Stress Does not Cause Permanent Hair Loss

In my opinion, excessive stress can almost never cause permanent hair loss in humans. At worse, it causes temporary telogen effluvium hair shedding.

Stress effects the hair growth cycle.
Stress pushes hair into a resting Telogen phase.

Chronic Stress and Hair Loss

On March 31, 2021, researchers from Harvard University released findings (in mice) that chronic stress causes permanent hair loss. These findings were published in numerous newspapers around the world. The lead researcher was the respected Dr. Ya-Chieh Hsu, and the paper was published in Nature on March 4, 2021.

It was titled: “Corticosterone inhibits Gas6 to govern hair follicle stem-cell quiescence.” Chronic stress seems to increase levels of the corticosterone stress hormone in mice. This in turn prolongs hair follicle stem cell (HFSC) quiescence, resulting in hair follicles remaining in an extended resting phase.

The scientists believe that restoring Gas6 gene expression overcomes the stress-induced inhibition of HFSC activation and hair growth. Another summary from Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI).

“Stress essentially just elevates this preexisting ‘adrenal gland–hair follicle axis,’ making it even more difficult for hair follicle stem cells to enter the growth phase to regenerate new hair follicles.” — Dr. Hsu.

Ronald Reagan Hair
Ronald Reagan never had any hair loss despite insane levels of stress. But he was not a mouse of course.

Since that day, readers have regularly posted or e-mailed me links to newly published versions of the story. This has annoyed me, since I do not believe these findings hold much merit in humans. However, to avoid further e-mails, I am now writing my counterarguments.

Besides the fact that the research was done in mice, there are some obvious issues that the researchers have surprisingly failed to address.

Mice are not Humans

  1. Why do young people almost never go bald? In my whole life, I have seen just a handful of people younger than 14 being bald. And all of them seemed to have the rare condition of alopecia areata (or alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis). A few dozen people around the world also go prematurely bald due to progeria (Hutchinson-Gilford). I am of course not counting the few pre-teens who shave their head as a fashion statement.
  2. Major baldness is rare even in those who are younger than 20 years in age. And also not too common in those who are below 25. It is surely not believable that young people do not suffer from major stressful events!? If anything, stress is perhaps worst in those who are in high school and college. Permanent hair loss is almost always caused by male hormones (hence the term androgenetic alopecia) and NOT stress. More specifically, male pattern hair loss is usually due to a person’s genetic sensitivity to the effects of dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The latter in turn is converted from testosterone via the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme. Make sure to read my post on destroying the androgen receptor.
  3. Why do “pure” Native Americans never go bald? Are the Harvard Researchers implying that Native Americans never have chronic stress? If not, they should have at least posted a caveat that certain groups are genetically protected from stress induced permanent hair loss.
  4. The findings do not address why women are less likely to have significant hair loss in comparison to men. Especially in their younger years. Most news sources seem to suggest than women in fact have more stress than men. So if anything, they should have higher rates of baldness than men.
  5. Why does stress not seem to impact body hair growth? Or even nail growth. Most men get an increasing amount of body hair as they get older. I have never heard someone say that they permanently lost their body hair after prolonged stress. Nails are made from keratin, just like scalp hair. Yet stress does not seem to cause nail stem cells to go into a permanent “resting phase”. Even people over the age of 100 have to keep cutting their fingernails and toenails unfortunately.
  6. Mahathir Mohamad Hair
    95-year old Mahathir Mohamad has not lost any hair even with a lifetime of stress.

    Why do many people who go through tremendous stress in their lives still never go bald? Among the most famous examples of this are: 93-year old now deceased ex-US president Ronald Reagan. And 95-year old still living ex-Malaysian prime minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. These two men went through numerous periods of chronic stress during their long lives.

Stress and Hair Greying

The funny thing is that the same Harvard researcher (Dr. Ya-Chieh Hsu) and her team published a paper in January 2020 titled: “How stress causes gray hair.” At the time, I also ignored the work due to skepticism. Especially in regards to how findings in mice do not necessarily translate to humans. I did not even expand much on the findings in my regularly updated grey hair cure post.

Some of the same arguments I made earlier apply to these conclusions. Why do you almost never see children with grey hair? Young people often suffer from chronic stress. Yet I would guess that less than one percent of those below age 15 have prematurely graying hair.

I do think that the chances of getting more rapid development of grey hair after prolonged stress is at least somewhat possible in many humans. However, I do not believe that stress can cause permanent hair loss in almost any humans.

14 thoughts on “Stress Does not Cause Permanent Hair Loss”

  1. I agree admin. It’s most likely DHT in most cases. Always it seems, studies proving otherwise, are done on poor mice. (Their skin is thinner anyway). Btw: be sure to pass on ur views to Rob English and the head-rubbing ‘subscription’ gang.

  2. Reagan is really not a good example. This is the man who famously said (allegedly) that hard work never killed anyone, but “hell, why take the risk”. Even when he was shot, he took it all in his stride. If he was stressed out, he certainly hid it well! Just very lucky with his hair genes. Not so lucky when it came to the likely genetic component for Alzheimer’s….If it were a choice between the two I’d obviously pick baldness. If only it were that simple.

  3. Any news from stemson therapeutics there financial backers fortunis announced that stemsons therapeutics finished mice trials and pig trials and that they’ve cured baldness for everyone even cancer patients! That’s amazing news how come no-one is talking about this?

    1. The statements in the video are somehow vague and already 5 months old, so this is no new news.

      Besides that, I assume they did many mice and pig tests already years ago. This is the only way to test „in vivo“ without human involvement. It’s not something unusual or extraordinary.

      The next step can only be human clinical trials which were originally announced for 2021. And that‘s basically the only possible news from Stemson which are of interest.

      1. On Stemson site, no news articles since last year. Tsuji and Stemson have not even start first human trials. Not sure why people keep wasting time every week.

  4. I remember having a bald spot between the side and back of my head. It came out of nowhere. When I say bald, I don’t mean thinning. I mean completely bald. Bald to the point I thought I was rubbing my face until I realized my fingers was actually at the side/back of my head. When it hit me, I jumped out of bed and ran to the mirror like someone lit fire under my butt.

    To this day, I have no idea why it happened. It was about the size of a quarter. About a year later my hair started to grow back. My cousin said it was stress. Of course he was the same person that disregarded me 5 months prior when I initially told him about it. He never asked the one thing that would have easily resolved his doubt – “Let me see it”.

    I have frontal scarring alopecia now. Styling my hair is a nightmare so I have more stress now than I did back then when I was dealing with thinning so I doubt it was stress, but who knows.

    1. Temporary patches of hair loss can often also be due to telogen effluvium (see link in the beginning of the post). Or even patchy alopecia areata that for some reason never became a lifelong issue.

  5. I agree.
    As for the role of androgens, why is she always the culprit ? What is the part of testosterone in hairloss ? I remember when I fist started to notice something was off, my s was pretty low, and my testosterone just a bit above the normal range for a 20 year old woman. Yet as soon as I started antiandrogens, my hairloss stopped…of course it is possible that i have just a low tolerance fresh old for why, but it is weird that my hairloss started when my T started to rise a bit and not before…

  6. I have been waiting for a cure for so long (30 years) that I am almost afraid of it, what can happen to my personality? … is like a blind man who gains sight from one day to the next, he could go mad. I have been suffering from baldness for too long :( If you spend most of your life in prison you struggle once you get out … Baldness made me who I am.

  7. Prolonged stress can certainly trigger androgenic alopecia to kick-in earlier, And undoubtedly stress can cause pre-mature greying of hair. Speaking of grey hair – I’m 30 years old and have started seeing white hairs on my right temple, and it looks like bimatoprost can help with re-pigmentation of hair. Also, I found this patent by Allergan published 2021-04-01 on using topical bimatoprost for AGA. https://patents.google.com/patent/US20210093646A1/en

    1. Nice find on the patent!

      So why does prolonged stress almost never cause androgenetic alopecia in 15 year olds? And rarely in those below 20? Or never in Native Americans for their whole lives? Or rarely in most women below age 30?

      And is it possible for prolonged stress to also cause my beard hair to stop growing? That would be amazing and I would try to force myself into stressful situations! For some reason, all such mice theories never apply to body hair :-(

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