Seeing hair in the shower drain, on your pillow or in your brush can be distressing. But, it is important to understand that hair shedding, on a daily basis, is a totally normal part of the hair life cycle.
According to the American Academy of Dermatologists, it is totally normal to lose between 100 to 150 strands of hair per day.
Women tend to lose more hair strands per day than men. Approximately 40% of women lose extra hair every day because of the way they style it. Women are also more likely than men to experience periods of increased hair shedding due to life events, such as pregnancy and menopause.
Because there are more than 100,000 hair follicles on the scalp, the loss of around 100-150 hair strands per day will not make a meaningul difference in appearance. But what if you are losing more than 150 hairs per day?
Below, we discuss the growth cycle of hair, why a certain amount of hair shedding is normal and what factors can contribute to abnormal amounts of shedding, requiring a consult with a physician.
The life cycle of hair
Hundreds of thousands of hairs are on your head, and each of them is at a different stage of their lifetime. Hair grows and dies in different phases, and factors such as diet, hygiene, stress, and everyday styling play a part in how much hair you lose every day.
- Anagen Phase: The phase in which a hair strand grows is called the "anagen" phase. Approximately 90% of the hair you have is in the anagen phase. During this phase, the hair can, on average, grow approximately 1 centimeter per month. If something delays the growth of your hair, it is called anagen effluvium. Anagen effluvium is typically what you'd think about when you talk of "hair loss."
- Catagen Phase: The next phase of the hair growth cycle is the “catagen '' phase. During any given time, just about 1 to 2% of your hair is in the catagen phase. This phase lasts approximately 2-3 weeks. During this phase, the hair strand stops growing.
- Telogen Phase: The final phase of the hair growth cycle is the “telogen” phase. Hairs in this phase are also referred to as "club hairs." A hair strand is at rest during this time period, as it prepares to detach from your scalp. At any given time, around 8 to 9% of your hair is in this phase.
Why is it normal to shed a certain amount of hair each day?
It's normal to lose some hair per day due to the normal growth cycle. The 100 to 150 hair strands you lose every day are mostly in the telogen phase and have already completed their life cycle. Therefore, seeing hairs in the shower drain, on your pillow, in your hair brush, etc. is, more often than not, just hair that was already "programmed" to shed having completed the telogen phase.
Hair falling out while brushing
Many people who style their hair using a hairbrush may worry when they see all the leftover hairs in the brush.
However, brushing the hair generally just removes and collects the hairs that have already fallen from their follicles that day. Although this can be unsettling to see all at once in the hairbrush, it is normal in small amounts.
In some cases, excessive brushing may lead to other issues in the hair, such as breaks. Aggressive brushing may also break or snap the hairs.
Anyone noticing shorter or broken hairs in their brush may wish to talk to a dermatologist about more natural hair care options or ways to strengthen the hair.
Shampooing hair also collects many of the hairs that have already detached from the head. Some chemical ingredients in shampoos can be harmful and cause breakage or increased hair loss.
Anyone who notices an increase in how much hair they lose when they shampoo it in the shower may wish to stop using the product and opt for a gentler formula. If the increase is sharp, it may be best to see a doctor or dermatologist.
Hair shedding is not the same as permanent hair loss, which leads to the gradual thinning of the hair or a receding hairline. Shedding hair will regrow in the hair follicle. Hair loss occurs when the follicle stops producing hair.
A short bout of excessive hair shedding can occur due to stressful events or significant changes to the body, such as:
- giving birth
- changing or stopping birth control pills
- losing a lot of weight
- getting over a sickness with a very high fever
- recovering from an illness
- recovering from an operation
- losing a loved one
- going through a significant life change, such as a divorce or job loss
As the body readjusts in the months following a stressful episode, the excessive shedding should stop. Within 6 to 9 months, the hair should be back to its normal thickness and fullness. But, again, anyone who notices that they are losing much more hair than they usually do should see their doctor to help determine the underlying cause.
How to assess if you are losing too much hair?
You can conduct a "pull check" on your hair. Begin with a small area of dry hair and run your finger through it. Tug gently until you reach the ends of your hair strands. You may be experiencing abnormal hair loss if more than two or three hair strands are left in your hand after each tug.
When to see a doctor?
If you are worried about how much hair you are losing every day, see your doctor. A progressive thinning at the top of your head, the development of bald patches on your scalp, and loss of full-body hair are some critical indicators that you are experiencing pattern hair loss, or there may be an underlying body condition. A health care professional or dermatologist will be able to assess if the hair loss is natural.
Losing hair strands, even as many as 150, every day is not uncommon. But if you are concerned about hair clumps in the shower drain or your hairbrush, consult with your doctor. Certain biological and environmental factors such can aggravate hair thinning and hair loss. An assessment by a professional can put your mind at ease.