How Much Hair Loss Is Normal?

You pull away your brush after getting the tangles out of your hair and grimace. There is SO much hair in that brush! How did so much hair end up in there after one brush-through? And what about all that hair that you’ve been finding on the floor or in your bed or clogging the shower drain? Is this normal? Is it healthy? Is your hair falling out? 

It’s easy to panic when you suddenly realize one day you seem to be shedding a lot of hair. You can start obsessing. You run your hands through your hair and squeak when a few strands come out each time. In the shower you notice every loose strand that breaks away. You start wondering if there’s something wrong with your health, or if you’re just getting to that point in age where you start losing hair.

There might be other explanations. Maybe you’re just noticing it more than usual. Or maybe you’re losing more today than you do on other days. Some days you lose more hair than others, and that is totally normal.

To start with, according to hair restoration specialist Dr. James C. Marotta, “The average woman loses between 50 and 100 strands per day, even up to 150 in some cases.” 

That’s right … on average, you should expect to lose around 100 hairs a day!

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That’s a lot of hair. Unless the shedding seems truly extreme, that should already be pretty comforting.

Here is a trick that Dr. Marotta recommends if you are still unsure about your rate of shedding. Take about 60 hairs between your fingers and pull, running your fingers through your hair. Usually between 5 and 8 hairs (lost), which is normal. An excess of 15 hairs, however, is not as common and means you are losing more hair than you should be.


Hair Cycles: Growing and resting Phases: 

According to the American Hair Loss Association, hair has a life cycle. For two or more years, your hairs go through a growing phase. Then they reach a resting stage which lasts for a couple of months. At that point, the follicle releases a hair, and then starts growing a new one. Not all your hairs are in the same phase at the same time. Generally, up to eighty percent of your follicles are growing hair, while the others are in the resting state, called “telogen.”

Telogen effluvium (TE) is a condition where you are losing more hair than usual, because a larger percentage of hair follicles are in the “resting” phase than usual. This results in increased shedding and general diffused thinning across your scalp. Sometimes the loss is even, while other times there are more severe patches in some spots than in others. It is common for most of the thinning to happen on top of the scalp.

Thankfully, TE is reversible.

 Let’s say you have TE. How did it happen?

Most common causes of TE hair loss include:

  • Hormonal changes. Pregnancy, giving birth, menopause, and other hormonal fluctuations can cause you to shed extra hair. Thyroid diseases may also cause hair loss.
  • Vaccinations can sometimes cause hair loss.
  • Certain drugs, particularly antidepressants, can cause you to lose hair. Starting or stopping birth control could cause hair loss.
  • Crash dieting puts your body under physical duress, and may result in hair loss.
  • Acute physical or psychological trauma can cause TE. This might range from a car crash to surgery or a severe fever. It could even be something like the loss of a job or relationship. Anything that results in a substantial shock to your system can cause a bunch of your hair follicles to hibernate. When this happens, you end up with a lot of shedding. Usually after an acute shock subsides, hair will begin regrowing quickly.
  • Chronic traumas can also cause longer-lasting TE. Chronic stress and diet deficiency are prime culprits. Some chronic illnesses may have TE as a symptom as well.
  • Losing weight quickly may cause TE, especially if you have lost 20 pounds or more.
  • Nutritionists debate whether dietary choices (other than crash dieting) can have an impact on hair loss. Some believe that a diet low in red meats, protein, or iron might result in TE, especially in menstruating women.

See Also: What Causes Hair Loss

There are other ways you can end up losing hair as well. This process is called “anagen effluvium,” and is not the same as TE. With TE, you are shedding more than usual, but hair is still growing at the same rate. With anagen effluvium, your hair is actually not growing at the same rate anymore. And until you get rid of the stressor causing the hair loss, your hair will actually stop growing.

“The average woman loses between 50 and 100 strands per day, even up to 150 in some cases.” 

Common causes include:

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  • Genetics. If hair loss runs in your family, you might end up with male-pattern or female-pattern baldness.
  • Certain hairstyling techniques can damage your hair and cause more of it to fall out than usual. Tight ponytails or braids can also discourage hair growth, as can using dyes or curling irons or heat combs. Hair care products containing harsh chemicals may also cause your hair to stop growing.
  • Compulsively pulling on your own hair can cause it to stop growing.
  • Certain drugs or treatments can cause this kind of loss.
  • Ringworm can cause hair loss.
  • Aging can cause hair loss, because you grow less hair as you get older. In fact, around half of all people have male-pattern or female-pattern baldness by age 50.
  • Chemotherapy can result in hair loss.

If an acute stressor is causing you to lose excessive hair, you can expect your hair to return to its normal fullness within six to nine months. If however you have chronic TE relating to a chronic stressor or you are losing hair through anagen effluvium, your hair shedding or loss could become a long-term problem.

The bottom line here is this … hair thinning and hair loss are very common, and usually do not point toward anything serious.


Hair Loss Is Often Temporary and Will Stop On Its Own

In many cases, losing hair is self-resolving. If you do discover you are losing an abnormally large amount of hair, don’t panic. Think about whether you have had any recent stressors in your life (or ongoing ones).

Have you been sick? Fatigued? Overworking yourself? Going through a major life change? Did you recently have a high fever? Did you undergo surgery? Did you lose a lot of weight?

If the answer is “yes” to a probable stressor, then you can probably just wait it out. As mentioned previously, in around half a year, your hair will return to its previous fullness.


What If Hair Loss Doesn’t Stop On Its Own?

If your hair loss or shedding are ongoing, or you cannot think of an obvious explanation for what is happening, it may be worth your time to visit a dermatologist. A dermatologist is not only able to confirm to you whether or not you are losing more hair than is normal, but also whether you are experiencing telogen effluvium or anagen effluvium. Keep in mind in some situations you may be experiencing both.

Once the dermatologist figures out which type of hair loss you are experiencing, he or she can help you to identify the cause(s). From there, it is possible to select a treatment.


How Can You Treat Excessive Hair Loss or Shedding?

Treatment depends on the cause of your hair loss. In some cases, waiting is enough all by itself! In other cases, treatments might include any of the following:

  • If there is an underlying disorder with hormone production, the imbalance will have to be treated to cure your hair shedding. If you have thyroid disease, for example, the disease will need to be treated.
  • If another underlying illness is causing the hair shedding, that illness will have to be treated for your hair to fill in again.
  • If a nutritional gap is the culprit, you will need to make changes to your diet or start supplementing.
  • If you are a regular crash dieter, you will need to adapt to a healthier, more moderate eating plan.
  • In some cases, hair loss is the result of ringworm. You will need to kill the infection in order for hair growth to return to normal.
  • What if age is the reason for your hair loss, and genetics is playing a role? Usually doctors will prescribe an OTC spray like Minoxidil (Rogaine). There are also prescription treatments such as Finasteride (Propecia). Hairpieces and extensions are also always an option.

Your main takeaways here should be this:

  • Losing 50-150 strands of hair each day is completely and totally normal. It may seem like a lot, but it really isn’t!
  • Hair thinning and hair loss are not the same thing. They are distinct conditions with different causes.
  • Many cases of hair thinning will resolve given some time and patience.
  • In cases where there is an underlying issue, that cause will have to be treated first. Except in cases where chronic injury is playing a role, this often is a matter of lifestyle adjustments.
  • Even if your hair loss turns out to be inherited, there are prescription and non-prescription medications out there to help you.

If you are losing more hair than is normal, don’t panic! The cause likely isn’t serious, it may resolve on its own, and if it doesn’t, there are a lot of steps you can take to correct the issue and get back to a full head of hair!

Read Next: 6 Simple Reasons Why You Are Losing Hair 

Resources:

https://www.americanhairloss.org/types_of_hair_loss/effluviums.asp
https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/tc/hair-loss-topic-overview
https://dailymakeover.com/how-much-hair-loss-is-normal/
https://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/health-and-beauty/hair-care/hair-loss-vs–hair-shedding