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:
- Hair breakage from damaged hair caused by heat, chemicals, and harsh hair grooming practices.
- 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
The good news is that once the stressful factor is eliminated, the hair cycle returns to normal in a few months. As a result, 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.
How does it differ with hair loss?
It is typical for people to mistake hair shedding for hair loss. To clarify, hair loss is the condition wherein the hair stops growing. Its medical term is anagen effluvium. The usual causes of hair loss are as follows:
- overreaction of the immune system
- some types of drugs and treatment (such as chemotherapy and radiation treatments)
- hairstyles pulling the hair
- hair care products that are too harsh
- the compulsion to pull out one’s hair
Ideally, your hair should continue to grow once the cause stops, especially if the cause is treatments or drugs. However, other causes may require treatment.
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. At Eternal Dermatology, our Hair and Scalp Center is a tertiary hair loss center. This means that we deal with the most advanced cases and use cutting edge technology and state-of-the-art techniques.
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 and treating 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.
Take care of your hair
Do not blow-dry your hair every day or use a curling rod or flatiron on it. Avoid vigorous brushing, combing, or scalp massage. Make sure not to yank your hair back into super-tight ponytails, cornrows, or braids. More importantly, avoid chemical treatments, such as permanents, straightening, bleaching, and hair dyes. Make sure to avoid low quality, over-the-counter dyes. Ask your stylist about organic products or others that are not harmful to your hair’s health.
Watch your diet
Follow a diet regimen with plenty of protein, fruits, and vegetables. A balanced diet can help with proper hormone production. It also provides you with the vitamins and minerals you need to promote hair growth.
Care for your scalp
It is also essential to keep your scalp healthy to avoid excessive hair shedding. With a healthy scalp, the follicles can hold the hair strands better. If you have dandruff, an anti-dandruff shampoo can help.
Keep calm and avoid stress
Remember that the more stressed you are, the more will your hair shed. If hair shedding starts to bother and frustrate you, shift your focus on other less stressful things. It will also help if you do some calming activities. Exercise, take a hot bath, read or enjoy some time with loved ones. Yoga and meditation are excellent activities proven to reduce stress. Whenever you are under stress, pause for a while, breathe and calm down. It will be helpful not just for your hair but for your mental health.
Let’s help you with your hair today
Eternal Dermatology + 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!