The average person has about 100,000 hairs on their head. Each day, some of these hairs are shed. You might see a few on your pillow or sweater, or when you clean out your vacuum cleaner. You’ve certainly seen them on your comb and in the shower drain.
When shed in small amounts, hair loss is nothing to worry about. But when larger amounts are lost or if it occurs in sudden bursts, it may be cause for concern.
Everyone loses hair
It’s important not to panic if you feel like your hair is falling out. Hair loss is a normal part of life. A study from the Dermatologic Clinics journal says that most people lose between 50 and 150 hairs each day.
Of course, you don’t need to lose exactly this amount every day. Some people, like those with curly, dry, or fragile hair have hair care routines that only require them to brush or wash their hair once a week. They might consequently lose very little hair on most days, and then hundreds of hairs on a single day.
Hair loss should only be a concern if you feel like your hair has changed. You might feel like you’re losing more hair than normal, that your hair is thinner and isn’t really growing back, or just feel like that your hair is more fragile.
Understanding why your hair is falling out
If your hair has suddenly started falling out or you feel like you’re losing more hair than normal, it’s best to talk to your doctor. In order to determine the reason for your hair loss, they’ll need to ask you questions like:
1. How much of your hair is falling out?
A certain amount of hair loss is normal and to be expected. If you’ve noticed an unusual increase in the amount of hair you’re losing, the next step is to work out how much you’re losing and where exactly it’s coming from.
2. Where is your hair falling out?
Look at your scalp and try to find any specific regions where hair loss is occuring. Identifying where your hair is falling out can help you determine why you’re shedding hair. For example, hair loss that occurs in circular patches occurs for a different reason to hair loss that’s concentrated around a certain region, like your temples or hairline.
3. How long has your hair been falling out?
A sudden, unexpected burst of hair loss is never normal, so it’s easy to know when it occurred. However, hair loss can also be gradual, and you may only notice it after it’s been happening for a while.
4. How’s your hair’s health?
Your hair’s health is very important. Hair can be thin and fragile, getting easily pulled out when you brush, wash, or tie up your hair. Similarly, hair that’s dry or brittle will break easily, causing pieces of hair to snap and fall off. However, hair can still be perfectly healthy and fall out in certain circumstances, like when you experience a great deal of stress.
5. How’s your scalp?
If your scalp is itchy, irritated, and dry, you likely have flaky skin and dandruff. These symptoms can also be a sign of a skin infection. Since each of your hair strands originates from a hair follicle in your scalp, skin problems can also lead to hair loss.
Common causes of hair loss
If you’re able to answer all these questions, your doctor should be able to easily figure out whether your hair loss is a short term problem or a more serious issue. Whether or not you require a hair loss treatment will depend on the cause of your hair loss, as well as how much hair you’ve lost.
The most common type of hair loss is androgenic alopecia, which is also known as male pattern baldness. According to a study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, this type of hair loss is gradual, so you may only notice it over time. Androgenic alopecia has specific hair loss symptoms, like thinning hair or widening gaps where you part your hair. You might also notice loss of hair in specific areas, like at the temples and crown of your head.
This type of hair loss has the most treatment options, including minoxidil, finasteride, and low-level laser therapy. A variety of other experimental solutions, including microneedling and dutasteride, are currently being researched as treatments for this type of hair loss.
According to a Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences, and Applications study, alopecia areata is an autoimmune, inflammatory condition. It can occur on your head, or all over your body.
This hair loss issue is often easy to identify because it can cause round patches of hair loss on your scalp, or random hair loss that affects other areas, such as your eyebrows, eyelashes, or body hair. Unfortunately, this type of hair loss can be hard to treat since it’s caused by your body’s own immune system.
Telogen effluvium (stress related hair loss)
2020 has been a harsh year for everyone. Many people were under a huge amount of stress and are still dealing with the repercussions of the pandemic.
According to the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology study, stress-related hair loss is known as telogen effluvium. This type of hair loss occurs in sudden, unexpected bursts. Many ‘typical’ 2020 events could have led to this problem, including dealing with job loss, being furloughed, or taking care of hospitalized friends or family members.
The good news is that this type of hair loss usually doesn’t require much treatment. Stress-related hair loss usually resolves itself when the source of stress is gone.
Hair can start falling out due to a change in your diet, hair care routine, or styling products. For example, if you suddenly stopped applying conditioner to your hair, it would likely start to become dry, brittle, and frizzy after a while. Long hair would start to form split ends and break off more easily.
This type of issue can also occur after dyeing your hair. Hair that’s been dyed usually needs extra care and moisturizing products to stay healthy. Bleaching is particularly likely to make your hair break off or fall out, especially if those harsh bleaching products were left on for too long.
Changes to your diet can also result in hair loss. There’s nothing wrong with following a particular diet, but regardless of whether it’s vegan or keto, it can be hard to get all your nutrients when you start creating new meal plans. Certain nutrient deficiencies can lead to problems with your hair’s health and may ultimately be related to your hair loss.
Fixing this type of hair loss usually means taking better care of your hair. This can range from taking a nutrient supplement to simply using moisturizing hair care products if you plan on dying or using heat on your hair.
Medications and illnesses
Most people are familiar with hair loss due to certain diseases, like cancer. Hair isn’t actually lost because of the cancer, but because of the chemotherapy treatment. Other drugs and medical treatments are also capable of causing hair to fall out. Fortunately, in most cases, it’s often possible to simply switch to a different medication that doesn’t cause this side effect.
The Journal of Drugs in Dermatology study says that other illnesses can also affect your hair’s health. Fevers, thyroid disease, contact dermatitis, and other issues that can increase scalp inflammation may also lead to hair falling out. Hair loss due to these conditions will typically go away after the root cause of the problem has been treated.
Hair can start falling out for a variety of different reasons. In many cases, it can be due to a change in your diet or haircare routine. Hair loss can also be due to genetics, hormones, autoimmune responses, and even skin infections.
If you feel like you’re losing hair, chances are that you’re currently affected by the most common cause of hair loss: androgenic alopecia. This type of hair loss can be treated in a variety of different ways, including minoxidil, finasteride, and low-level laser therapy. These FDA-approved treatments can also be combined with other ways to improve hair health, like nutrient supplements and shampoos. Talk to your doctor to determine if you have androgenic alopecia and work out the best treatment option for you.