You’ve probably heard that stress can make your hair fall out. Maybe you’ve even experienced it yourself.
But why does stress affect our hair? And is there anything we can do about it?
A group of Harvard researchers have now discovered the answer. In fact, they were actually able to reverse hair loss.
To explain what they did, I need to quickly explain what happens when we’re under stress.
What stress does to your hair
When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands produce the stress hormone cortisol. And cortisol causes your hair follicles to shift from the growth phase into the telogen phase, also known as the “fall-out” phase.
This is your body’s attempt to conserve resources. See, your body registers all stress as a threat to your life, even if it’s stress from work or from world events. To your body, all stress is the same. So when your stress level goes up, your body prepares for fight or flight. And one way it prepares is by cutting off resources for non-critical functions.
Unfortunately, one of those non-critical functions is hair growth, so your hair falls out.
But what if you could give your body the resources to grow hair ... despite being stressed? That’s what Harvard researchers set out to do.
They gave a group of mice a stress hormone. When the mice started losing hair, the researchers looked for the biological reason why.
As it turns out, the stress hormones stopped a molecule called Gas6 from being released. Gas6 is what activates hair follicles to make hair grow.
And when researchers added Gas6 back in -- even while mice were still stressed -- hair started to grow again!
This is a very exciting discovery! It means that we may be able to prevent and even reverse stress-related hair loss ... even if we can’t eliminate our source of stress.
The team at Harvard is now working to replicate the findings on humans and come up with a Gas6 product to bring to market.
But you don’t have to wait. You can do things now to reduce the amount of stress hormones in your body.
How to lower cortisol
One of the easiest ways to lower stress hormones is with natural remedies called adaptogens. Adaptogens are substances that help your body adapt to stress. And one of these substances that’s particularly effective is an herb called ashwagandha (pronounced “ash-wa-GON-da”).
Several studies have shown that ashwagandha reduces stress and anxiety. One study found that those who took ashwagandha had a 69% reduction in anxiety and insomnia, on average, compared with just 11% for the placebo group.
Other studies even found that ashwagandha can directly reduce levels of cortisol in the body. One study in particular found that a daily dose of ashwagandha lowers cortisol levels by up to 32%! And that’s without any changes to diet or lifestyle.
And as a bonus, ashwagandha’s cortisol-lowering abilities can also help with your overall health. Studies have shown that ashwagandha can help lower blood sugar levels and can even boost your immunity.
Note that before starting an ashwagandha supplement, you should consult your doctor -- especially if you take medications or have a medical condition. Additionally, pregnant or nursing women should not use ashwagandha.
Otherwise, it’s a very safe and natural option. Just know that ashwagandha has to be used consistently to see results. So whether you prefer to take it as a pill, gummy, or powder in a smoothie, make sure it’s something that you will incorporate into your daily routine. You should commit to taking it for at least 3 months to see results. And you want to take 250–500 mg of a high quality ashwagandha per day.
Now of course, you’ll see even better results if you can also make some lifestyle changes...
For instance, sleep is incredibly important. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can increase cortisol levels. So if you can’t sleep and you feel like you’ve tried everything, read this Skincare Insider article.
Another thing that lowers cortisol levels is exercise. Studies show, for instance, that exercise can reduce cortisol in the elderly and in even people with major depressive disorder.
Finally, there’s the undeniable body of science that shows that mind-body practices lower cortisol levels. For example, mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy can lower cortisol and feelings of stress. And yoga can bring down high cortisol levels, heart rate, and blood pressure.
So try these tips out, and let me know how it goes!