Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 7/22/2021
Healthy hair growth is a thing. And so is hair shedding.
First, some nerdy things you may not know about your hair: it’s a fast-growing tissue increasing by about 0.35mm in length every 24-hours and your scalp typically has 80,000 to 120,000 strands of hair.
Of those thousands of strands, around 100 are lost every single day.
If you’re alarmed by the amount of hair you potentially lose on a daily basis, don’t be—after all, you most likely haven’t noticed any lost strands from previous days.
However, when you find that simply running your fingers through your hair tends to take off a few strands, or that you often leave a trail of hair strands around your home, clothes or comb—you just may be experiencing hair shedding.
Read on for all the hairy details of shedding, including what it is, possible reasons for your hair loss and the most effective ways to treat it.
As mentioned above, hair shedding is perfectly normal. This type of hair loss results from the cycles of growth your hair goes through.
To start, your hair begins to grow during the anagen phase. Here, the hair follicle produces a shaft during a process that could take between two to six years to achieve full length.
And at any point in time, around eighty-five to ninety percent of the hairs on your scalp are in this stage.
The catagen phase follows, and for a few weeks, your hair remains in a transitional state before passing on to the next phase known as the telogen stage. In this third phase, the hair stops growing and slips into a resting stage while it is at its full length.
Here, the scalp sheds upwards of 50 to 100 hairs a day due to a stressful event. This event causes the hairs to move from the growing or anagen phase into the telogen or resting phase prematurely.
Eventually, when the hairs re-enter the anagen phase, it results in hair shedding because telogen hairs have been moved out of the hair follicle to make way for new growth.
If you are currently experiencing excessive hair shedding, there’s a big chance you went through a stressful event about two or three months prior that is now triggering your hair loss.
This event may include any of the following:
Your hair shedding could be a side effect from a medication you’re taking to manage an illness or other health condition.
This could include drugs like androgens which support hormonal deficiencies, retinoids known for managing acne, beta-blockers that manage high-blood pressure, antidepressants and anticonvulsants.
Serious physical strain may jumble up your hair’s growth cycle, ultimately leading to hair shedding.
Factors could include surgical trauma, a high fever, chronic illness and extreme weight loss.
Emotional stress has also been linked to hair shedding, but the link between the conditions has been difficult to establish with certainty.
In addition to a number of factors, your hair is a reflection of what you eat. This means that when you aren’t eating correctly, your hair might noticeably shed as a form of protest.
Severe deficiencies in nutrients such as protein, fatty acids and zinc can cause some hair shedding. Likewise, severely restricting your calorie intake might also increase the chances of shedding.
While science is still giving this a once-over, there is a chance that the ultraviolet rays produced by the sun can lead to hair shedding during the telogen phase of growth. This is likely due to the fact that sunlight can cause some alterations in hair structure which can affect the growth cycle.
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While you may find it difficult to distinguish between hair shedding and hair loss, it’s important to note that both conditions are different and may lead to different outcomes as far as your hair is concerned.
While hair shedding can result from a stressful event that causes hair strands to fall out, hair loss is the direct result of a factor that prevents the hair from growing. This may be caused by your genes, immune system, a tight hairstyle or harsh hair care products.
Until the cause of hair loss is remedied, it’s unlikely that hair will experience considerable growth.
For more on this, read our guide about anagen effluvium (which is hair loss that occurs during the hair growth phase).
The good thing about hair shedding is that after a period of time, you’ll notice your hair return to its normal fullness. This is because hair shedding is usually self-correcting after a period of six to nine months.
However, there are times when hair shedding can be long lasting, especially when whatever caused the stressful event that led to the loss of hair remains with you. In such cases, there are different treatment methods you may adopt to manage the condition. These include:
Minoxidil works even if a nutrient deficiency or strong medication caused your hair shedding. This FDA-approved medication helps ensure that your hair gets the right amount of nutrients and oxygen, along with the blood supply it requires to grow fuller and longer.
Minoxidil is available as a topical solution or minoxidil foam.
Like minoxidil, this medication is also approved for managing hair loss. Finasteride however has a different way of working, and stops hormones that could potentially cause hair loss on the scalp and across the body.
It’s wise to consult with a healthcare professional to determine which treatment might be right for you. You can also check out this guide on minoxidil and finasteride to learn more about the pros and cons of each medication.
Once you’ve landed on your best treatment option, you can easily obtain both medications online and have them delivered to you.
Sometimes, hair shedding may be the result of inflammation in the body, such as with alopecia areata. In such cases, corticosteroids may lend their anti-inflammatory properties to manage this condition while having the added benefit of helping to ease any pain on the scalp which can sometimes accompany hair shedding.
If you have quarter-sized patches of hair loss around your scalp, consult with a healthcare professional to see if corticosteroids might help.
Eating foods with the right amount of zinc, protein and other nutrients necessary for the hair to grow is another way to manage hair shedding.
One way to help ensure you’re getting enough hair-growth-supporting vitamins is through supplements.
Hair shedding doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, as mentioned above, you’re likely to shed several strands per day.
However, when losing a few strands turns into excessive hair shedding, it may be time to consider whether a physically traumatizing event, poor diet or even sun damage may be to blame for your hair loss.
Thankfully, hair shedding can resolve on its own, or with the help of easy solutions like stress reduction.
If your condition persists, turns into severe hair loss or simply seems more than the norm, consulting with a healthcare professional could be your best place to start on your journey back to a full head of hair.