Why am I losing hair?
Hair loss can affect men and women of any ethnicity, age, or race. Perhaps you’ve noticed slightly thinning areas on your scalp. Your hairbrush seems to collect more strands than normal. Your pillowcase collects quite a few extra strays. Before you panic, you should understand that hair loss and hair shedding is different, and shedding hair is completely normal. Excessive shedding can be temporary or long-term, but is not equivalent to hair loss.
Daily Hair Regrowth
Everyone sheds hair every day to some extent. Men and women shed approximately 100-150 strands of hair everyday, but grow more than 100,000 strands. Each hair grows for about 2-8 years during the growing stage (the anagen phase). It then enters a “resting phase” or telogen phase, which lasts about 2-3 months. The hair naturally falls out after the telogen phase and the follicle regenerates a new hair six months later. At any given time, about 90% of your hair is in the growing phase and 10% is in the resting phase. The resting phase is when you can expect natural hair shedding. Excessive shedding, or telogen effluvium, occurs when you shed more about 100 strands of hair in a single day.
If you notice any excess shedding or thinning areas, you can find proactive treatment that will prevent losing more hair and protect the healthy hair follicles that you still have. Usually hair shedding goes away on its own but can be long-lived.
Several factors affect the degree of hair shedding.
- Significant weight loss (20 lbs. or more)
- Medical operations
- Vitamin deficiency
For women specifically, additional factors include:
- Pregnancy and birth
- Discontinued use of birth control pills
Some patients experience temporary excessive hair shedding as a result of at least one of these conditions. For some of these causes, normal hair growth will eventually return in about three months after the stressor has been resolved. In the meantime, you can take advantage of some simple steps to protect your hair from shedding even more. For example, if you’ve had more-than-normal stress lately, try to eliminate the stressors and set aside time to relax. Take care of your hair – don’t use heated styling products, chemical hair products, or harsh gels. Avoid excessive brushing and fussing with your hair. Taking vitamin supplements, especially iron, may help as well. Although excessive shedding may seem like permanent hair loss, it’s actually quite different and is treated differently.
How to Determine Hair Shedding vs. Hair Loss
If you want to self-diagnose between hair shedding, which is completely normal, and hair loss, which needs the assistance of a dermatologist, you can try this simple trick. (This trick works well with patients with longer hair.) Take up about 40 strands of hair (don’t stress about counting each one!) about an inch from the scalp and tug gently, running your fingers down the full length of your hair. If more than about 6 strands fall out easily, you may be experiencing hair loss.
What is Hair Loss?
Hair loss, or anagen effluvium, occurs when the follicle loses its ability to generate a new hair. If you’re experiencing hair loss, you may notice thin areas diffused throughout the scalp, a wider part, receding hairline, or bald patches. Hair loss can be subtle, so by the time you can see thinning patches with a naked eye, you may have lost about half of your hair.
Some common factors that can cause hair loss are:
- Overactive immune system
- Harsh hairstyles
- Harsh topical hair treatments
- Pulling your hair (Trichotillomania)
Patients who are experiencing anagen effluvium will not experience hair regrowth unless a treatment solution is implemented. If you experience excessive shedding for more than three months, you may be experiencing hair loss. A board-certified dermatologist will be able to help you determine the cause of your hair loss and prepare a helpful solution that best suits your needs. The Hair Center at Helendale offers a complimentary consultation for hair treatment to start your journey to restore your hair.