Hair Shedding: What It Is and What You Can Do About It

hair shedding

Hair Shedding: What It Is and What You Can Do About It

Hair shedding is normal. We can shed up to 200 strands of hair a day. It’s a natural part of the life cycle of hair. In the anagen or growth phase, 90% of our hairs are growing and do so for about four years. Next comes the catagen or transitional phase during which 3% of the hair stops growing and becomes inactive. This phase lasts for two to three weeks. The final phase is the telogen or resting phase, which involves 10-15% of our hair at any one point in time. The telogen phase usually lasts 3- 4 months. During the telogen phase, the hairs fall out and you may see a tiny bulb at the base of the strand of hair when it comes out in your brush. As the hairs are constantly growing or transitioning between the 3 phases, the total number and density of hairs should remain about the same.

There are a few different causes of excessive hair shedding. These include:

  1. Hair breakage from damaged hair caused by heat, chemicals and harsh hair grooming practices.
  2. Telogen effluvium- usually related to stressful life events and results in up to 50 % of hairs being in the telogen phase, instead of the regular 10-15%.

What does telogen effluvium look like?

Telogen effluvium (a form of alopecia or hair loss) presents as excessive hair shedding all over the scalp. It usually does not result in complete loss of all scalp hair, but more often looks like the hair is much thinner than before. Up to 50% of individual hairs or more may be lost. When you brush your hair, you will notice tiny white bulbs at the base of the strands of hair. This is an important clue that the hair was lost directly from the scalp and was not due to hair breakage.

What causes telogen effluvium?

This condition is oftentimes precipitated by some circumstance, emotional or physical. For example, major surgery, illness, death of a loved one or giving birth can cause hairs to prematurely progress to the telogen phase, with resulting hair shedding. As the telogen phase usually lasts 3 months, the hair shedding will be most noticeable 3-6 months after the stressful life event.

Other stressful causes of telogen effluvium include:

  • Crash dieting
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Hormonal changes, such as during menopause
  • Discontinuation of birth control pills
  • Extraordinary stress, such as going through a divorce, losing a job
  • Certain illnesses, particularly those that include a high fever
  • Certain surgeries, depending on the procedure, length of hospital stay, medications
  • Various medications and recreational drugs
  • Exhaustion

The good news is that once the stressful factor is eliminated, the hair cycle returns to normal in a few months. As a result, the shedding decreases. If, however, the trigger continues, so will the excessive hair shedding. The good part is that you do not have to worry about going bald, because each telogen hair that is shed is replaced by an anagen (growing) hair.

Why you should see a Board- Certified Dermatologist?

As there are many different types of hair loss, with different treatment regimens, it is important that you see a board-certified dermatologist with expertise in hair and scalp disorders in all skin and hair types.

Prepare for your appointment with the dermatologist:

  • Note any significant physical or emotional changes that have occurred in the last six months.
  • For a few days, count how many hairs you are actually shedding.
  • Find out if there is a history of hair problems in your family.
  • Note any bald patches or an irritated scalp.

Coping with hair shedding

There is no magic formula that will stop your hair from shedding. But there are ways that you may be able to lessen the impact.

  • Do not blow dry your hair every day or use a curling rod or flatiron on it.
  • Avoid vigorous brushing, combing or scalp massage.
  • Don’t yank your hair back into super-tight ponytails, cornrows or braids.
  • Avoid chemical treatments, such as permanents and hair dyes. Ask your stylist about organic products or others than are not harsh.
  • Follow a diet regimen with plenty of protein, fruits and vegetables.
  • Practice stress reduction techniques such as yoga

Eternal Dermatology and Aesthetics is conveniently located in Fulton (Maple Lawn) Maryland, and serves Columbia, Ellicott City, Clarksville, Highland, Laurel, Olney, Silver Spring, Bowie, Odenton, Crofton and Upper Marlboro. Our founding medical director and board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist, Dr. Ife Rodney is a well-respected expert in the diagnosis, management and treatment of all hair and scalp disorders. She tailors treatment plans to the individual needs of her clients regardless of age or ethnicity. Call or book online for a consultation!



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