Science stumbles upon new way to prevent hair loss

Hair loss affects 80% of men aged 50 and older. Ladders recently did a deep dive into the various causes of the phenomenon, and now a new report from the Max Planck Institute suggests balding may be delayed with the help of something as simple as meditation.

Stress and balding

The authors stumbled upon a potential solution to hair loss, after homing in on one of its primary contributors: stress.

“When we’re stressed, our adrenal glands produce this hormone called cortisol, and then the cortisone signals our hair follicles to shift from the growth phase, out of growth phase into catagen [a transition phase], and then hair will fall out. This is called telogen effluvium,” explains naturopathic doctor, Tess Marshall, ND who was not involved in the new study.

Stress-induced hair loss or telogen effluvium can usually be reversed once the things causing stress are addressed.

You can help your body better regulate cortisol by adhering to a diet with:

  • lots of fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains
  • lean protein

Taking supplements including:

  • Ferritin
  • Vitamin D 
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin B12

And engaging in emotional wellness practices like:

  • yoga
  • meditation
  • deep breathing
  • journaling
  • spending time outdoors
  • counseling or therapy

Our hair can provide a measurement of stress

The authors of the new report were able to gauge each participant’s degree of stress by measuring the cortisol in their hair follicles.

In addition to hair loss, highly stressed individuals put themselves at an increased risk for diabetes, heart diseases, and depression.

“Our results point to the reduction of long-term cortisol exposure as a mechanism through which meditation-based mental training may exert positive effects on practitioners’ health,” the authors wrote.

When the researchers had the participants practice meditation and behavioral exercises that focused on cognitive and social skills — including attention, gratitude, and compassion — the level of cortisol present in their hair decreased significantly.

Over the course of nine months, the study sample engaged in mental training programs designed to teach a specific skill area using western and far eastern mental philosophies — 30 minutes a day, six days a week.

At the end of the study period, the participants saw a 25% decrease in the cortisol levels in their hair. They also produced 51% less cortisol under stress than those who had not been trained.

“Women are mostly complaining of shedding—they’re losing hair in the shower, they’re losing hair when styling, they’re losing hair when they’re running their hands through their heads, and that shedding is our clue that it’s coming from a stressful source,” Marshall continued.

“I think that self-care and really monitoring how you’re reacting to stress is really important to improve that resiliency in our bodies without any supplements at all.”