We all know that stress harms your mind and body, but what about your curls? Your hair is an overall reflection of your health, so if you’ve been a nervous wreck for longer than Britney Spears has been trying to make a comeback, your hair is going to show it.
Stress can affect your curls in many ways, but here are the three most common.
It’s going to take more than one crazy day to make your hair fall out. Dr. Christine Nguyen, a licensed naturopathic doctor at the Ottawa Integrative Health Centre, explains that long-term stressful events (like a divorce) or exposure to chronically occurring stressful situations (like not getting a divorce!), can result in hair loss. If you’re not adequately coping with your extremely stressful life, your stress hormones can rise over time and cause a myriad of health problems – including losing your hair.
Ultimately, stress doesn’t directly cause hair to fall out – it’s more of an indirect effect as the result of physiological imbalances, which are more likely to occur while you’re stressed. As an example, if you’re feeling anxious because there’s been an illness in the family, you may lose weight and not sleep well. This can cause changes to your body that can result in hair loss.
Dr. Nguyen indicated that hair loss would be a late stage symptom occurring three months or more after the stressful situation. It could take at least as long for the hair to grow back. “You really have to address the underlying cause. It’s not just about using the right shampoo,” says Dr. Nguyen. This means discovering what’s stressful to you, learning how it’s affecting your body and your curls, and building strategies to deal with it.
Dry, Dull Hair
Natural curly hair is normally dry but stress can take it to Saharan desert levels. When you’re stressed, your good eating-habits often go out the (drive-through) window. Poor nutrition can create dull and lifeless curls. To counteract this, make sure you’re eating a varied diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. B complex vitamins and essential fatty acids such as fish oils are especially helpful for creating shiny, bouncy curls. You can get your vitamin fill through supplements or by eating leafy greens, eggs, liver, and lean red meat for vitamin B; and salmon and walnuts for fatty acids.
In extreme cases, too much cortisol (the stress hormone) can lead to an underactive thyroid, warns Dr. Nguyen. One of the symptoms of this condition is coarse, brittle hair. If this happens, it’s best to speak to a health care professional for help.
Stress can also wreak havoc on your scalp, making it drier or more oily depending on how your body reacts. Keeping your scalp healthy involves nourishing your body and addressing the cause of your stress.
If your hair is growing slower than you’re used to, your stress levels may be to blame. Stress can impair blood circulation to the scalp. This can impair hair growth, and slow down nutrient and moisture delivery to the root. Dr. Nguyen suggests contrast showers, a form of hydrotherapy, alternating between hot and cold water to first dilate and then close the blood vessels in your scalp. This can help stimulate circulation.
Bottom line: take care of your hair and make sure you’re using quality curly hair products, but don’t overlook the role that stress has on your curls. Focus on reducing your anxiety and find ways to better cope with stress through yoga, mindfulness and deep breathing and you will unleash your curls’ fabulousness!
Written By: Joy Gurr
Joy has been a proud curly girl all her life, that includes the awkward stages of her youth when she would brush her curls (gasp!) resulting in a huge curly puff that could rival any 80’s ‘do. Since then, Joy has tried and tested many, many hair products, styles and cuts to now be a self professed curl connoisseur. Joy is a 9 to 5 working girl living in Ottawa, Canada.