Why Am I Losing So Much Hair

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Why am I losing so much hair? That’s one of frequently asked questions as we age. You wash it — also mousse, wax, style, and condition it. Even sometimes you may braid and twirl it for days. Everything looks good until you see yourself shedding that luscious lock. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find out the undying cause of hair loss since many things can factor into the problem.

When losing hair is too much

The hair has normal life cycle in which growing and falling out are completely normal. But losing some, especially when they fall out in large amounts, could be quite scary for everyone. And to be honest, not all of us will end up looking like a Hollywood Star (Vin Diesel for example, a figure for man’s muscles).

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On average, there are about 100,000 hair follicles on our scalp. Most of these follicles, about 80-90 percent, are actively growing (this is called as ‘anagen’ phase) so the scalp looks thicker with hairs at any time [1]. And the rest are going into other phases; catagen and telogen for new regeneration of your hair shafts.

Catagen is transitional phase from anagen to telogen. At this phase, the hair follicle stops growing actively. There are usually only about 3 percent of all hairs going into this phase at any time – and typically the phase only lasts for a few weeks.

Telogen (a resting phase of hair life cycle)! It’s time when the hair follicle is going into at a complete rest and prepares itself for new hair growth. And normally it only accounts for about 6-8 percent of your hairs – and lasts for a few months (about 100 days or a bit longer) [2].

So your hairs grow and die in their own phases. But several factors (let’s say what you eat (nutrition), stress, daily hair styling, and hygiene) would also contribute on how much hairs you lose every day.

How much losing hair is considered normal?

Every single one of hairs in your scalp is going at a different stage of life span. Unlike catagen and telogen, the anagen stage can last for years (2-8 years).

The old hair shaft falls out in the end of the resting phase. So it’s not uncommon if we notice a few hairs on the pillow or after shower. This is the result of hair life cycle in which your hairs grow actively for years — then rest, shed, and grow back again.

Most people lose about 50 to 100 strands daily — this is normal and there should be nothing to worry, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Even some experts say that sometimes it’s probably still OK to see up to 250 hairs when you wash your hair, particularly true if the problem doesn’t get worse and improves with lifestyle measures.

How can you tell if you’re losing so much hair (higher than normal)?

Again, about 80-90 percent of hair follicles in the scalp are actively growing. Something could be wrong if you’re losing more than this with unknown reason, 125 hairs or more per day.

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In women, the following visual scale may help (source):

The good news, the underlying cause is not always serious. A condition called hair shedding, for example, is different to hair loss called anagen effluvium (when hair follicle stops growing hair) [3].

Shedding means the hair follicle is temporarily inactive due to certain reasons such as a stressful event. Once the underlying cause was addressed, hair usually will grow back.

However, it’s much better to see your dermatologist if the increase is sharp. Noticing more hair fall (greater than normal) can be attributed by a number of reasons.

Besides a physical exam and assessing your medical history, (if necessary) the following tests are probably suggested for accurate diagnosis [4]:

  1. Blood test to find out any abnormalities in the blood that may link to hair loss.
  2. Pull test. In this procedure, several dozen hairs from your scalp are gently pulled to see how many strands come out.
  3. Scalp biopsy or /and light microscopy tests. These may help find out whether it has to do with infection or something else.

So, why are you losing so much hair?

Frustrating but true, hair loss could be a horrible thing to freak out (especially for women).

As mentioned earlier, it can be attributed by a range of different things. That’s why it’s not always easy to figure out the underlying cause. Even it could be a part of aging. In fact it’s not uncommon for the strands on the scalp to get thinner with age.

Again, for accurate diagnosis see a doctor! But if you just want to look into some underlying issues on this, the following are common culprits to blame (from lifestyle factors to sneaky conditions).

Androgenic alopecia, your genetic may ‘bless’ you

Although there are many causes to blame, androgenic alopecia is the primary common culprit for hair loss both in men and women.

Androgenic alopecia, also called as pattern hair loss, has to do with genetic trait (though not always). To figure out this common hair loss problem, just go take a look at your family members especially your parent!

Does your Mama have strands hanging on by a thread? Or does your Dad have receding hairline?  If so, genetics may have a role for your hair troubles.

What to remember, androgenic alopecia is a gradual hair thinning process. It can cause more strands (higher than normal, more than 100 strands per day) to fall out. But it’s less likely to make you lose very large amount of hair loss overnight. The most important thing, as the name suggests it creates a unique pattern.

Androgenic alopecia in women usually causes thinning hair affecting all over the head. Typically it starts at the part line of the scalp and then radiates elsewhere from there. It rarely causes baldness, but still the effect could be worrying since hair loss in women (even for mild ones) is more frustrating.

In men, androgenic alopecia is probably more aggressive – though this also varies from man to man. Because it’s likely to cause baldness if compared to female pattern hair loss, therefore it’s often called as male pattern baldness. Typically, thinning hair starts from the temples or/and crown of the head. In time it may lead to partial or complete baldness.

Androgenic alopecia doesn’t improve on its own. You need treatment to deal with! Without treatment, it usually gets worse over time. Treatments include non-invasive procedures (e.g. Finasteride and Minoxidil) or hair transplantation.

Anagen effluvium

In case when you lose so much hair in a short amount of time, anagen effluvium is probably the answer.

As the name implies, anagen effluvium has to do with the abnormality of active growth phase (anagen). Since most hairs in the scalp are going into anagen phase, this abnormality can cause more noticeable hair loss. Large amounts of hair may fall out rapidly!

The good news, anagen effluvium is not common. It’s often associated with side effects of strong medications such as chemotherapy and radiation. It may also be a consequence of infections. In rare cases, it could be a symptom of autoimmune disease [5].

It mainly affects hairs on the scalp. But sometimes it may also cause hair to fall out from other areas of the body (e.g. eyelashes and eyebrows).

The prognosis for hair regrowth is dependent on what causes the problem. But mostly, it’s temporary. Anagen effluvium associated with chemotherapy, for example, will usually grow back for about 3-6 months after you stop the treatment.

Telogen effluvium

Probably it’s not as cool as it sounds (like a Harry Potter spell), but it’s also one of common culprits to blame for losing so much hair in a short period of time.

Telogen effluvium usually occurs when a high bout of stress drives hair follicles to be prematurely pushed into telogen (resting stage), making your hair to shift more quickly from active growing stage to dormant stage. This shock could affect about 70 percent of hairs in the scalp.

It usually takes a few months before hair loss is noticeable, which could be 6 weeks or 3 months after your ‘stressful shock’. Many times people describe this hair shedding as the hair shafts coming out handfuls.

A considerable number of different reasons behind the problem exist. These could be high intense (severe) physiological stress, crash diet (especially low in protein), chronic medical conditions especially if they’re severe, thyroid disorders, after taking a major invasive procedure (surgery), severe infections, childbirth, and high fevers.

Certain medications may also have a role to make telogen effluvium more likely. For examples; some antidepressants, NSAIDs (pain relievers, especially for high doses), beta blockers, and calcium channel blockers [6].

How does pregnancy and childbirth cause hair loss?

Shortly after childbirth, some women may lose so much hair. Don’t worry this is usually temporary and hair regrowth will come back in the next 6 to 12 months!

Postpartum hair shedding is a consequence of a drop in estrogen hormones after giving birth. It will improve as the ‘balance’ returns.

The same goes when their hormones are going wild. Let’s say going on the pills that provoke hormonal fluctuations or hitting menopause would also cause hair to fall out more likely. This is particularly true for those with a family history of hair loss.

Why and how does thyroid disorder affect your hair?

Sometimes thyroid disorders are asymptomatic (without signs and symptoms).

Even most people with the disorder don’t realize their symptoms. And when the disorder really rears its ugly head, a number of signs and symptoms can flare up – one of them could be hair loss.

The thyroid gland is responsible to produce important hormones to support your body functions. Some of these hormones also have a role in the growth of your nails and hair.

The problem could be under active (hypothyroidism) or hyper active (hyperthyroidism). More imbalances mean higher risk to have more hair fall.

Nutritional deficiencies and lifestyle factors

It’s possible to find yourself with a bit horrible hefty hair loss when you’re extremely lacking some serious nutrients or if you’re styling your hair improperly within an inch of its life.

The impact of nutrient deficiency on hair may take a while. But it’s clear that what you eat have a role.

A number of different nutrients are necessary to support your hair growth. Some of the most important ones are vitamins (especially vitamins A, C, D, and B-vitamins), zinc, iron, selenium, and protein. Iron deficiency and excessive hair loss are particularly true in women [source].

The good news, we’re usually able to get all of them through a balanced-healthy diet. And when you fail to get enough some of those nutrients, hair loss may occur.

What to do for hair loss related to nutrient deficiencies?

If you believe that your hair loss has to do with certain nutrient deficiency, you may wonder whether taking hair supplement is the answer. But since hair loss is a complex thing (again it could be attributed by lots of things), check with your physician to keep safe!

Even taking hair supplements improperly could be counterproductive since you may have far exceeds than what your body needs. For example, excess vitamin A might cause hair loss – one study suggests [7].

Treatment is dependent on the specific nutrient deficiency you have. If necessary, supplements are probably prescribed by your physician to restore the balance more quickly.

Also, it’s always worth a try to get enough hair nutrients from foods. A golden rule for this is by filling your plate every day with more plant-based foods such as colorful fresh fruits and vegetables (they are good sources for vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and iron – some are also rich in protein).

Other best goodies to support your hair growth:

  1. Eggs, especially white eggs (high in protein). Eggs also contain lutein and zeaxanthin which are carotenoids to help maintain cellular health of your hair.
  2. Fatty fish, such as salmon. Salmon is chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids, required for healthy hair growth. Plus it provides protein!
  3. Peanuts, including peanut butter, for unique profile of extra antioxidants. They also could be a swap for meat (they’re super filling).
  4. 100% whole grains to load up on fiber and other necessary nutrients (e.g. B vitamins, iron, and zinc) for hair growth. Some great choices if you think this meal are bulgur, quinoa, millet, barley, amaranth, and quinoa.
  5. Low-fat yogurt (unsweetened dairy product), skinless poultry, and beans are also high-dense protein foods to boost the building blocks for hair’s cells.

Bad hairstyles and poor hair care also have an effect!

If you pull your hair too tight (tight-ponytail hairstyle for example), you’re likely deal with aftermath of loose hairs since tight hairstyle can put high stress on your hair follicles. In severe cases, wearing hair too tight may also cause some bald patches.

It’s probably no ‘big problem’ to wear a tightly pulled hairstyle once in a while. But if you do this frequently, almost every day – you’re at high risk of developing a hair loss condition called as traction alopecia.

Traction alopecia can occur when the extremely pulled hair strands damage the hair structures. Sometimes the damage may also affect the scalp. It can lead to short, thin, broken hair strands, and bald patches. It’s relatively more common in people of African descent due to their tight hairstyling practices [8].

Hair damage could also be a consequence of poor hair care practices such as hot combs and straightening chemicals.

Could it be a more serious health issue?

It’s quite common to find hair loss in people suffering or recovering from an illness. In such case, hair loss may come with other abnormal signs and symptoms of the disease.

The prognosis of whether or not the strands will grow back is dependent on the underlying medical condition behind hair loss. It usually stops and hair will grow back with treatment of the underlying cause.

However, the damage could also be serious and permanent. In case of lupus-related scalp disease for example, the disease may cause permanent scarring that cause irreversible hair loss.

Besides lupus and thyroid disorders, there are a vast number of medical conditions that can affect your hair health. Other common ones to blame for hair loss are as follows:

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