP can check your scalp for skin conditions that could be causing your dandruff.
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