Hair Loss: What’s Normal, What’s Not

Losing hair is a normal part of life. We lose scores of strands of hair everyday, and hair loss is generally not a cause for concern. However, when you start losing hair outside of the normal amount, it can become a concern. Here we look at how much hair loss is normal, and when you should be concerned.

How much hair loss is normal?

Humans lose anywhere between 50 and 100 strands of hair a day. People with longer hair might notice this more than those with shorter hair. The average human being has more than 100,000 follicles of hair. As such, a daily loss of 50-100 will not make much of a difference in how it looks.

This hair often comes out when you wash, as you dislodge loose hair naturally. While it might seem a lot when you look at it, it’s a normal amount and nothing to be concerned about.

However, when you start losing hair outside of this pattern, or you experience more hair loss than usual, it might be a sign of something more serious.

When should I be concerned?

Sudden, rapid hair loss, hair falling out in clumps, or development of bald patches are often the first signs that something is not right.

Similarly, if your scalp is intensely itchy or burning, you should see your doctor for tests.

Some studies show that hair loss is more frequent at different times of the year. Hair growth (the anagen phase) peaks in March, steadily falling until around August/September. At this time, hair loss is generally at its highest. However, more research is needed to fully support this.

What are the causes of hair loss?

There are a number of factors that could cause or exacerbate hair loss.

Illness is the most common, as is cancer treatment. Stress is also a significant driver of hair loss, as is weight loss and iron deficiency anaemia.

However, in most of these cases, hair loss is only temporary and does not require treatment.

Women generally lose more hair per day than men. This is because women often have different styles and treatments which put more stress on their hair. Regular styling and coloring means around 40% of women lost more hair on a daily basis than men.

This is compounded by things such as the menopause or pregnancy, which can also affect how much hair women lose per day.

Pattern hair loss can be treated, albeit with varying degrees of success. The most common treatments for male pattern baldness are finasteride and minoxidil.

Women should only use minoxidil to treat hair loss, as finasteride is not safe for females.

It should be noted that hair loss treatments like finasteride and minoxidil are not a guaranteed solution. Their efficacy varies from person to person, and so other solutions should be considered, such as wigs.

How can I check if I am losing too much hair?

If you are concerned that you are losing more hair than you should, there is a simple test you can do at home to check.

Firstly, ensure your hair is dry and clean. Next, run your fingers gently through it, lightly pulling when you reach the end of each of your follicles of hair. If, after each pull, there are more than 2-3 strands left in your hand, you may suffering from anagen or telogen effluvium.

Anagen effluvium occurs during the growth stage of your hair process. It happens as a result of drugs, radiation, or infection.

Telogen effluvium, on the other hand, is temporary loss of hair that occurs after a stressful or traumatic event. It typically manifests on the top of the head.

You should not see more than 10 strands of hair for every 100 strands tugged.

When should I see a doctor?

If, after conducting the test above, you are still concerned that you are losing too much hair, consult your doctor. Other signs that you should see your doctor include a progressive thinning on the top of your scalp, or bald spots.

Another symptom that indicates you should see your doctor is full-body hair loss. If you are losing hair on other parts of your body besides your hair, you may be suffering from an underlying condition that needs attention.

Losing hair is a natural process that happens to all of us, and in general is not a cause for concern. However, when we start losing more hair than is usually expected, it may be a sign of something more concerning. The cause may be natural, such as alopecia or weight loss, or extraneous, such as illness or cancer treatment. If at any point you are worried about how much hair you are losing, consult your doctor immediately.

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