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Stress May Be Turning Drug Kingpin El Chapo Bald

El Chapo with a full head of hair. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

If a guy was the world’s most wanted drug trafficker, one might expect he’d be used to quite a bit of stress. But according to a lawyer for Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the drug kingpin is so stressed out by his latest bout in prison that he’s losing his mind and his hair. Equally known for his healthy head of hair and his unhealthy appetite for control over the global narcotics trade, El Chapo is also a repeat escape artist, having a history of being thrown into and extricating himself out of a number of Mexican prison facilities over the past 23 years.

El Chapo was the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel until his capture and impending extradition to the United States. It is this latest round of incarceration that is appearing to throw his locks into an escape from lockdown of their own — reportedly due to stress. But can stress really cause hair loss, or is this some legal trick to delay extradition?

Vincent D’Onofrio as Daredevil villain Kingpin, who might know a thing or two about prison-stress hair loss. (Photo: Netflix)

If indeed it is stress that is turning El Chapo into a real-life version of the Kingpin from the Marvel Daredevil series, it is possible that he suffers from one of the more common stress-related hair loss conditions: telogen effluvium. TE, as it’s sometimes called, is a condition where hair stops growing for a period of time and suddenly falls out in large numbers, usually “caused by substantial physiological stresses on the body,” according to WebMD:

“Sometimes, a significant stress of some sort may spark a change in your body’s routine physiological functions … and cause a disproportionate number of hairs to go into the resting phase at the same time. Then three to four months later, sometimes longer, all those resting hairs are shed. The effect can be alarming.”

So, yes, it is within the realm of possibility that even a world-class crime lord can experience enough acute stress to affect his hair. And what could be more physiologically stressful than a sudden and extreme change of environment, e.g., going from gold-plated toilets to a hole in the ground? Other stressors could be at fault, including diet, medication, or simply genetics. But medical practitioners emphasize that it’s most likely the physiological stress that brings on the hair loss — not emotional stress alone.

Not all of us spend our days incarcerated and facing extradition to a world power, but that doesn’t mean you’re not experiencing stress. And if you’ve found physiological stress affecting your hair growth — or if you’re showing signs of abnormal hair loss (not genetic loss) — is there anything you can do about it? According to the American Hair Loss Association, neither you nor El Chapo need worry too much. “Whatever form of hair loss TE takes, it is fully reversible. The hair follicles are not permanently or irreversibly affected.”

So, sit tight, El Chapo. Your time is probably going to come, and your hair is probably going to come back.