I often hear from people who are trying to embrace a healthier lifestyle after they’ve gone through (or are going through) a bout of telogen effluvium. Some want to try exercise in the hopes that this will make things better. They might ask a question like: “my hair has been shedding for about two months. I haven’t been to a dermatologist, but my primary care doctor says that I probably have telogen effluvium from dieting. So I have stopped dieting, but so far, my hair is still shedding. I don’t want to damage my body anymore to lose weight, so I’ve started eating healthy and I want to start exercising. I’m wondering if exercise will help with my shedding and regrowth.”
There are a couple of trains of thought about this. Some people feel that exercise is helpful in a couple of ways. First, it helps encourage increased blood flow which is good for your scalp and hair. Second, it can dramatically decrease stress, which is vitally important. As you may already know, telogen effluvium often occurs after a stress to the body where your system goes into “flight or fight.” This can happen to your body for many reasons including illness, dieting, medications, surgery, hormonal changes, etc. Since hair is not necessary for survival, your body will put the hair into “resting” mode and it sheds. So anything that you can do to relax your body and lower stress helps to avoid those “flight or fight” responses (and the hormonal changes that come with them) which can trigger TE.
However, with this said, it’s my belief that you have to be careful here. If you overdo exercise, it can actually stress your body or change your hormones. Neither of these things would be great if you’re trying to recover from TE. My position on this has always been that GENTLE and relaxing exercise is a good idea, but strenuous exercise that may tax your body might actually do more harm than good. I think that yoga or pilates are great alternatives. They offer health and physical fitness benefits, but they are gentle and are great for stress relief.
If you are going to exercise, it’s important that you wash your hair afterward. You don’t want to leave any sweat or debris on your scalp. Although telogen effluvium is different than androgenic alopeica, they can present in similar ways. So if there is any chance that your hair loss may have an androgen or inflammatory component, leaving sweat or debris on your scalp is not a good idea. You always want a clean scalp that is free of debris (which could clog follicles) or inflammation (which could cause more hair loss) when you are dealing with shedding.
In short, I think that gentle exercise is a great idea with telogen effluvium, but you have to be careful not to overdo it. Plus you want to clean your scalp afterward if you’ve worked up a sweat. I found yoga very helpful when I was going through telogen effluvium. Not only was shedding stressful, but I always worried about how my hair would look for the long term. The deep breathing with yoga helped to ease these worries. Having a better looking body helped me focus on something other than my hair. And I’m sure that the stress relief was ultimately beneficial. You read about more things that helped on my blog at http://stop-hair-loss-in-women.com/