Have you ever looked down at your shower drain while taking a shower and noticed an alarming amount of hair? Yes, you could have accidentally scrubbed your scalp too hard and caused your hair follicles to freak out, but what if this sign of hair loss actually means something more?
The truth is, it's completely natural to lose hair every day. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, it's normal to lose between 50 to 100 strands of hair a day. And according to Medical News Today, the reason for this shedding is due to your body's natural renewal cycle. But if you begin to notice that your hair is falling out more for weeks on end (i.e. in your shower drain or after brushing your hair), then it might be worth investigating why this new occurrence is happening and how to remedy it.
To better understand why changes in hair loss occur and how to possibly fix it, we talked with two trichologists. Here's what they had to say.
How Much Hair Loss Is Normal?
While the average person loses about 50 to 100 strands per day, salon trichologist, Penny James, tells InStyle anything over 150 strands is not normal. And because this is obviously a hard thing to count, it's important to pay attention to the amount of hair that is left in your hands after when your shampoo, on your brush, or on the bottom of the bathroom floor.
"What happens is the natural growth cycle that our hair goes through is complex," explains James. In total, there are three different stages your hair can be in: "The growing stage is known as anagen, [which is where] 85 percent of our hair is in the cycle at one time; this can last up to six years. Then there is the resting stage, catagen, in which 5 percent of your hair will be in this phase and last for up to three weeks. Finally, the falling out stage is called telogen, which is about 10 percent of your hair is ready to naturally fall out of the head and new hair to grow. Our hair continues to work in this cycle for our lifetime."
But BosleyMD certified trichologist, Gretchen Friese, adds that there are other phases we often go through where we will shed more than normal. For instance, one of these times is called "seasonal shedding," which is when a temperature change triggers your follicles to enter a shedding phase. However, "If you feel like you're losing excess hair for more than a month, then you may want to look into a remedy," Friese stresses.
What Causes Hair Loss In The First Place?
"Hair loss can be caused by stress, hormonal changes, childbirth, thyroid issues, medications, vitamin deficiencies, excessive weight loss, and some autoimmune disorders," says Friese.
If you believe your hair has been shedding more for longer than three months, James provided a checklist to consider before calling your doctor.
In the last three months:
Did you change medication? Did you go on a new medication?
Did you have food poisoning?
Have you been on a strict diet, have you stoped eating protein?
Do you have COVID-19? Are you recovering from COVID-19?
Are you very stressed?
Are you menopausal?
Are you under stress?
Have you been ill?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions or believe that something more serious might be off with your body (i.e. thyroid issues or an autoimmune disorder), it's important to connect with a medical professional or trichologist to find out what's going on. "Make sure you get some blood work done to rule out any underlining condition," says James. "Speaking with a trichologist can be very helpful to determine what blood work might be needed."
But the good news is, once the issue has been identified and a remedy has been provided. Excess shedding will correct itself most of the time, says James. Just keep in mind that it will take around three months to correct, as hair grows in a three-month cycle.
"When there's extra shedding, the hair's natural cycle has been disturbed and the hair is prematurely being pushed into the telogen stage," says James. "Once you have corrected your diet, health, and recovered from an illness, your hair will return to its normal growth pattern. This will take from three to six months to see the new growth."
What Is The Best Treatment For Hair Loss?
Since there are a lot of reasons why one might experience hair loss, it's important to consult with a doctor to find a personal anecdote. However, James says that most trichologists recommend people to do the below every day to maintain healthy scalp and follicles:
Having a well-balanced diet.
Taking vitamin B, 6, and 12, and vitamin D.
Making sure you're washing your hair regularly at least three times a week (for natural, curly hair, once a week).
If you're wearing your hair out, then wash your hair twice a week.
"Scalp health is extremely important," says Friese. "Keeping a healthy environment for hair to grow is key. Make sure you wash your hair and scalp regularly to avoid any build-up of oils, sweat, products, and debris. Most people do not clean their scalp enough."
Also, be mindful of how you're managing your hair. "Don't wear tight hairstyles like buns, ponytails, and tight braids," Friese explains. "The tension on the follicle can cause hair loss. Gently brush your hair. Use a detangler if needed so there isn't too much tension while brushing."
However, try not to depend on hair products that promise to grow your hair back, says James, as it's often misleading. "Our hair is the tiniest organ in our body; it is very complex. Our hair is a fiber that needs to be nourished and taken care of." That's why she recommends connecting with a trichologist to get to the bottom of the hair loss issue so an expert can recommend the kind of hair treatment you'll need.
However, if connecting with a trichologist isn't in the cards right now, James suggests finding out what your hair type is and investing in high-quality shampoo and conditioner. "Or you can give your hair and scalp treatments with natural oils like lavender, rosemary, jojoba, almond, avocado oil. These can be mixed together and used as a scalp and hair treatment by applying directly onto the scalp and hair, leave on for 20 mins, and shampoo out very well. (This treatment should not be used if you have a naturally oily scalp.)"
But never the less, it's important to remember that there is a reason why your hair is falling out in the first place — and an at-home remedy might not do the trick. "Find out why then take action," says James. "If you keep blind aiding with lots of products but have no idea why your hair is falling out, it will continue to fall out."