Concerned about hair loss? Don’t fret, it might be completely normal
Text: Yan Yan
Historically, hair loss and baldness has been considered a ‘male problem’, but the beauty industry is now acknowledging that women too, regard it as a major issue. And whilst the recognition of this is great: it reduces stigma and feelings of despair for those who suffer hair loss, it has led to some confusion regarding what constitutes abnormal hair loss, and what appropriate treatments are – for men as well as women.
Research tells us that it is normal to shed up to 100 hairs per day from the human scalp. This is down to how our hair grows: in a 3-stage cycle:
- Anagen: the active growth phase of the hair. At any given time, about 90% of your hair follicles will be in this phase. Depending on genetics and environmental factors, it lasts from two to six years.
- Catagen: this is an intermediate stage; the hair follicle is static, ie the hair is no longer growing. Usually about 3% of the hair.
- Telogen: The final, ‘resting’ stage. Can account for up to 8% of your hair. The follicle is dormant and not producing any hair. This is when the strand will fall out.
Provided that your scalp and body are in reasonably good health, the cycle starts over; follicles in the telogen stage are ‘rebooted’ and return to the anagen part of the cycle, producing new, healthy strands of hair. However, if the follicle remains dormant, it will lead to a perceived thinning of the hair, and will need to be treated.
As stated above, losing up to 100 strands of hair a day can be considered normal. But how do you know? It certainly doesn’t feel like counting is an option… Trust your gut. Does it seem like you are losing more hair than normal? Has the appearance of your hair changed? Would you like healthier-looking, fuller, glossy hair (silly question, who wouldn’t…) We have made a list of some considerations to help you determine if you are losing more hair than you need to. And, of course some advice on treatment options.
- Establish what’s normal for you!
Different people will shed different amounts. This is because the amount of individual hairs per square centimetre will differ between ethnicities. As a rule of thumb, Caucasians will lose around 100 hairs per day, Asians about 70, and Africans about 60.
- Consider your environment
Just like animals, human hair loss patterns also change with seasons and climate. In the Northern Hemisphere, there are two times during the calendar year when humans experience seasonal hair loss: in July/August and – more significantly – in November/December into half of January. You might think that you would retain hair in Winter to keep you warm, but no, human hair is thickest in the summer to serve as protection from the sun. If you want to avoid thinning of the hair these times of the year, consider treatments that will reactivate the follicles into an anagen state.
- Not all hair falls out from the follicle
If the hair is very brittle, dry and/or damaged, it can break off, adding to the number of hairs perceived as lost. The same can be true for very long hair. We often know what condition our hair is in, but if you are unsure, check fallen hair to see if the root is still intact. If there is a raise at the end of the hair, this is a damaged strand that did not complete the hair cycle. Remember that heat and chemicals can be rough on your hair, and look for hair masks and nourishing (leave-in) conditioners.
- Increased hair loss can also be attributed to age. The cells in the scalp are just like the rest of your body; they slow down with time.
Unfortunately, short of surgery (more about this below), there is no way to ‘add more hair’ to the scalp. What you can do though, is to care well for the hair you have to decrease breakage, and look at treatments that encourage growth (stimulating follicles in the telogen phase,) and extend the period in which your hair grows and rests in the hair cycle. Clinical procedures include low level laser therapy, but at-home serums and treatments can be just as effective, if not more, provided they are used continuously.
There are some very effective types of surgery – from scalp reductions (where you in essence cut out bald patches and sew the scalp together leaving a hair-covered scalp) as well hair transplants (where a piece of scalp, from an area where there's plenty of hair, is removed and divided into single hairs or tiny groups of hairs, and are grafted back on to areas where there is no hair). Both methods are time consuming and expensive, but results can be incredible. Whilst not usually available on the NHS, your GP is still a good person to consult if you are considering either. They will be able to explain more about the procedures, and give you an opinion on what might be a suitable option for you.
For more severe hair loss, for example where you can see unexplained bald patches, you again need to begin by consulting your GP. A thorough investigation into the cause of the hair loss needs to be conducted, after which a treatment plan can be established.
To summarise; the first two steps to take to achieve a healthy, full head of hair are:
Encourage new hair growth: read more about the follicle-stimulating Hair Renewal Serum here