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Can stress cause hair loss?

It is possible that stress can cause hair loss, although it does not happen to everyone. High levels of stress can trigger an increased amount of hair shedding. The hair shedding is typically experienced 2-3 months later at its peak but is highly variable. Some shed one month later and some 3. Even the same person can experience great variability in how they shed. One stressful event triggers shedding 4 weeks later yet another stressor causes a delay of 3 months.

The diagram above shows a typical stress - shedding response. For some, a high level intense stress in February will trigger a shed sometime starting in April and peaking in May/June. For reasons that are not clear, this stress-shedding cycle does not occur in everyone.

Stress may play a role in other hair conditions. In my opinion, high stress may accelerate androgenetic alopecia a slight bit. Stress can make scarring alopecia much more itchier. I do believe stress has a major role in frontal fibrosing alopecia- with many patients reporting extremely high stress at the time of disease onset.


Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Vancouver office at 604.283.9299



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