If you've noticed extra hair falling out in the shower or when you brush your hair... well, it's basically the epitome of, "OMG, what now, 2020!?" Luckily, there are solutions. We reached out to Dendy Engleman, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Shafer Clinic in New York City; and Mona Gohara, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, to get a handle on stress-related hair loss and how to keep it under control.
Image via Imaxtree
A quick recap on how hair works
But when stress takes its toll, it propels hairs normally in the growth phase into the shedding phase, which means profuse amounts of hair starts falling out, a condition known as telogen effluvium. There: your new hair nemesis now has a name.
Image via Veronique Beranger/Getty
Why does this happen?
It's an old lizard brain function of the human body: when we used to have to outrun predators, growing long hair and nails isn't as important as, say, running for your life. The human body hasn't evolved with current technology: your brain can't discern between outrunning a sabre tooth tiger and answering emails from your boss, news coverage, or hours of social media. It's just doing what it does to keep you alive.
Image via Tetra Images/Getty
All types of stressful events can cause it, even "good" ones
Image via Imaxtree
It's also not immediate
Also, the amount shed is profound by the time you notice it. "The reality is, people often have to lose about 50 percent of their hair volume before they detect they're losing hair, which is a lot to lose," Dr. Engleman warns. "Patients often notice their ponytail isn't as thick; they're perceiving a significant reduction, which is real: a patient has to lose a lot (of hair) before they notice they've lost it."
But you aren't alone: both our dermatologists have seen a massive uptick in stress-related hair loss cases this year. "I've had more tears shed in my office over hair loss than even skin cancer because it really is so emotional for people," says Dr. Engleman, whose patients bring in bags of lost hair or photos depicting shower drains filled with it. "It's so psychologically stressful."
Dr. Gohara agrees the uptick in telogen effluvium patients is across the board "People are scared out of their minds," she observes, noting people will come in afraid to take showers and/or wash their hair for fear of their part getting wider.
Image via Luka Svetic/EyeEm/Getty