Have you been so stressed you could “pull out your hair” as the saying goes? Don’t bother — stress will make your hair pull itself out for you. Hair loss and stress aren’t some exaggerated cartoon images; your hair is a sensitive part of the body. Since your body considers it non-essential, unlike organs, it’s one of the first parts of your body that will feel the effects of stress. If you’ve noticed your hair isn’t feeling like it usually does, you might want to do a stress audit and check for these signs.

How is Hair Impacted by Stress? 
It can be tricky to draw the connection between hair loss or damage and stress from life events. Since the hair has its own, more prolonged growth cycle, you might not begin to notice a difference in your hair until 6 to 12 weeks after feeling stressed out. If you’re seeing your hair is falling out often in larger quantities than average, it’s time to reevaluate your stress levels.

The way stress affects your hair is mainly due to hormones and how stress alters your hormones. The villainous hormone known as cortisol is the main culprit; when your cortisol level increases, the hair count on your head can begin to decrease.

It’s not only your hair that’s impacted by stress, however. Your scalp will react to stress, too, and its response is much faster. If you notice an increase in dandruff or scalp itchiness, this can be a significant red flag that damage due to stress is ramping up. Your scalp has its own micro-flora and is vulnerable to hormone changes. When these negative changes occur, scalp issues ensue.

Another telltale sign of the impact of stress is an overly oily scalp. Those changes in hormones due to stress can also cause your scalp to over-produce oil, leading to greasy roots.

How to Manage Stress-Impacted Hair
If you’ve got all the signs of stressed out hair and know you’ve been feeling some stress that could cause it, we hate to be the bearers of bad news, but there’s really only one way to help your hair — lower the stress. That’s certainly easier said than done, but think of your hair as a messenger; the problem isn’t that your hair isn’t coping with your stressful lifestyle. It’s that your lifestyle is stressing your hair.

The best thing to do in this case is taking the hint and incorporate some de-stressing time into your day. That can be a short yoga session, some meditation, or just some couch time in front of Netflix or reading a good book. Relax for your hair’s sake!