If you’ve noticed more hair loss than usual, you may be asking yourself if it’s normal or not. You could actually just be shedding (telogen effluvium) more hairs than normal- there is a difference. We typically shed between 50 and 100 hair strands a day, and it often stops on its own.
Hair loss (anagen effluvium) occurs when something stops the hair from growing, and if you have hair loss, your hair will not grow until the cause stops.
If you notice an abnormal amount of hair loss, a change in the normal hair growth cycle may be the cause: either a short anagen (active growth) phase or an increase in the number of follicles that enter the telogen (resting) phase.
What causes a change in the hair loss/growth process?
There are many types of hair loss, and finding the cause can be challenging. Anyone can experience hair loss, and there are a few common reasons why:
- Acute trauma- Surgery, physical injury, or psychological trauma
- Diet- Lack of protein, nutritional deficiencies, low vitamin levels, dramatic weight loss
- Hormonal changes- A sudden hormone change, like pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause can commonly cause hair loss in women.
- Illnesses- Autoimmune diseases, anemia, PCOS, thyroid issues, skin conditions (such as psoriasis), etc.
- Mechanical stress/Chemicals: Certain hair care practices can cause trauma that damages follicles, which results in hair loss — for example, permanent color, bleach, or perms. Flat-ironing, curling irons, or blowing out the hair too often causes a similar effect. Wearing your hair in tight ponytails or buns may also exacerbate the issue.
- Medications: Thinning hair or hair loss is a possible side effect of some medications or treatments. For example, chemotherapy/radiation.
- Stress: Stress and anxiety can both cause large clumps of hair to weaken and fall out, which can eventually lead to bald spots.
The good news is that most hair loss is temporary. The exact remedy will depend on the cause, but here are a few solutions that may help:
- Improve your diet: Try to be mindful about eating a well-balanced diet that includes essential nutrients, like protein, iron, zinc, and biotin. You can always add supplements if necessary (check with your doctor).
- Hair and scalp care: Avoid tight hairstyles and don’t over-do it with heat or color/chemicals. Hair growth is dependent on a healthy scalp, so make sure to keep your scalp clean by clarifying at least once a month.
- Mental health: If stress is the problem, then try incorporating activities that reduce it like exercise, rest, meditation, and spending quality time with friends or loved ones.
- See a doctor: A doctor can help verify if your hair loss is due to a medical condition or medication.
We are born with all the hair follicles we will ever have. Our head has approximately 100,000 follicles, and some will stop producing hair as we age.
The American Academy of Dermatology says that on average, hair grows about 1/2 inch per month, which equals to a total of approximately 6 inches per year.
How fast your hair grows depends on:
- Health conditions
- Specific hair type
The Stages of Hair Growth
There are three stages of hair growth.
- Anagen: active growth phase- lasts 2-8 years
- Catagen: transition phase, hair stops growing, lasts 4-6 weeks
- Telogen: resting phase, hair falls out, lasts 2-3 months
The average scalp has approximately 90-95 percent of the hair follicles in the anagen phase, which means about 5-10 percent are in the telogen phase, which accounts for the 50-100 hairs that shed every day.
How to make your hair grow stronger
Hair is made up of keratin and dead skin cells. There is no known way to make your hair grow faster overnight, but there are steps you can take to keep your hair healthy. Make sure to consult with your doctor before trying supplements such as biotin, keratin, other nutritional supplements, or hair vitamins. They may interact with medications and cause unintentional side effects. Many companies offer supplements or vitamins for hair growth, but they don’t necessarily affect hair length. The body requires a lot of energy to make your hair grow, and not eating a well-balanced diet can affect hair growth.
It's important to note that if you are experiencing unexplained and severe hair loss, you should consult with your doctor.