How Mental Health Can Affect Hair

Mental health is finally being spoken about and accepted as a very common occurrence in many people’s lives. Usually, the affects are spoken about as internal struggles, but did you know that many symptoms are external; such as affects on skin and hair. We’ve delved into how mental health can affect hair, and what we can do to help.

Let’s start at the root of the problem, the scalp. We know that scalp health directly affects growth of hair, but do your clients? We need to ensure a scalp assessment is carried out during all appointments and advise our clients on how to keep the scalp healthy and enforce the importance of it too.

Why scalp health is important for hair growth

Brian Plunket, a Consultant Trichologist with 35 years experience spoke to us recently about scalp health. If you’d like to watch, head over to our Instagram. He explains that to understand hair growth you must first look at the anatomy of hair. For you salon pros you’ll know your stuff but for your clients and anybody needing a refresher, let’s dive in.

Hair: Each strand is made of keratin; a naturally occurring protein in the body. These keratin fibres come in 2 parts, the hair shaft and the follicle. The follicle is below the skin, whilst the shaft is the visible strand you see on your head. The follicle is made from blood vessels and nerves, these need lots of nutrition to grow healthily; nutrition that needs to come from the body, including protein, iron, Vitamin D and E. Consuming these in day to day life can help with hair health, and hair growth.

Skin: Now for skin; each hair must develop and grow from a follicle under the surface of the scalp; the follicle and surrounding skin must be nourished and healthy for the hair to grow and to minimise ingrown hair risks. When the hair is healthy enough to surface the scalp, the skin must then be moisturised and free from debris (styling products, sebum and, dead skin, dandruff) to allow for growth.

Mental health affects hair and our scalp, BUT HOW?

First let’s look at the stress hormone Cortisol; it rises when we are distressed, and is a culprit of a huge range of hair and skin concerns.

Consultant dermatologist and hair loss expert, Mia Jing Gao says, “Women who experience high levels of stress are 11 times more likely to experience hair loss than those who do not report high stress levels. An event such as major stress, illness, and pregnancy can shock the system and cause up 70% of hairs to shift from growth phase to resting phase, which results in shedding called ‘telogen effluvium’ around two months after the precipitating event.”

Not only can growth be affected, but hair that does grow can be dry, brittle and prone to breakage.

As well as hormones wreaking havoc on our hair, those suffering with mental health are known to neglect their self care. Regular hair washing and healthy eating may be a struggle for those suffering and that may also contribute to negative hair effects.

How can hair professionals help?

Our clients will turn to us primarily for hair advice; more often before, or instead of visiting a doctor. It is important for us to understand how mental health can affect hair and the scalp and to advise sensitively. We should educate ourselves on the issue and raise awareness within every professional environment we cross, so that we can talk openly together.

Always advise your clients see a doctor where necessary.