Finding Balance: A Blog for Healthy Living
The Connection Between Psychological Stress and Unwanted Hair
January 1, 2018
Anna is a 35-year-old middle school social studies teacher and mother of two young children. She begins her weekday at 5:00 a.m. in order to prepare herself and her children for the day. After showering, getting dressed, waking her children, making breakfast, packing lunches, and settling her children into the car, Anna is on the road before 7:00. This morning, she is hoping to deliver her daughters to daycare with enough time before her 8:00 a.m. class to grade a few papers.
Anna teaches six classes per day – 3 seventh grade social studies classes and 3 eighth grade world history classes. She loves her students, but several of her classes are overenrolled, making it difficult to keep order and provide enough attention to each child. She feels a headache creeping in by midmorning. Her schedule typically allows her a 90-minute break during 4th period and 5th period. During this time, she eats lunch, grades papers, and begins to prepare for the next day. Today, however, her assistant principle has scheduled a lunchtime meeting to discuss attendance issues. The meeting, while important, means that Anna will accomplish very little of her own work during the school day.
Anna leaves school by 4:00 in order to pick up her daughters from daycare. Once home, they all spend time playing together before Anna begins cooking dinner. She is grateful that her husband will be available this evening to help get the children ready for bed, so that she can devote a few needed hours to grading papers, preparing for her classes and completing an assignment for her online graduate class.
At 11:00 p.m. Anna sets her alarm and drops into bed. While she sometimes struggles with insomnia, exhaustion quickly sets in, and she is soon asleep.
Anna sighs after getting up the next morning and looking in the bathroom mirror. Under the bright florescent bulb, she notices the all too familiar course hairs which frequently crop up on her chin. Having dealt with this issue for the past several years, she expertly grabs a pair of tweezers and begins, once again, to clear her face.
While facial hair extraction has become a regular part of Anna’s beauty routine, she has never made the connection between excess facial hair and her stressful lifestyle. She has never thought to discuss the issue with her doctor and has never learned about the relationship between psychological stress and the production of androgenic (male) hormones.
While a number of factors may contribute to unwanted facial hair, research has shown that stress may play a significant role. Stress induced hair growth can be blamed, in large part, on a complicated feedback system involving the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands. The hypothalamus and pituitary glands, which are situated in the brain, become stimulated by the nervous system during times of stress. Together, they secrete hormones which activate the adrenal glands, two pyramid shaped glands which sit on top of the kidneys. The adrenal glands, in response, secrete the stress hormones cortisol & adrenaline. As a side effect, however, the overactive adrenal glands also increase their production of androgenic hormones – hormones which are responsible for the development and maintenance of male characteristics such as facial hair. All women naturally produce androgens. Chronic stress, however, may increase production in undesirable ways.
Hair removal efforts, such as electrolysis, can play an important role in managing the problem of excess facial hair. Over time, electrolysis destroys the root of treated hair follicles, preventing regrowth. If the underlying problem persists, however, very fine ‘vellus’ hairs, which are initially unnoticeable to the naked eye, may be stimulated by androgens to become courser and darker, requiring additional treatment.
Motwani, C.K. Does Stress Lead to Unwanted Hair Amongst Women? [Blog Post] Retrieved From: http://www.medwonders.com/medblogs/general/does-stress-lead-to-unwanted-hair-amongst-women-2926.htm
Randall, M. (2010). The Physiology of Stress: Cortisol and the Hypolthalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis. Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science. [Online Article] Retrieved from: http://dujs.dartmouth.edu/2011/02/the-physiology-of-stress-cortisol-and-the-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis/#.Wkf8cN-nHIU