Hair Shedding – How Much Is Too Much?

Jess Commons

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be concerned – nay, horrified – by the amount of hair that winds up on your jumper rather than your head by the end of the day.

Surely, with a shed rate like that, it’s a marvel I’ve got any hair left on my head at all. Which is kind of worrying.

So we got in touch with two people that know their stuff when it comes to things like this. Sam Burnett, owner and creative director of dead trendy and very good salon Hare & Bone, and Ivana Azdajic, a chemist and product developer at Maria Nila, a vegan and cruelty-free hair brand whose new range Head and Hair HEAL is all about protecting and restoring your tresses.

Their answers about hair shedding were, thankfully, very reassuring.

First up, guys – why do we shed hair?

“Hair growth occurs in a cycle with three stages,” explains Sam. “The 'anagen' or 'growth' phase, the 'catagen' phase or the ‘resting’ period, and the 'telegenic' phase, which is basically the 'falling out' stage."

“Every hair strand will eventually fall out and be replaced by a new one" says Ivana, adding that the average person has about 100,000-150,000 hairs on their head at any one time.

Great stuff. But how do I know if I’m shedding too much hair?

Sam says that the average person sheds 50-125 strands of hair a day – anything more than this could indicate abnormal shedding and he recommends speaking to your stylist about treatment options. If you want a quick way to test, Ivana suggests taking about 60 hair strands between your fingers and pulling your fingers gently through the hair. “If 5-8 strands are coming out this is normal,” she says. “But more than 15 could mean that you are losing more than you should.”

Does one type of hair shed more than others?

Apparently not – from blondes to brunettes, redheads to natural black hair, we all shed the same. However, notes Ivana, people with curly hair are more likely to straighten their hair and apply more tension when brushing, which could lead to damage, and more breakages. Similarly, says Sam, “over-processed colours such as blondes may notice more hair breakage and thinning.”

How about hair washing – can that impact on the shed factor?

“I would always recommend my clients wash their hair every two to three days depending on their hair type and texture,” says Sam. “The scalp should be massaged in circular motions with a firm amount of pressure applied and, if you can handle it, tepid or cold water to rinse.” Make sure the shampoos you’re using aren’t too harsh as well, Ivana adds.

What about brushing?

"Always begin brushing from the tip to the root,” recommends Sam. “Comb hair before showering to minimise tangles and if you are brushing wet hair then use a wide-tooth comb as hair is 50% weaker when it’s wet.” Ivana recommends using a high-quality conditioner and/or masque to help detangle.

Are there any particular treatments that can cause excess shedding or breakage?

“Styling such as braiding, or even putting hair up in a ponytail can increase hair-shedding because it puts tension on the hair,” says Ivana. “It’s known as traction alopecia,” adds Sam. “The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to avoid wearing these hairstyles on a daily basis.”

“Additionally," says Ivana, “heat damage from hot tools can also result in breakage. Chemical treatments such as relaxers and hair dyes can weaken the hair shaft, resulting in shedding.”

What about pregnancy – does that affect hair shedding?

Yes, essentially. “It’s not uncommon for hair to stop going through its usual growth cycle,” says Sam. In fact, a lot of pregnant women don’t shed hair for the whole nine months. “Post-pregnancy, though,” he continues, “it can appear to shed a lot more from the nine months of build-up of hair.”

So what’s the key to hair that’s going to stay on your head for as long as it’s meant to?

“Handle your hair with care by investing in quality at-home products and nourishing in-salon treatments,” says Sam. “Gently pat down the hair when you get out of the shower instead of rough-drying.” He also recommends taking supplements to give your hair its daily vitamins. His go-to is Viviscal hair growth supplement.

For Ivana, it’s simpler: “Treat your hair well and use gentle products that are kind to your scalp. Try not to put too much external stress on your hair, eat well and stress less!”

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