There’s so much that we don’t know about - seemingly ‘sporadic’ breakouts, mood swings and cravings resulting from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), the inability to shrink your pores despite being conditioned to believe you can, and the difference between shedding and losing hair. And even though there’s a lot of information out there, we tend to assume the worst - almost an innate tendency - and resort to ‘remedies’ that intensify our concerns. In reality, how much do we know about our hair? What sets hair shedding apart from hair loss - and when should we consult a doctor? Is there an external factor that’s sabotaging our hair? We’ve roped in Dr. Monisha Aravind, M.D.(DVL), PDFC Aesthetic Dermatologist and Medical Director of Armoraa Skin Solutions, LLP, to share her insights on the subject with us.
- 01. Hair shedding vs hair loss
- 02. What causes hair shedding?
- 03. What causes hair loss?
- 04. An at-home test for hair loss
- 05. How to stop hair loss
- 06. How to stop hair shedding
01. Hair shedding vs hair loss
Nope, they’re not synonymous. According to Dr. Aravind, losing under 100 strands every day is classified as shedding, and it’s not a cause for concern. It’s a biological process, and it’s a part of the growth cycle our hair undergoes. 90% of your strands are in their ‘anagen’ - or growth - phase right now - which lasts about two to eight years - and about 1% are undergoing the ‘catagen’ phase - which lasts about a week or two. During this phase, your strands stop growing altogether. She states that shedding happens during the telogen phase of the cycle - which is the last stage. This phase goes on for about two or three months, and at any given point of time, about 10% of your hair is in this stage. Once your strands fall off, the cycle continues as long as your follicles are active. “If you’re losing more than a 100 strands of hair every day, it’s classified as hair loss,” she continues.
02. What causes hair shedding?
As normal as it is, there are certain aggravators that amplify shedding - losing excessive weight, delivering a baby, undergoing surgery, and experiencing high levels of stress and intense fevers can contribute to the issue. Dr. Aravind attributes erratic sleeping patterns, a lack of a proper diet, and seasonal changes to shedding as well. In this case, you’re shedding more than a 100 strands per day because of these stressors. According to her, “A few people experience more shedding during winters; and for others the issue surfaces during winters. Even tight ponytails can cause shedding.”
The process of ageing affects shedding as well. If you’re inching toward menopause, a hormonal imbalance in your body might just lead to shedding. Or if you’ve stopped taking birth-control pills. It’s safe to say that your body readjusts soon after, and this issue corrects itself without the need for any external intervention; however, if a particular stressor continues to stay with you, this issue might remain. Typically, your hair regains its fullness within 6-9 months following a stressful event. The medical term for shedding is ‘telogen effluvium’.
03. What causes hair loss?
“There are internal as well as external factors that cause hair loss, and the condition isn’t exclusive to one gender,” says Dr. Aravind, and, “Internal factors are majorly genetic - male/female pattern baldness as well as alopecia are triggered by genes. Even hormonal imbalances like PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome is a disorder wherein higher-than-normal amounts of male hormones are produced in women, leading to an imbalance in hormone levels), thyroid, increased prolactin levels, and increased androgen production can lead to baldness. Even post-COVID hair loss is a reality. And not just COVID-19 - any viral infection can cause hair loss.”
Nutritional deficiencies, too, lead to loss of hair. Long-standing diabetes, hypertension, and chronic diseases can trigger the condition too. As for external factors, environmental pollution and excessive chemical treatments - keratin, smoothening, colouring, dyeing - cause hair loss, and topical applications - serums and masks for the hair - are legitimate aggravators as well.
“Straightening and blow-drying your hair every day can lead to breakage. Not cleansing the scalp, smoking, and consuming alcohol and oily foods are major triggers too.” she explains.
04. An at-home test for hair loss
The medical term for shedding is ‘anagen effluvium’. If you think you’re losing too much hair, you can perform an at-home test to determine whether this is a definite issue or not. Just run your fingers through a clean, dry patch of your hair, and tug - gently - at the strands once you reach the end. If you see more than two or three strands on your palm, you must schedule an appointment with a doctor to find out why. A receding hairline, patchy areas, thinness at the crown, and a widening part are a few signs of hair loss. If you notice these indications - or even too many strands on your pillow - visit a dermatologist immediately. They’ll come up with a diagnosis as well as a treatment plan.
05. How to stop hair loss
“Finding out what the cause is, and eliminating that cause is your first step to treating the condition. Addressing the issue is important. There are a lot of topical formulations like minoxidil and peptides that reduce hair fall. Even melatonin and topical caffeine can help. If you’re looking for procedural treatments, PRP (this process involves drawing your blood, processing it, and injecting just the platelet-rich plasma part into the scalp to trigger hair growth by increasing blood supply to the follicle), PRF (this process involves drawing your blood, processing it, and injecting just the platelet-rich fibrin part into the scalp to stimulate the stem cells in the follicles for growth), and low-level laser therapy (using a red light to improve circulation to the follicles) are a few of your options. Botox injections are suitable for the treatment of male pattern baldness and androgenetic alopecia - it clears off DHT (dihydrotestosterone is a sex hormone linked to the loss of hair), and improves oxygen circulation.” Dr. Aravind says. Even micro-needling is another technique you can opt for - it stimulates the follicles of your hair to produce growth factors on their own. A newer treatment called Keravive by HydraFacial is available in the market too. Hair transplantation is ideal for the later stages of androgenetic alopecia - but it is a more invasive technique as compared to the rest of the options.
If you’re keen on treating the condition naturally, there are a lot of home remedies you can experiment with - egg masks, coconut milk, green tea, beetroot juice, and aloe vera are a few ingredients you can apply to your tresses every once in a while. Dr. Aravind advises applying oil only before stepping into the shower to pre-condition your hair. According to her, leaving oil on your hair overnight just attracts dirt, and triggers dandruff. Use a chemical-free and fragrance-free shampoo and conditioner, and steering clear of heat-styling products as much as possible. Don’t brush your hair when it’s wet.
To prevent this condition, Dr. Aravind recommends fixing your sleeping schedule, cleaning your scalp twice or thrice a week, incorporating vegetables, fruits, and nuts in your diet, drinking enough water, and avoiding chemical treatments.
06. How to stop hair shedding
You cannot stop hair shedding overnight. It’s a process. The remedies for shedding are similar, just make sure you’re eating a balanced diet, include eggs, spinach, avocados, oranges, tomatoes in your diet, avoid tight hairstyles and chemical treatments, get eight hours of sleep every day, and take multivitamin supplements if necessary.
1) How much hair loss is normal in the shower?
If you have long or thick hair, you can expect to lose 150 to 200 strands in the shower - and less if you have short, thin hair. If, however, you’re noticing clumps, or you continue to shed excessively after your wash routine, you must consult a doctor.
2) Does hair grow back after shedding?
Yes, your hair grows back after shedding, and typically, regains its fullness within 6-9 months following a stressful event. However, if a stressor continues to remain in your life, it can lead to long-term shedding.
3) How do you know if you're shedding too much hair?
The ‘pull’ test is an ideal way to understand if you’re shedding too much hair. As mentioned above, just run your fingers through a clean, dry patch of your hair, and tug - gently - at the strands once you reach the end. If you see more than two or three strands on your palm, you must schedule an appointment with a doctor to find out why. Don’t treat these symptoms with nonchalance. Check the drain in your shower. Is it clumped with hair? What about your brush? Are you waking up to a pillow riddled with stands of your hair? These are a few ways to check if you’re shedding excessively.
4) Does hair grow back after falling out from roots?
Yes, it does. If you pull your hair out mistakenly, it might damage the follicle temporarily, but a new bulb will form, which is the base of the follicle, and a new strand will grow in place of the older one.