Most people with healthy hair have approximately 100,000 hairs on their heads. 90% of these hair follicles are actively growing . The remaining 10% are resting (known as telogen) or shedding (known as exogen).
Hair shedding is a natural part of the hair growth cycle. However, if too many hairs start to shed, it can be a cause for concern. So when does normal hair shedding become excessive and what can you do about it? In this article, you’ll learn:
Hair shedding is the process of removing old hairs to make way for new, healthy hairs. If you have a normal rate of hair shedding, you may lose up to 100 hair strands a day. This is an accepted rate of hair loss. If you’re losing less than this, you don’t need to worry.
Excessive hair shedding happens when you lose more than 100 hair strands a day. You’re likely to notice more hair loss in the shower, on your pillow, or on your hairbrush.
For most people, hair shedding is caused by your natural hair growth cycle. However, if you find that the rate you are losing hair is excessive, there is usually an underlying cause for hair loss. These include:
There are many reasons why your hair may be falling out. If you’re not sure what’s causing your excessive shedding, get a diagnosis from a professional trichologist.
There are three major types of hair shedding:
While all hair shedding looks similar to the naked eye, researchers have found differences in hair anatomy depending on which type of hair shedding you have . In contrast to telogen and anagen phase hairs, cells in the hair follicle base of exogen hairs separate cleanly from those holding the hair in place.
The mechanism that causes normal hair shedding isn’t conclusively known. Some researchers suggest that new hairs push old hairs out of the hair follicle to make way for new growth. However, more recent research suggests cells of the hair root actually send signals to the hair follicle to stimulate exogen .
In telogen effluvium, the body enters the telogen phase prematurely, causing more hair to shed at once. This is usually triggered by trauma, stress, illness, or hormonal changes .
In anagen effluvium, shedding is caused by extreme damage to the hair shaft, causing it to break off . Anagen effluvium is usually associated with chemotherapy-related hair loss. Many chemotherapy patients have complete hair loss within 2-3 months of starting treatment [1, 4].
The terms hair shedding and hair loss are often used interchangeably. However, these terms usually refer to slightly different processes.
Hair shedding can refer to normal hair falling out, as well as hair loss caused by medication, hair loss treatments, and seasonal changes. It often means there’s a chance the hair will regrow by itself and the hair loss is only temporary.
Hair loss, meanwhile, usually refers to longer-term conditions (such as pattern baldness and alopecia areata) that can be permanent. For men, hair shedding often becomes hair loss if you develop noticeable bald patches whereas hair loss in women presents as widespread hair thinning. In both cases, if your hair falls out and doesn’t grow back within a few months then you may be suffering from a long-term hair loss condition.
The longevity of your hair shedding depends on how quickly you can address the underlying cause. Telogen effluvium usually lasts less than 6 months, although if it’s caused by long-term medication or unresolved stressors, it may last longer . Similarly, anagen effluvium usually lasts as long as your course of chemotherapy.
In most of these cases, hair will regrow by itself when the underlying cause of hair loss has been tackled. You can also try solutions like Minoxidil, caffeine shampoo, and vitamin E supplements for hair to stimulate growth more quickly.
If you have a permanent hair loss condition like androgenetic alopecia, hair shedding may continue until you have widespread hair loss across your scalp.
Counting the number of hairs you lose in a day isn’t a practical way to measure hair shedding. The image chart below provides a visual guide to what specific amounts of hair shedding look like in a person with shoulder-length hair :
The hair pull test is another way to find out how much hair you’re losing. If you see a trichologist or doctor about your hair loss, they’ll probably perform this test on you — but you can also try it yourself.
If your hair is coming out at a normal rate, there’s nothing to worry about. Accept that some hair shedding is a natural part of hair growth, and look forward to the fresh new hair that will grow in its place.
However, if you’re losing too much hair, it’s essential that you take steps to stop shedding and stimulate new hair growth. Here’s what you can do.
If you’re not sure why your hair is falling out, it’s best to speak to a professional. Whether it’s your GP or a hair loss specialist, they can help rule out certain causes and help you create a treatment plan.
When you know what’s causing your hair loss, take steps to address it. If your hair loss is rooted in anxiety or depression, it may help for you to speak to a mental health professional. You might also have a previously undiagnosed condition that is contributing to your hair loss, in which case you can seek treatment advice from your doctor.
Your diet can have a big impact on the health of your hair. Avoid fad diets, eat plenty of hair growth foods, and make sure your diet is optimised for healthy hair
Hair growth relies on good circulation to make sure your scalp and hair follicles get plenty of nutrients. Exercising regularly can improve your circulation, and it’s great for your general health, too.
Damaged hair becomes brittle and snaps off at the ends, making your hair look thinner. Avoid heat styling and tying your hair back too tightly, as these can damage your hair further.
Many hair transplant patients notice their hair grafts falling out after a hair transplant. This is known as shock hair loss, and it’s a normal part of the hair transplant recovery process. After a few weeks, you’ll start to see new growth in your previously thinning areas.
In some rare cases, your non-transplanted hairs may fall out after a hair transplant procedure. This is a reaction to the surgery and is more likely to happen if your surgeon is less skilled or experienced. Fortunately, this type of hair loss is almost always temporary and your hair will regrow after a few months.
If you’re worried about how much hair you’re losing, or you’re not sure what’s causing your hair shedding, get an expert hair loss assessment and treatment at the award-winning Wimpole Clinic.
Our hair loss specialists can help diagnose your hair loss condition and create a treatment plan designed specifically for you.
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