If you balk at giant hairballs stuck at the bottom of your chair when you vacuum, or cringe at the sight of those tumbleweeds on your shower drain, you’re not alone. The sight of these fallen strands has probably made you ask, “Why is my hair falling out?” at one point or another, as you scurry into a paranoid frenzy. Is my ponytail getting smaller? Is my forehead receding? AM I GOING BALD?
Calm yourself, and step away from the hair brush. The short answer is no: Studies have purported that women can lose up to 100 strands a day, which can add up to an alarming level in your shower drain, especially if you go longer between washes (yes, the amount accrues!). We’re guessing this number doesn’t even take into account hair loss from breakage, or the hair strands you see without the root, a common mishap of vigorous brushing or a too-tight hair tie.
So… Why is My Hair Falling Out?
1. Acute telogen effluvium
A medical term for sudden speeding up of the hair shedding process, the condition is usually brought on by sudden stress to the body, like weight loss, chemotherapy or childbirth, or taking certain meds. Hair normally goes through three phases in its lifespan—the growing, resting and telogen (shedding) phases—and shortly after these stressful triggers, hair can move quickly to the shedding phase. This can result in losing clumpfulls of hair at a time, which can be distressing and very, very alarming indeed. Avoiding anxiety, switching to gentler medication and in the case of pregnancy, simply waiting till your body rebalances (and it will), can help.
2. Other diseases
Hypothyroidism and lupus are only a few of the diseases that have been said to cause loss and brittleness of hair. Check with your doctor to rule out any systemic and autoimmune conditions that can have hair loss as one of their symptoms.
Sorry, kid—no amount of rationalizing can shield you from what’s in your DNA. That doesn’t mean, however, that you’re left with no options if you come from a family that’s had problems with genetic baldness, or androgenetic alopecia. Schedule a check-up with your doctor and ask whether you can test if your follicles have “miniaturized” (usually done via a biopsy), which can help determine if your hair has indeed started to thin out.
4. Scalp irritations
Scalp rashes and harsh reactions or allergies to hair products and even the bleach in hair color can trigger hair loss in some people. Always do a patch test before applying any chemicals to your scalp to prevent irritation—scalp is skin, after all, and may be sensitive to certain products.
5. Nutritional deficiencies
While crash dieting can trigger acute telogen effluvium, a chronic lacking of essential vitamins and nutrients can also cause a higher-than-usual level of shedding. Vitamin D, zinc or iron deficiencies have been linked to hair loss as well. Eating healthy and supplementing a balanced diet with hair growth promoters such as biotin (vitamin H) and coconut oil are said to be beneficial.
Hair fall due to breakage has more to do with habits than genes, and therefore, good news, is totally within your control. Overwashing, frequent heat-styling and forceful handling of your strands can all cause breakage, especially in strands whose cuticles have already been compromised by chemical processes such as coloring. Try co-washing on your off-days, use a thermal protectant before every blow-dry or hot iron session and be extra gentle detangling your strands when they’re wet. A weekly deep condition can also help fortify strands and improve their moisture levels.