No one likes losing hair and when you see hair in your hands or elsewhere after brushing or washing it, it can be downright scary.
But did you know that often "hair shedding" is totally normal and, in connection with starting a new hair growth treatment, can actually be a very positive sign that stronger, thicker and healthier hair is on its way!
Everyone’s hair goes through phases and one of them is a "shedding" phase. The average person loses 50 to 100 hairs a day. That may seem like a lot, but with an average of 100,000 – 150,000 hairs on your head, it’s not a big deal.
The Hair Growth Cycle
Everyone’s hair goes through a growth and shedding cycle.
Here’s a quick summary:
- Anagen phase – This is the growth phase. In this phase, your hair follicles keep pushing hair out, aka growing. You keep the same strands for 3 to 5 years, unless you cut them or do something that causes hair loss, like shaving, chemically processing it, or over-styling it.
- Catagen phase – This is the transition phase. This is the phase between the growth phase and the next phase – the resting phase. In the transition phase, your hair follicles stop growing and shrink. Your hair separates from the follicle but doesn’t quite fall out yet. It may grow for a few more days like this.
- Telogen – This is the resting phase. This is another "in between" phase. Your hair doesn’t grow in this phase, but it doesn’t fall out either. It just sits there. In this phase, new hairs have started the anagen phase, which causes the hairs in the telogen phase to "just be."
- Exogen – This is the shedding phase that many people assume is "hair loss." It’s not. It’s the normal shedding of hair that’s lived a full cycle and is ready to be released. You’ll see most of these hairs when you wash or brush your hair. If you only wash your hair once or twice a week, you may see over 50 to 100 hairs, but it’s usually normal.
Hair Shedding Is NOT Hair Loss
Androgenic alopecia, also known as male/female pattern hair loss, occurs gradually, usually over several years-if not decades. You won’t notice it right away.
Male and female pattern hair loss is due to a combination of genetic factors and the harmful impact of a hormone, Dihydrotestosterone ("DHT"). DHT is derived from testosterone. Both DHT and testosterone are androgens. Men typically have more testosterone present in their bodies than women but DHT also contributes to female pattern hair loss.
DHT is not hazardous for all hair growth. In fact, it is considered to be essential for certain types of hair growth, like armpit hair, pubic hair and beard hair. However, it is tragic for scalp hair growth.
DHT binds to androgen receptors of hair follicles and triggers the receptors to begin miniaturizing. Higher levels of DHT can contract your hair follicles just as abbreviate the growth cycle, making hair grow thinner, weaker and more fragile.
This process is called “miniaturization.”
DHT can likewise slow down the time it takes for your follicles to develop new hairs, once old hairs drop out by shortening the growing phase and lengthening the resting phase.
Eventually, if DHT is not blocked from damaging the hair follicles, the follicles shut down and no longer produce hair. And, that is when you’ll start to notice hair thinning and/or loss.
Am I Shedding Because I Started A New Hair Loss Treatment?
More than likely, yes.
Hair loss sounds bad, especially after you have just started a new hair loss treatment. The last thing you want to see is hair on the shower floor or in your hand. But, if the shedding is in response to a new hair loss treatment, it is actually a really good thing.
Legitimate hair loss treatments help prevent and reverse hair loss. They treat the actual causes for the thinning hair. When you start a hair treatment, it tells your hair follicles to start a new growth phase. As occurs on anyone’s head, the new growth pushes out the old growth. In this case, that’s what you want. The new hair from the fresh follicles will be stronger and healthier. It should replace the weak and thin hair that caused the male or female pattern baldness. This doesn’t mean every hair on your head will fall out – only a small amount. But most people worry when they start a new hair treatment AND see hair loss. It seems like you shouldn’t lose hair.
It’s a good sign because it means your hair follicles are responding to the treatment. You’re getting "new hair" while releasing the old. It won’t happen overnight, but eventually, so long as you are using hair loss treatments that are legitimate and supported by science, you’ll have a thick head of healthy hair, not thinning and weak hair.
It is very common for you to experience this during a new hair loss treatment, but it is only a temporary phase.
Why Does It Happen?
After starting a new hair loss treatment, it is normal to experience hair loss a few weeks into the treatment. Usually this will occur when the thinner, weaker hairs, that were close to shedding any way, will fall out as the hair follicles become stimulated to grow new, thicker hair. The treatment will have activated the anagen stage, pushing the thin hairs out, allowing for the thicker hair to grow in. As mentioned above, your hair follicles work in cycles, so once stimulated to eject the thin hair, it will go into its dormancy, or rest phase. It will then begin to restructure its process for producing new, thicker and stronger hair.
How Long Does It Last?
An increased shedding period a few weeks into starting a new treatment is totally normal and temporary. It can last a few weeks, and in some rare cases it can last a few months, but it will end. It can be a shock if you weren’t expecting it, but it is completely normal. If the individual continues their treatment consistently, despite the feelings of despair or hopelessness, shedding will end and the lost hair should be replaced with thicker, stronger and healthier hair. Please note, however, if increased shedding continues for longer than 4 weeks, you should consult your own physician to rule out other possible medical conditions.
Can Every New Hair Loss Treatment Cause Shedding?
Yes. All hair loss treatments, once started, can cause an initial shed because it is inevitable that the thinner, weaker hair will be shed by the hair follicles during their stimulation. If the hair loss treatment is genuine then you will always experience shedding, and it means that you know that the treatment is working, as it should.
So Shedding Is Actually A Sign That The Treatment Is Working?
Yes! It can be very frustrating to see shedding after starting a new treatment but it is actually a necessary process in order for your hair follicles to produce the newer, thicker, strong hair that you are looking for.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but this is one of the most important truths: shedding means the treatment is working. For example, when minoxidil is applied to stimulate hair follicles, the follicles must first regress. They shed the old fiber, reprogram themselves into larger follicles, and start producing new, improved hair fibers. This inevitably leads to a temporary shed phase. Simply put: you’re seeing your hairs respond to treatment. Its unfortunate that the first sign of new hair growth is the process of “losing” even more of it, but that’s the way it works.
Remember that it is a temporary phase – the shedding won’t last forever, and if you persist with your new treatment you will be happy with the end result in the long run. Shedding means the treatment is working.
Do Not Stop The Treatment Because Of Temporary Shedding!
There are two big mistakes people usually make when starting a new hair loss treatment product.
One is that people stop using the hair loss treatment too soon.
A lot of people think that if they do not see meaningful results after using the treatment for 1 or 2 months, it is ineffective. The fact is that it typically takes 3 to 5 months of consistent use to begin to see the first signs of hair regrowth. That is just how the body works. Any company claiming that their products can grow new, noticeable hair in a few weeks, is simply being dishonest.
The other mistake people usually make is that they get panicked and stop using the product after seeing increased hair loss.
Again, hair grows in a cyclical nature. As the new hairs grow in, it pushes out the older hairs, resulting in shedding. It is very much like losing baby teeth to make room for adult teeth. This increase in shedding is only temporary and should subside within a couple of weeks with continued treatment. With patience, the thinning hairs to prompted you to start the hair loss treatment in the first place will be replaced with the stronger, thicker and healthier hair that you desire. Please be patient!
Don’t Worry About Hair Shedding (Usually)
Anyone who is losing more than about 100 to 150 hairs a day or noticing large clumps of hair falling out could be experiencing excessive hair shedding.
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
- going through a significant period of stress (not ordinary day-to-day stress).
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. If you are seeing hair shedding a few weeks after starting a new hair loss treatment, relax and consider it a great sign. This stage will be minimal and brief. It means your hair follicles are doing exactly what you want them to do-say goodbye to the thinning hairs that caused you to start the treatment in the first place to allow for new, thicker, stronger and healthier hair to take its place!
But if you are concerned about excess hair shedding 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.