From Bears to Humans to Birds
Measurement of hair cortisol levels in the 3 cm of hair closest to the skin surface provides some degree of quantification of 'stress exposure' of an animal over the previous 3 months.
Measurements of hair cortisol have been used to assess stress exposure in humans as well as animals in the wild and captivity. Even the cortisol levels in the feathers of birds provides an indication of a bird's stress exposures.
Measurements of hair cortisol in humans are not yet standard but do provide a semi quantitative assessment of stress. Hair cortisol levels may even be predict of the chances of having a heart attack. Standardization is important is these tests are not become more mainstream. The amount of times that one washes his or her hair can influence cortisol measurements. Nevertheless, there is some degree of correlation between the stresses human beings experience and the level of cortisol ultimately measured in their hair.
More studies are needed to determine how to reliably measure hair cortisol and the implications of such measurements on human health and disease.
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