The mane facts about hair loss: How much is too much?


woman examining receding hairline in mirror

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It is normal for hair to thin out as we get older, but hair loss can affect anyone — male and female, young and old — for a variety of reasons. If you find yourself shedding more than the family dog and get in the habit of checking your hairbrush in horror, take a deep breath and read on. It may not be as bad as you think.

Don't panic

According to WebMD, people lose an average of 100 strands of hair per day. It may sound like a lot, but the average adult head has anywhere from 100,000 to 150,000 hairs on it. So don't panic when plucking each loose strand off your pillow. Of course, it's easier said than done. Chances are that if you are noticing the number of loose hairs on your pillow, then you are also scrutinizing that hair brush and the shower drain. And if you have long hair, well, it's easy to forget that it may look like you're losing a lot more than you actually are when you ball it up.


What is hair?

Besides your latest cause for concern, hair is made up of keratin, a protein "produced in hair follicles in the outer layer of skin," according to WebMD. Each hair on your head grows for two to six years and then goes dormant for a bit before falling out to make room for a new hair to push through the follicle. That strand of hair you just plucked from your shoulder as you muttered, "There goes another one," is actually a string of dead keratin cells.


So what's the rumpus?

Sure, this losing 100 strands a day being normal is all well and good, but you swear that your hair is much thinner now and you aren't even 30 yet. This may mean that new hair is not replacing the hair you are losing, which can be a sign that something is wrong, but it's still not a reason to panic.



Hormones are fickle, aren't they? If you won the "genetically susceptible" lottery, then sex hormones can trigger permanent hair loss — male-pattern and female-pattern baldness. If your hormones are changing or unbalanced in any way, then they can trigger temporary hair loss. Ladies, this means that if you are pregnant, give birth or stop taking birth control pills, then you might experience temporary hair loss. When a woman starts menopause, she can also start losing her hair.

Medical issues

Hair loss can be brought on by a number of medical conditions, some more obvious than others. Thyroid problems can cause hair loss, which is not surprising considering the thyroid gland helps keep hormones in check. Thanks again, hormones. Another obvious medical condition is alopecia areata, which results in patchy hair loss thanks to your immune system attacking your hair follicles. Unfortunately, damage to the hair follicle means permanent hair loss. Other not-so-obvious conditions include infections like ringworm, which can cause temporary hair loss until the infection is treated. Those who are being treated for cancer will obviously often experience hair loss. But drugs used to treat arthritis, high blood pressure and depression can also make your hair fall out.


Other factors

Once you've ruled out hormones and confirmed that no medical condition or medicine is making you lose your hair, you can take a look at a few other factors that may be contributing to your hair loss. Stress is a big one. Of course the double whammy is that you probably just went through some stressful situation that made your hair fall out a little more than usual — enough for you to notice — and now you're stressing about losing your hair, which… you get the picture.

Do you dye your hair lots? Have you? Unfortunately, being too harsh on our hair can make it fall out, so as awesome as it is to grab that Manic Panic, you might have to give your hair a break and let it try to recuperate from years of bleaching and coloring. Same goes for those who perm or straighten their hair. Pulling your hair into the same tight ponytail or hairstyle can also lead to some hair loss or thinning.

A diet that lacks iron and protein can also lead to hair loss and thinning. So take a look at what you're eating or not eating and fix it pronto. And if it runs in the family, well, that's just the way it is. Your hair is going to thin a bit.



Once you have narrowed down the cause of your hair loss, you can discuss treatment options with your doctor. Rogaine is a popular treatment for those who suffer from permanent hair loss thanks to good old heredity. The sooner you start using Rogaine for your hair loss, the better your odds at keeping hair loss at bay. But be warned, you are still going to find hair in your brush and shower drain. Apparently, shedding hair as soon as you start using Rogaine means that it's working.


Scalp massage

A little pampering can't hurt. When you're in the shower washing your hair, give yourself a nice massage. You'll be surprised what proper circulation can accomplish. It may end up reinvigorating those follicles and get that hair growing again.