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How wellness can reduce stress and play a role in your hair/scalp health

Posted by Dr. Ellana on

Stress and hair health go hand in hand.  Let’s be real.  We have ALL probably noticed that the more stressed out we are, the less vibrant our hair looks.  It may be a simple noticing that your hair is dryer, to more serious thinning, to flat out balding. While some may not correlate right away the effects on stress on the hair, if one is really perceptive, you will notice that the hair and scalp take a direct hit when we let stress spiral out of control.

What is stress anyway and what is its role in our bodies? Our stress response is a very important part of the nervous system.  Stress is used in general to describe activation of our sympathetic nervous system.  This is our “fight or flight” system that allows us to identify…and get away from…danger.  It is intended to be activated in 15-20 minute bursts to allow all available energy resources to go to the organs required to keep you alive.

I like to use the analogy of a zebra running away from the lion. This is taken from the book, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” by Robert Sapolsky and it highlights how our stress response is intended to work in the animal kingdom, which includes humans. If you look at the zebras in the field, they are doing all of the things that are wonderful and lovely, and they have energy devoted to these things.  This includes playing (all of the feel-good hormones are working), reproducing (sex hormones are on and poppin’), and eating and digesting (all of the digestive enzymes and digestive system is functioning). Now, what happens when the lion comes along? 

When the lion comes along, all of those wonderful processes that happen ONLY in parasympathetic, or “rest, digest and heal” mode are now shut off!  Instead, a massive dose of cortisol and adrenaline shoots through the body, pulling all available energy and blood to the heart, the blood vessels and the muscles to get away from the lion and preserve its life.  While running from the lion, there’s no need to feel good, have sex, digest food, or grow hair. 

Now, after 10-15 minutes, when the lion has its kill, the other zebras go right back to parasympathetic mode and do all of the wonderful things they were doing before.  This is how life is designed for the stress response to work.  Unfortunately, in us humans, we no longer have this response triggered for on 10-15 minutes at a time. In fact, most of us have our stress response activated for 24 hours a day, every single day.  We are “running” from work, kids, spouses, and worries all of the time, even during sleep.

Over time, our feel-good hormones, our sex hormones, our thyroid hormones, and vital nutrients get depleted, damaging our bodies as well as affecting our hair and scalp.  We need vitamins and minerals to reach the hair follicles, as well as the hormones that keep our scalps nourished and moisturized in order for hair to grow and be healthy. Anything that directly impacts the stress response will create an improvement in our hair and scalp over time. 

Adopting a routine of wellness that reduces stress and the stress response can create a dramatic difference in both the growth and appearance of your hair and scalp.  Wellness is the practice of adopting daily habits to impact your physical, mental, and spiritual health. Even small changes on a daily basis can help to reduce stress, thereby improving your hair and scalp health.  In fact, it is easier for most people to make small changes and this is the beauty of wellness.  Little changes move the dial in a large way.  Plus, once you notice the changes that are occurring as a result of your effort, it becomes even easier to stick with habits long-term as well as add new ones.


Some wellness practices that reduce stress and simultaneously improve scalp and hair health include the removal of processed sugars and gluten, massage, and adding in adaptogens.  Let’s discuss each of these.

Most chronic stress has a component of inflammation overlying everything.  Inflammation is like a simmering “burn” that destroys the tissues and keeps your system on “high-alert” for danger, even when there is none there.  Processed sugar and gluten are 2 foods that we can eliminate from our diets that will impact our chronic body stress as a result of inflammation. These 2 foods directly create damage to your cells and organs as well as the gut.  Gluten in particular can wreak havoc on your thyroid gland, which is one of the MOST important glands necessary for producing the right hormones and environment for healthy hair.  There are SO many healthy substitutions for processed sugar and gluten now that removing these could be a simple first step to “cooling” off chronic inflammation and stress. 

Next, scalp massage is a great way to relax your body and lower cortisol, while simultaneously providing increased blood flow to your scalp and hair follicles.  A nice relaxing scalp massage can be used at any time you feel stressed to activate the parasympathetic nervous system.  Adding this in as a daily practice with a little bit of cbd on the tips of your fingers will do double duty for your nervous system and hair.  This leads me to my next point… adding in adaptogens.

Adaptogens are any substances that help the body “adapt” to stress, and guess what?  CBD is one that works overtime to modulate the immune system, the feel-good hormone system, and your nervous system. Most, if not, all of our tissues have receptors specifically designed to link with CBD type molecules in order to create more wellness in the body.  Ingesting or absorbing an adaptogen daily is a really simple thing we can add to help us lower stress.  CBD can be used during direct times of stress, or as a daily protectant against stress.  Adding a CBD infused hair oil during your daily body and scalp massage will do wonders for your state of mind and your hair will love it too. 


These are just a few simple ways that wellness can impact and reduce stress in your life.  By doing this, you will help to heal your hormones, your immune system, your gut, AND your hair.  Since hair is impacted by the health of all of these systems, anything you can do reduce the stress response and put your body into “healing and rejuvenation” mode will amplify the appearance and health of your hair.


Contributed by: Dr. Markyia Nichols, aka Dr.Kyia is a Johns Hopkins trained, board certified ob/gyn, author and functional medicine expert who is committed to integrating the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual components of health.
Growth and Maintenance

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