If you have long or thick hair you’ve probably looked down from time to time to see Cousin Itt floating around your shower drain. Or perhaps your partner has complained that even they find your hair strands all over them.
Finding clumps of hair in the shower or on your hair brush is actually pretty normal, says dermatologist, Wilma Bergfeld, MD.
Here she discusses routine hair shedding and when to suspect it’s something more serious.
Hair shedding: what’s normal?
We have about 250,000 hairs on our head at any given time. Some hair follicles could even break off into several strands.
The average person loses 50 to 100 hairs a day, but it really depends on length and thickness of the hair. People with shorter or thinner hair appear to shed less.
On days when people with long or thick hair wash it, they could shed between 150 and 200 hairs. (But they won’t shed very much the next day if they don’t wash it again.) People who only wash their hair once or twice a week may also see an increase in shedding when they decide to wash it because of all the buildup.
“Most hair shedding should happen in the shower, although it’s still common to lose some when combing through afterwards,” says Dr. Bergfeld. “But if you’re continuing to shed long after you’ve shampooed or you’re suddenly finding it all over your clothes – that could signal a problem.”
How to reduce hair shedding
Cut down on washing and conditioning if you can. Instead aim for one to three days a week. Dr. Bergfeld also recommends using a wide tooth comb to help tame your locks. Using a bristle brush or small toothed comb can cause breakage and pull out more hair.
Hair loss can also be a sign of trauma – like pulling and yanking a brush through it or constantly wearing a tight ponytail. If you can, try to leave your hair down as much as possible, avoid touching it too much and don’t use rubber hair ties.
And when it comes to styling – heat is bad. Limit blow drying, curling and flat iron use. If you can’t live without these styling tools, use a thermal spray to coat the fibers in the hair to help protect it. Sun can also damage hair so opt for a hat when it’s sunny and you’ll be outdoors.
Still concerned about your hair habits?
Remember, hair shedding is not the same as hair loss. Hair loss is when the hair stops growing. Hair shedding is a normal phase of your hair’s life cycle.
Chronic or excessive hair loss, referred to as telogen effluvium, can point to clues that something isn’t quite right internally.
Possible reasons of hair loss can include:
- Going through a very stressful time (think: divorce, a death or job layoff).
- Childbirth and hormonal changes.
- Illness (such as thyroid disease or nutritional disorders).
- Weight loss or diet.
“When someone comes in talking about finding fistfuls of hair, we do an evaluation and go back four to six weeks to pinpoint any major life events or conditions that could be contributing to it,” says Dr. Bergfeld. “If we can find the cause we can usually treat it.”