Signs your hair loss isn't normal — and how you can stop it

Business Insider US

  • Every day, we lose between 50 and 100 hairs from our heads - and it's completely normal.
  • The American Academy of Dermatology refers to this as "hair shedding," and differentiates it from the more serious term "hair loss," which occurs when something prevents hair from growing. 
  • Excessive shedding can happen as a result of stressful life events, but usually stops within six to nine months as your body adjusts. 
  • Trichologist Iain Sallis told INSIDER that the most important thing to do for hair health is to eat enough protein and iron every day.

Picture this: You're in the shower, lathering up with your favourite shampoo. You rinse out the suds and smooth down your locks only to discover a clump of hair in your hands. This can be a bit frightening, but it can also be hard to know how much hair loss is "normal."

INSIDER spoke to trichologist Iain Sallis to learn everything you need to know about hair loss.

Some hair loss every day is normal, so don't freak out

According to the American Academy of Dermatologists, losing anywhere from 50 to 100 hairs per day is perfectly normal.

You probably aren't going to count each hair you lose individually, but if you think you have reason to be concerned, there are some general numbers to keep in mind.

"Losing over 100 hairs per day - or 700 hairs per week - would be classed as excessive and may indicate an underlying issue which is causing the hair cycle to shorten and shed more hairs than normal per day," Sallis told INSIDER. "This will [also] cause the hair to feel fine and thin."

A few additional signs, however, can indicate abnormal hair loss as well

Telogen effluvium - the medical term for the excessive shedding of hair - can occur as a direct result of sudden stress on the person who is suddenly losing hair.

Life events such as recovering from an illness with a high fever, undergoing an operation, giving birth, or any other major life stressors can have a noticeable effect on your hair according to the American Academy of Dermatologists.

Sallis shared a few other signs we should look for:

"For women with long hair, feeling their ponytail has reduced in diameter - called the ponytail test - or noticing areas of [the] scalp which were covered but now are not - such as a receding hairline - should be classed as signals for potential hair loss problems and should be checked out."

You should think about your hair from the inside out if you want it to be as healthy as possible

"If you think about your hair like you would a piece of clothing, you can't go far wrong," Sallis said. "The hair is a fibre remade from proteins and once they have been made, that's it. They are as good as they are ever going to be and whatever you do to your hair - colour it, brush it, straighten it - it will have an impact on the hair fibre."

"Nothing repairs it," Sallis noted. "Conditioners can make hair feel smoother and feel 'repaired' but it has not repaired anything - just papered over the cracks."

Sallis also advised against smoking and recommended maintaining a healthy weight since some medications associated with certain weight-related conditions can negatively impact our hair later in life.

Your diet also plays a major role in hair health

Sudden hair loss can be frightening, especially if it goes on a long time before you can slow it down. Proper nutrition can help new hair growth but, as mentioned earlier, it can't undo the damage that's already been done.

"[You need to] ensure your diet is full of iron and proteins," Sallis said. "These are the two main issues with hair when it comes to nutrition."

As always, if you're concerned about any hair loss you're experiencing, you should talk to your doctor in detail. Your doctor may suggest that you take hair-specific vitamins containing iron and protein, or may refer you to a dermatologist if you don't already have one.

Sallis advised INSIDER that a primary doctor can usually rule out other potential causes of hair loss - including thyroid and anaemia issues - before referring us on to specialists.

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