When Should You Be Worried About How Much Hair You’re Shedding?
Experts share the warning signs.
We have all been there: You spot a slightly larger than average clump of hair surrounding the shower drain or stuck in your brush and your heart rate begins to quicken. From there, you fixate on every stray strand that gets stuck on your sleeve or hair tie. You start to ask yourself the following questions: Am I experiencing hair loss? Should I see a doctor?
Out of all the beauty ailments, hair loss is one of the most distressing because it’s never expected and is often associated with feelings of shame and embarrassment. To make matters worse, search engines only further intensify your anxieties, and specialist appointments can be expensive and hard to book.
Thankfully, despite what it feels like, some hair shedding is completely normal. Anabel Kingsley, trichologist and Philip Kingsley brand president, says that losing somewhere between 80 to 100 hairs in a day is natural and part of your hair’s natural growth cycle. The tricky part is recognizing the difference between regular and concerning hair fall.
Ahead, Kingsley and other hair loss experts offer their tips for spotting excess hair loss and how to stimulate regrowth.
The Hair Growth Cycle
When it comes to hair loss, there are two categories: telogen effluvium and female pattern hair loss. The latter is hereditary, has a slow onset, and is driven by androgens while the latter is an abrupt yet reversible increase in shedding according to Dr. Robert Finney, M.D., a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and hair loss expert based in New York City.
“All of the hairs on our head are constantly cycling through growth (anagen) and resting (telogen) phases,” he explains, “It is typical for a hair to be in a growth phase for several years prior to taking a short ‘vacation’ and re-sprouting. Typically about 90% of our hairs are in the growth phase at any given time.”
The “resting” phase is when hairs fall out, and it can last between three to four months. If all is functioning properly, a new follicle should then grow in its place.
Of the two categories, telogen effluvium is more ideal. “Telogen effluvium is temporary, and hair will grow back once the cause has been found and addressed,” says Kingsley.
When Should You Be Concerned About Hair Shedding?
Hair shedding is natural to a certain degree, but it can be hard to know when you should be concerned. “Hair fall fluctuates from day to day, from person-to-person, and can also be seasonal,” explains Kingsley, “but if you’re consistently seeing more hairs come out than what is normal for you, there is probably something going on.”
She suggests removing any old hair from your hairbrush and paying attention to how much accumulates after using. Certified trichologist and hair loss practitioner, Mandy Buechner recommends paying attention to how much gathers around the drain in the shower.
Still none of these are surefire methods, and Kingsley emphasizes that when you are looking for hair fall, you are bound to find it.
“Hair length and when you last shampooed need to be considered,” she says. Longer hair creates the illusion that more is coming out. Plus, the longer you wait between shampoos, the more hair you will see come out. “Massaging when you shampoo simply dislodges loose hairs that are at the end of the telogen phase (exogen) and no longer growing,” she explains.
However, real hair loss is usually fairly noticeable. Dr. Finney tells his patients that if you aren’t sure if you are experiencing hair loss, then you probably aren’t.
What Causes Excessive Hair Shedding?
Treating hair loss is tricky, because a variety of factors can set things off. “While hair is essential psychologically, physically it is non-essential,” says Kingsley. It is particularly sensitive to hormonal shifts, changes in diet, health concerns, and stress levels.
Beyond that, hair loss is not immediate. According to Buechner once we notice hair loss is happening, it has already been going on for quite some time, so connecting the trigger can be tricky.
“In situations where someone has a rapid weight loss, our body shuts down unnecessary functions like hair growth,” explains Dr. Finney, “This can lead to a lot of shedding. Nutritional deficiencies also can lead to an increase in shedding such as low vitamin D, etc.”
Some of the most common causes of hair loss are stress, crash diets, hyperthyroidism, COVID-19, swift hormonal fluctuations like postpartum life, high fevers, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and more.
How To Stop Excessive Hair Shedding
First and foremost, if you are experiencing more than average hair loss, Buechner recommends setting up an intake consultation with a certified trichologist or dermatologist to help you determine the cause of the hair shedding and determine a personalized therapy plan based on your individual needs.
However, there are some things you can try to implement while you are waiting to get seen by a professional.
All of our experts agree: Do not start counting hairs when you suspect hair loss. “It can be super stressful, which ultimately makes the shedding worse,” says Kingsley. She emphasizes that telogen effluvium is temporary, and hair will grow back once the cause has been found and addressed.
Optimize Your Diet For Regrowth
There is some truth to the saying “you are what you eat.” “Eating a balanced diet rich in unsaturated, healthy fats and green leafy vegetables is helpful,” suggests Dr. Finney, “Taking a regular daily multivitamin can also be helpful.” In lieu of building an entire lineup of vitamins, look for an option that contains those known to support the optimal conditions for hair growth, such as HUM Nutrition Base Control Women’s MultiVitamin, which is loaded with iron plus vitamin A, B, and D.
Prioritize Scalp Health
Long, luscious hair isn’t possible without a balanced scalp. “A healthy, functioning scalp is critical to healthy hair growth. For example, failure to properly cleanse the scalp can cause buildup, which will make it more challenging for hair to grow and can stunt the follicles,” explains Dr. Geeta Yadav, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of FACET dermatology in Toronto. She recommends regularly using a gentle shampoo like the Better Not Younger Full Transparency Pure Revitalizing Shampoo to fend off build-up without stripping natural oils. To kick things up a notch, use a scalp serum like the Philip Kingsley Density Preserving Scalp Drops which is clinically proven to reduce hair fall.
Add Minoxidil To Your Hair Care Routine
Minoxidil is an over-the-counter treatment that has been shown to minimize hair loss. However, Dr. Finney warns that it usually accelerates the shedding in the first two to three weeks prior to helping regrow the hairs. “For someone already stressed out about shedding, this is not fun,” he adds. Topical treatments are a covienent way to tackle hair loss at home, but they can be messy. The Zotos Nutri-Ox Densifying Tonic has a targeted nozzle, so you can easily apply where you need.
Massage Your Scalp
Dr. Yadav recommends incorporating massage or dermarolling into your routine. “Studies show that this can actually make a difference in hair growth — the increased blood flow can help thicken the hair follicle and promote healthier growth,” she says. If you’re intrigued by dermarolling, the tool from scalp health brand Act + Acre is a solid option that will also look sleek on your vanity.
LED Light Therapy
Studies have shown that low level light therapy have been effective in encouraging hair regrowth. Dr. Finney recommends the CurrentBody Skin LED Hair Regrowth Device which helps flood the scalp with nutrients.
While the above suggestions can be done at home, PRP injections are a common treatment option you can opt to try once you get an appointment with your doctor. “Platelet-rich plasma injections utilize our own bodies growth factors that are held in our platelets,” says Dr. Finney, “These growth factors can help to abruptly slow or stop the shedding and kickstart regrowth right away.” Bring this treatment up when you consult with your provider to see if they think it’s right for your condition.
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