Wellness

woman looking in mirror, assessing her hair
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9 Ways To Tell If You're Losing Too Much Hair

The signs range from subtle to obvious.

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At some point, most adults have probably looked down at the bathroom or shower floor after getting ready for the day and noticed the amount of hair everywhere. Shedding hair is common, but if you’re concerned by the amount you’re shedding, there are ways to tell if you’re losing too much hair. All it takes is a little focused attention, and in some cases, a call to a medical professional to determine whether the excessive hair loss is due to a medical condition, the natural progression of aging, or the normal postpartum hair loss that comes after childbirth.

“We naturally shed and regrow hair in regular cycles,” board certified dermatologist Janet Allenby, DO, tells Romper in an email. “Each hair follicle usually has its own cycle, that is why we don’t shed all at once and [the hair loss] is less obvious.” So, if you’re consistently losing hair on a daily basis, it’s not cause for immediate alarm. “Typically about 10% of our scalp hair is in the shedding phase at any one time,” Amy W. Fox, MD, Associate Professor at UNC Department of Dermatology tells Romper. “There are times when women can experience significant increases in shedding, and the reasons for this are various.”

That being said, increased hair loss can happen, and it’s usually subtle. “Sadly, by the time most people realize they have more than normal hair loss, approximately 50% of the hair has reduced,” says Dr. Allenby. That’s why it’s best to be observant of the amount of hair you’re shedding (but try not to obsess over it). Here are some things to be on the lookout for.

1

Your scalp is more noticeable

Depending on your hair’s natural texture, you may be able to see a bit of your scalp all of the time, so simply being able to see it is not cause for alarm. However, if you feel like you’re seeing more of it, that’s something to pay attention to. “If you can see into the scalp easier and the follicles seem more individualized” it could be a sign of hair loss, Dr. Allenby says.

2

You see lots of hairs trends on your pillow in the morning

Seeing hair on your pillow is not necessarily a symptom of hair loss; in fact, the American Academy of Dermatology says it’s normal, and an increased amount could just be a sign of increased shedding. However, if you’re consistently seeing a lot more hair on your pillow than you’re used to, that could potentially be a sign that you’re losing more hair than you should be, per Shape. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to call your physician to get their opinion on what may be going on.

3

Several hair strands come out when you pull or run your fingers through your hair

Have you ever tried to run your fingers through tangled hair? It’s painful, and you’ll likely pull more than a few strands out in the process, which isn’t uncommon. However, when it’s not a tangly mess, running your fingers through your hair can be used as a test for hair loss. In an interview with StyleCaster, Dr. James C. Marotta, a hair restoration specialist and facial plastic surgeon, suggested grabbing about 60 hairs and pulling on them as you run your fingers through your hair. It’s normal to lose about eight hairs when you do this, however, if you have closer to 15 or more, you could be losing too much.

4

Your part looks wider than it used to

Another way that you can tell if you might be losing more hair than normal is by looking at your part. “Your hair part becomes wider” when you’re losing a lot of hair, Dr. Allenby explains. It might be difficult to tell, but chatting with your dermatologist about your concerns or enlisting your hairdresser to help you determine if your part might be getting wider could help you get to the bottom of things.

5

There’s hair all over your shower

“Increased shedding in the shower” could also be a sign of significant hair loss, says Dr. Fox. Of course, it’s normal to regularly find some hairs on the shower floor, but an increased amount on a consistent basis may warrant a call to your doctor. This is a sign where attention to detail is important, because you need to be aware of your baseline before you can determine whether or not you’re losing more hair than normal.

6

You’re seeing an increase in your 60-second hair count test

Another test that you can try to determine how much hair you're losing is the 60-second hair count. An article published in 2008 in JAMA Dermatology found that brushing your hair from back to front for one minute and then counting the number of hairs that fall can give you an idea of whether or not you're losing too much hair. If you find about 10 hairs, you're likely losing a normal amount.

7

There’s a lot of hair in your brush and on the floor

Another thing Dr. Fox suggests paying attention to is the amount of hair you’re shedding when you’re brushing. Pay attention to how much hair is falling onto the floor while you’re styling it as well as how much your brush collected. Make sure you start with a totally clean brush and stand on a towel so you can easily gather and assess the amount of hair in your brush and that fell onto the floor.

8

Your ponytail seems to have gotten smaller

Have you noticed a change in your ponytail? “If you wear your hair in a ponytail and [find that] it takes more turns with the hairband to tie it up” it could signal hair loss, Dr. Allenby says. If you want to try this test, though, make sure you’re using a fresh hairband. Old hair ties naturally stretch out over time, which can be misleading in this situation.

9

Your hair doesn’t style the same way it used to

If your hair just doesn't seem to look the same way that it used to when you style it, that too could be a sign that your hair might be thinning, as Dr. Sonia Batra, MD, explains in Prevention. If your straightened hair looks flat, your natural hair just doesn't have the life it used to, or your style won't hold, there might actually be a real reason for that.

As always, it’s best to call your doctor if you’re concerned or if you’re exhibiting other symptoms. “If you are having symptoms on the scalp like tenderness or itching that persists or increased shedding that lasts longer than a few months,” that should signal a call to your doctor, Dr. Fox explains. Dr. Allenby agrees, and says the sooner you come in the better. “[With hair loss] the most important piece is determining the type, whether it is a medical problem versus the natural progression of aging,” she says “because the cause is the key to treatment and regrowing your hair.”

Sources:

Amy W. Fox, MD, Associate Professor at UNC Department of Dermatology

Janet Allenby, DO, Board Certified Dermatologist and RealSelf Advisory Board Member

Original reporting by Lauren Schumacker