Internal and external stressors are part of modern life, and while we’re burning the midnight oil trying to keep up with the demands of work, family and friends - the cliché but accurate “hustle and bustle” - we may not realize the effects stress has on our bodies and more uniquely, on our hair and skin.
We often attribute stress with internal issues that result in external discomfort such as joint pain, back spasms, headaches and stiff necks – things that a cold compress can conquer after a few hours. But, stress’s reach goes much further than that.
The Body’s Response to Stress
Each time our bodies are stressed, we cycle through an internal fight or flight response where our brains prioritize key bodily functions over skin health and cellular regeneration. During fight or flight mode, our body’s oil production increases, the digestive track shuts down, immune system weakens, and skin immediately gets acidic (aka, BO).
Our bodies endure these situations approximately 90+ times each day. That’s 90x/day that our body’s oil production kicks into overdrive, often with no immediate toxin-releasing outlet (exercise). And did you know? Even though hair cells are the second fastest growing cells in the body, our bodies consider scalp hair as non-essential, so it’s given lower priority after essential tissue organs like liver or kidneys.
So, when our bodies are in a constantly overworked state, our scalps are given even less priority than normal, which is why it’s so common to experience hair loss, thinning, patchiness and breakage during times of stress.
Now, when you add other natural factors into the mix such as aging and environmental aggressors, it would seem our scalps are in a constant uphill battle to continue producing healthy, thick, ample hair. Just as daily internal and external stressors affect the appearance and function of our facial skin, so too do they affect our scalp’s ability to maintain a healthy environment for hair to thrive, because after all, scalp skin is skin.
We may think, “I’m not really putting my body through that much each day,” but a lot of the compromising factors are invisible and unfortunately, inevitable. Here are some examples of daily skin stressors, that yes, also affect the health of our scalp:
|High-fat diet||Dry Climates||Lack of sleep|
|Sitting in traffic||Pollen||Dust|
|Indoor AC/heating units||Windblown debris||Unprotected UVA + UVB|
|Second-hand smoke||Auto exhaust||Exposure|
|Nail salons||Buying a house||Running late|
|Hair Styling Products||Alcohol|
The overall result of facial skin suffering an onslaught of everyday external and internal stress triggers? Dehydration, dark spots, increased sensitivity and a compromised barrier layer that creates a visibly tired, dull, inflamed, irritated and blemish-prone complexion. The overall result of scalp skin suffering the same onslaught? Dehydration, dark spots, increased sensitivity, thinning, breakage, patchiness, itchiness, flaking, buildup and a compromised barrier layer that creates a less supportive environment for healthy hair to grow.
Repeated stress, aging and exposure to environmental aggressors makes it harder for our scalp skin to bounce back (just like when an immune system is less able to fight off the common cold) and can result in chronic flaking, hair thinning, loss of density and a shortened hair growth phase.
Wondering if it’s time to take better care your scalp? Here are some common signs of an unhealthy scalp (plus, a few things that naturally happen with age) and what we can do about them:
- Scalp follicles clogged or blocked with too much sebum prevent hair growth.
- Keeping follicles clean and clear of oil buildup helps prevent hair loss.
- We naturally shed up to 100 hairs/day, and with age, we start to lose more than we grow back.
- Regular scalp stimulation improves micro-circulation, reawakening dormant hair follicles.
- Hair loss, damage and thinning is exacerbated by stress, pollution, over styling and chemical treatments.
- Combatting those external elements with regular microneedling helps hair stay strong and healthy.
- Itchiness signifies an imbalance in our scalp’s microbiome, aka higher-than-normal levels of bacteria, sweat and oil.
- Nutrient-rich topical skincare helps break up trapped bacteria, sweat and oil relieving the scalp of irritation.
- Over time, scalp skin thins and collagen production slows down, resulting in thinning, breakage and hair loss.
- Boosting collagen production with scalp stimulation and skincare helps firm the upper layers of the scalp, giving hair strands a thicker foundation, helping to reduce hair loss.
- Constant shedding and sweating help form a crucial protective layer over the scalp, which often traps bacteria.
- Our roots need routine cleansing, hydration and nourishing skincare, just like our facial skin, to stay clean and clear.
Moral of the story when it comes to our scalps - it’s crucial to replenish moisture, regulate oil production and boost collagen production with nutrient-rich topical skincare and manual stimulation just like we do with our facial skin.
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