How Much Hair Loss is Normal?
Dr. Gerardo Sison
We all notice stray hair strands lying around from time to time, but no one wants to experience more hair loss than usual. Despite the fact that hair loss is extremely common in people of both genders, it is a source of embarrassment for many, and most people want to prevent hair loss if possible.
If you’ve noticed more loose hair than usual lately, you may be wondering how much hair loss is normal.
How much hair loss is normal?
Everyone has noticed strands of hair caught in their hairbrush or in the drain in the shower when shampooing their hair. While some hair loss is normal, we all want a thick, full head of hair, so seeing too much loose hair can be nerve wracking.
The good news is that everyone will lose some amount of hair each day no matter how young or old you are or what your gender is, but how much hair loss is normal?
The American Academy of Dermatologists reports that the average person will lose between 50 and 100 hairs per day. Women tend to lose a lot of hair than men each day due in part to styling choices that can encourage hair loss, such as tight ponytails or braids, as well as the use of hair dye and other products that can damage and cause breakage to the hair.
Of course, no one is going around counting their loose hairs, but normal hair loss generally occurs in the form of individual strands rather than clumps of hair. If you start to notice more hair than usual left over on your pillow in the morning, clogging up the shower drain, or caught in your hairbrush, you may be experiencing abnormal hair loss.
What is the difference between hair loss and hair shedding?
When you think about the stray hairs you find lying around, it’s easy to think of this as hair loss. However, a more accurate description would be hair shedding.
Hair shedding is the loss of hair while hair growth is still occurring. When more than 100 hairs are lost per day on a regular basis, it can be said that a person is experiencing a medical condition called telogen effluvium, or excessive hair shedding.
Excessive hair shedding is usually attributed to one of the following factors:
- Significant weight loss (20 pounds or more)
- Experiencing significant emotional or mental stress, such as job loss or divorce
- Surgical recovery
- Discontinuation of birth control
- High fever
- Recovery from serious illness
For the most part, people who experience excessive hair shedding may notice increased hair loss several months after the onset of a stressful event, such as childbirth.
For example, women who have recently given birth typically find that they experience significant hair loss beginning about two months after childbirth and lose the most hair about four months after childbirth. When the physical or emotional stressor is resolved, the hair usually grows back and normal fullness is restored.
By contrast, hair loss occurs when the hair falls out but no growth occurs because something is stopping new hair from growing. Hair loss is referred to by the medical term anagen effluvium, and it usually does not resolve on its own without some action on the part of the individual experiencing the hair loss.
Common causes of hair loss include:
- Hereditary conditions such as male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness
- Certain medications and medical treatments
- Hairstyles that pull on the hair, such as cornrows or tight ponytails
- Trichotillomania, a compulsion to pull out one’s hair from the body or scalp
- Autoimmune disorders and immune system reactions
- Harsh hair care products or treatments such as heat styling
If you suspect that you’re experiencing hair loss, it’s important to speak to your doctor about what you’re experiencing before you make any changes to your medications or daily routine.
What are the differences between hair loss in men and women?
There are some important differences between the causes of hair loss for men and women.
As noted previously, women tend to lose more hair in general than men do. This is due in part to hair styling choices and the use of certain products or dyes that can exacerbate hair loss, but another major reason why women lose their hair is hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, after childbirth, and during menopause. Hair loss that occurs after childbirth is usually temporary and will begin to resolve itself within six to nine months, but hair loss that occurs after menopause may be more stubborn.
More than half of women will experience signs of female pattern baldness in their life cycle, also known as androgenic alopecia, by the age of 70. Women will typically notice thinning hair all over the scalp, while men are more likely to experience a receding hairline or thinning hair on the crown of the head.
Male pattern baldness, also referred to as androgenic alopecia, is a genetic condition that affects the vast majority of men. Although many people think that hair loss only occurs as you age, up to 25 percent of men who struggle with male pattern baldness begin losing their hair before the age of 21. By age 50, approximately 85 percent of men with male pattern baldness will have experienced significant hair loss.
Male pattern baldness primarily causes hair loss on the crown of the head and along the hairline, with many men retaining hair around the sides and back of the head.
What treatments are available for hair loss?
If you find that you are experiencing significant hair loss rather than hair shedding, there are lots of ways to treat your condition depending on what is causing it. As noted previously, the vast majority of significant hair loss is caused by hereditary conditions like male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness, and there are plenty of treatments that can help.
Thickening Shampoos and Conditioners
You already wash your hair, so one of the easiest switches you can make is to try using shampoos and conditioners that are formulated to prevent hair loss and thicken your existing hair. In order to determine your best options when it comes to different thickening shampoos, look for saw palmetto on the ingredient list.
Saw palmetto is a natural extract that works to lower levels of DHT, a male sex hormone that can accumulate in the scalp of men who are suffering from male pattern baldness. Rising levels of DHT cause the hair follicles to shrink, which makes the hair fall out and prevents the new growth cycle.
When you choose a shampoo that contains DHT, you may be promoting hair growth by lowering the levels of DHT in the scalp to prevent additional hair loss, removing build up around the hair follicles to allow for new hair growth, and increasing the volume of your current hair for a fuller look.
Some hair loss can be attributed to nutritional deficiencies, so addressing any existing nutrient gaps in your diet is an important step to preventing hair loss and encouraging regrowth. B-complex vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, selenium, and iron have been shown to contribute to healthy hair according to multiple studies.
Vitamin B7, also known as biotin, is perhaps the best known vitamin that contributes to hair health. In addition to contributing to hair health, biotin also promotes the health of the skin and nails.
Keratin is a type of protein that makes up the structure of the hair, skin, and nails, and biotin makes up the majority of the infrastructure of keratin.
When you don’t receive an adequate supply of biotin, your hair may fall out faster and you may notice that your hair, skin, and nails become more weak, brittle, and dry.
Although invasive procedures like hair transplants are well known, you don’t have to jump straight to a surgical procedure in order to address your hair loss. Many people experience success and hair regrowth by using topical products like minoxidil, which is sold under the brand name Rogaine.
You don’t need a prescription in order to get minoxidil. The treatment is available in both a solution and a foam and it can be purchased online through a number of telehealth companies as well as most big box stores and pharmacies. Topical minoxidil has been repeatedly proven to be effective in a variety of clinical studies conducted since the 1980s.
Approximately 40 percent of patients treated with a solution containing 5 percent minoxidil will experience new hair growth, according to clinical studies. Another study indicated that topical minoxidil reduced hair loss and bald spots in 62 percent of men.
Prescription Hair Loss Medication
Depending on the cause of your hair loss and your gender and medical history, you may be able to use a prescription medication to treat your hair loss. Finasteride is a prescription medication that is available in both oral and topical forms and works to treat hair loss caused by male pattern baldness. Some men are not able to take oral finasteride due to their medical history or experiences with certain side effects, but some may be able to use the topical form of the treatment with no issues.
Finasteride is an extremely effective treatment option, but it is currently only approved for use in men. Ketoconazole is a prescription shampoo that can help treat seborrheic dermatitis, and anecdotal evidence suggests it can sometimes be used off-label to encourage hair regrowth.
It is normal to experience some hair loss every day, and most people's hair sheds naturally between 50 and 100 loose strands each day.
However, if you notice that your hair is falling out more than normal and new hair does not seem to be growing in, you may want to speak to a doctor about the possible causes of your hair loss and the best treatment options.