Here's how much hair you're actually supposed to shed per day

We've all been there. Maybe you brushed or detangled your hair one day and discovered that there were a few more stray hairs left behind in your paddle brush than the usual. Or maybe you glanced at the perimeter of your scalp one day and realized that your hairline has gotten slightly thinner since the last time you really took a look at it. Whether permanent or temporary, hair loss happens to the best of us—even celebrities.

Of course, it's very normal to lose a few strands every day, but how is enough to cause concern and prompt a dermatologist visit? Ahead, two experts give us a breakdown.

Meet the experts: Isfahan Chambers-Harris is a trichologist and founder of Alodia Haircare. Rae Lynne Kinler, MD, is a hair transplant surgeon at Ziering Medical in Connecticut.

How much hair loss is normal?

While losing any amount of strands—whether it be in the shower, while brushing your hair, or while performing any other hair-related task throughout the day—may seem a little alarming at first, it's important to know that hair loss is pretty normal. In fact, the average person actually sheds 50 to 100 strands of hair per day, according to trichologist Isfahan Chambers-Harris. 'It's normal for people to lose some hair on a daily basis as part of the natural hair growth cycle,' she says.

Also important to note: If you're someone who frequently wears your hair in protective styles like box braids, weaves, twists, and cornrows, which all tuck your hair away to decrease daily manipulation, you're more likely to see a major increase in the amount of hair that's shed once you remove those styles, since all of the hair that's completed its life cycle (more on that later) in the duration of you wearing the style is finally able to shed itself.

That being said, should you notice yourself losing more hair than you're used to seeing, Dr. Chambers-Harris recommends seeking out a dermatologist to rule out any underlying issues. 'If you notice sudden or rapid hair loss, your hair is becoming noticeably thinner, bald patches, or scalp issues such as soreness, itchiness or pain associated with the thinning, these are all signs that you need to seek out a dermatologist,' she says.

What is the life cycle of a hair strand?

The hair growth cycle consists of three main phases—anagen, catagen, and telogen—and each follicle on your head could be going through any one of these at any given time.

  • Anagen: The anagen phase is the growing phase, and this can last from two to seven years, depending on genetic factors and other individual characteristics. 'Hair actively grows during this phase, with cells dividing rapidly at the root of the hair follicle,' says Rae Lynne Kinler, MD, a hair transplant surgeon at Ziering Medical. 'The hair shaft extends upward, and new cells add to the base.' Approximately 85 to 90 percent of the hair on your scalp is in the anagen phase at any given time.

  • Catagen: One to three percent of the hairs on your head are in this phase, which is a transitional phase that lasts between two and three weeks. 'During this phase, hair growth stops, and the outer root sheath shrinks and attaches to the root of the hair,' says Dr. Kinler. 'This detachment is a natural process as the hair prepares to enter the resting phase.'

  • Telogen: This is known as the hair's resting stage, and it typically lasts between three and four months. 'The old hair detaches from the hair follicle, but new hair is not yet actively growing,' says Dr. Kinler. Around ten to 15 percent of your follicles are going through this phase.

After the telogen phase, the hair follicle re-enters the anagen phase, hence why it's called a cycle. As Dr. Kinler notes, hair loss becomes a bigger concern 'when there is an imbalance in the growth cycle, leading to excessive shedding or a failure of new hair to replace the old.'

Causes of hair loss

This could be a range of things from stress to too much daily manipulation.

  • Genetics (Androgenetic Alopecia): 'Genetic predisposition is a common cause of hair loss, with patterns often inherited from either or both parents,' says Dr. Kinler. 'In men, it may result in a receding hairline and thinning at the crown, while in women, it often leads to overall thinning.'

  • Hormonal changes and medical conditions: 'Medical conditions like thyroid disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and autoimmune diseases can influence hair growth,' Dr. Kinler says. 'Irregularities in hormone levels may lead to noticeable hair loss.' This type of hair loss can also be attributed to things like pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause.

  • Stress: Stress-induced hair loss is known as telogen effluvium, and it typically occurs a few months after a stressful event, like an illness, a breakup, or the loss of a loved one. With this, you're likely to see more hair shedding while brushing or washing your hair.

  • Nutritional deficiencies: According to Dr. Kinler, 'inadequate intake of essential nutrients, such as iron, zinc, biotin, and vitamins,' can affect hair health and cause it to become brittle, thin, or more prone to shedding.

  • Medications: 'Some medications, including certain anticoagulants, antidepressants, and medications for gout, hypertension, and cancer, can cause hair loss as a side effect Increased shedding or thinning of hair during the use of specific medications,' says Dr. Kinler.

  • Excessive styling or tight hairstyles: This includes over-styling, frequent use of heat tools, tight hairstyles (like braids or ponytails), or excessive chemical treatments, which can damage hair and lead to breakage. You'll know if this is the culprit if your hair appears damaged, dry, or more prone to breakage.

  • Age: Surprise! Aging can also lead to changes in your hair texture and density. 'Hair growth may slow down, and the diameter of individual hairs may become finer,' says Dr. Kinler. 'It will appear as gradual thinning and decreased density over time.'

When to see a doctor

Again, it's normal to lose hair daily, but you shouldn't be losing large chunks of it. 'If you experience a sudden and significant increase in hair shedding, noticeable thinning, or the development of bald patches, it is advisable to consult with a hair loss specialist or dermatologist,' says Dr. Kinler. 'Seeking professional advice is particularly important if hair loss is accompanied by other symptoms, if you have a family history of severe hair loss, or if home remedies do not yield improvement.'

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