Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 4/20/2021
Noticed more hairs than normal on your pillow or in your shower? Although it’s normal to shed old hairs as they reach the end of their growth cycle, losing lots of hair in a short period of time is often a signal that something isn’t right.
Most hair loss in men happens gradually over the course of years or decades. However, some conditions may cause you to rapidly shed hair, either temporarily or permanently.
If you’re rapidly losing hair, it’s important to take action as quickly as possible to stop your hair loss from getting worse.
Below, we’ve explained how rapid hair loss occurs, as well as the factors that might cause you to rapidly shed hair. We’ve also explained what you should do if you’re experiencing rapid hair loss to protect your hair, prevent further shedding and stimulate hair regrowth.
It’s normal to shed between 50 and 100 hairs a day. Losing more hair than this could be a sign that you have a medical condition that causes hair shedding.
One common cause of rapid hair shedding is telogen effluvium -- a form of hair loss that often develops as a result of stress, illness or sudden, significant weight loss.
Sudden, unexpected hair loss can also develop due to nutritional deficiencies, such as iron deficiency anemia.
If you’re rapidly losing your hair and developing a receding hairline or bald spot at your crown, it may be the result of male pattern baldness.
It’s important to seek professional help if you’re rapidly losing your hair. You can do this by talking to your primary care provider, making an appointment with a dermatologist or talking to a healthcare provider online about hair loss treatments.
A variety of different medical conditions can cause rapid hair loss. Some of these, such as male pattern baldness, can cause permanent hair loss around your hairline, crown or entire scalp.
Others may cause temporary hair shedding, meaning your hair will gradually grow back after the underlying issue is treated.
Male pattern baldness, also referred to as androgenetic alopecia, is the most common cause of hair loss in men.
This type of hair loss is caused by a combination of genetic and hormonal factors, which we’ve explained in our guide to DHT and male hair loss.
If you’re prone to male pattern baldness, you’ll usually notice hair loss that affects your hairline and crown (the area at the top of your scalp). Many men with male pattern baldness develop a receding hairline with an M-shaped pattern.
Male pattern baldness usually develops slowly as you age. However, if you’re genetically prone to this form of hair loss, you may notice your hair falling out quite quickly as you enter your 20s, 30s, 40s or 50s.
Hair loss from male pattern baldness is permanent. However, it’s possible to treat, prevent and, in some cases, reverse this form of hair loss with medication if it’s caught in its early stages.
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Telogen effluvium is a form of temporary hair shedding that’s triggered by a specific issue, such as a severe illness or high level of stress.
This type of hair loss occurs when your hair suddenly enters into the telogen (resting) phase of the hair growth process. As your hairs stop growing, they start to fall out all at once, leading to sudden hair loss and visible thinning.
Unlike male pattern baldness, which usually causes hair loss around your hairline or crown, the hair loss from telogen effluvium is diffuse and usually affects your entire scalp.
A variety of things can trigger telogen effluvium, including:
Illnesses, severe infections and surgery
Experiencing significant amounts of stress
Sudden weight loss, especially of 20 pounds or more
Use of certain types of medication, such as beta-blockers or anticoagulants
Hormonal conditions, such as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
Although telogen effluvium hair loss can happen abruptly, it may take several months before this form of hair loss occurs after the after the causative event or illness.
For example, you may suddenly begin to develop this form of hair shedding two to three months after a major surgery, or after recovering from a severe illness.
Hair shedding from telogen effluvium isn’t permanent. Most of the time, your hair will grow back over the course of several months after the underlying issue is treated. Our guide to stress and hair loss goes into more detail about this form of rapid hair loss.
Tinea capitis, or scalp ringworm, is a type of scalp fungus that can affect your scalp. It usually causes your skin to become red, itchy, dry and cracked, with similar symptoms to other fungal infections that can affect your torso, feet and nails.
Scalp ringworm can cause you to shed hair. When this type of infection is severe, it can cause a permanent form of hair loss called scarring alopecia.
Tinea capitis is most common in children and teens, but it can develop at any age. In addition to affecting your scalp, it may spread to your eyebrows and eyelashes.
As a type of fungal infection, tinea capitis is usually treated with oral antifungal medications and antifungal shampoo.
Some nutritional deficiencies may cause you to rapidly lose hair. This type of hair loss is usually temporary, meaning you’ll grow back your hair once the underlying issue is fixed.
One common nutritional cause of hair loss is iron deficiency. As we’ve explained in our guide to iron deficiency and hair loss, a diet that’s low in iron may cause you to shed hair.
Other vitamins and minerals linked to hair loss include magnesium, which plays a role in healthy hair growth, and the B-vitamin biotin, which is important for growing your hair, skin and nails.
It’s usually possible to treat nutritional deficiencies by adding certain foods to your diet or taking nutritional supplements.
If you’re rapidly losing hair, it’s important to take action as quickly as you can to prevent the hair loss from worsening.
Since hair loss has several potential causes, it’s best to talk to an expert to learn more about the most likely cause of your hair loss. You can do this in one of three ways:
Talk to your healthcare provider. If you believe your hair loss may be related to an underlying health issue, such as stress or illness, try reaching out to your primary care provider for assistance.
Your primary care provider may be able to diagnose the underlying issue and prescribe medication or suggest lifestyle changes to improve your health.
Contact a dermatologist. Dermatologists specialize in treating issues that affect your skin, hair, and nails, including hair loss. If you’re losing hair rapidly, a dermatologist will be able to examine your scalp and diagnose the specific issue.
Access hair loss treatments online. If you’d prefer not to visit a healthcare provider in person, you can talk to a healthcare provider about your hair loss and access treatments for hair loss online.
We offer several proven, FDA-approved hair loss treatments through our online platform, including minoxidil and finasteride.
Hair loss, whether it’s rapid or gradual, is treatable. Since rapid hair loss can occur for a range of different reasons, there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment. Based on the cause of your hair loss, your healthcare provider may suggest one or several of the following treatment options.
If your hair loss is caused by an underlying medical condition, such as stress, a hormonal issue or a nutritional deficiency, the most effective way to prevent further hair loss and grow back your hair is to treat the underlying issue.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe medication and/or recommend making certain changes to your habits and lifestyle. If you’re prescribed medication, make sure to follow the instructions provided by your healthcare provider and use it for the entire treatment period.
If your hair loss is related to a medication you use, your healthcare provider may suggest using a different type of medication or adjusting your dosage. It’s important not to make any changes to your use of medication without first talking to your healthcare provider.
In some cases, such as after an injury or surgery, you may simply need to wait for your body to recover before your hair will grow back.
Currently, the FDA has approved two medications, minoxidil and finasteride, as treatments for hair loss:
Minoxidil is a topical medication that works by stimulating blood flow to your scalp and moving hairs into the anagen, or growth, phase of the hair cycle. It’s available over the counter and comes as a liquid solution or foam.
We offer minoxidil online. You’ll need to use this medication one or two times a day to prevent hair loss and stimulate hair growth.
Finasteride is an oral medication that works by stopping your body from producing the hormone DHT, which is responsible for damaging your hair follicles and causing male pattern baldness.
Since finasteride targets DHT, it’s only effective at treating male pattern baldness and won’t treat telogen effluvium or other forms of rapid hair loss.
We offer finasteride online. You’ll need to take this medication every day to keep your DHT levels down and treat hair loss.
Research shows that finasteride and minoxidil are most effective when used together. We offer both of these medications together in our Hair Power Pack.
In some cases, you might need to make certain changes to your habits and lifestyle to stop hair loss and promote hair growth.
For example, if your hair loss is related to stress, changing your lifestyle to minimize stress and anxiety may help to improve hair growth. If you’re losing your hair due to a nutritional deficiency, your healthcare provider’s guidance will be critically important.
While habits and lifestyle changes won’t prevent male pattern baldness, some habits, such as using a hair loss prevention shampoo and avoiding hair care products with harsh or damaging ingredients, may be helpful for promoting hair growth.
We’ve discussed these habits in more detail in our guide to lifestyle changes for improved hair growth.
Rapid hair loss can occur for a variety of reasons, from stress, illness or nutritional deficiencies to more common reasons such as hereditary male pattern baldness.
If you’re losing your hair quickly, it’s important to talk to a qualified healthcare provider as soon as possible. They’ll be able to identify the root cause of your hair loss and recommend options to protect your hair from further shedding.
To protect your hair and stimulate regrowth, you may need to use hair loss medication such as minoxidil or finasteride.
Worried about hair loss? Our guide to the early signs of balding goes into detail about the most common symptoms you may notice if you’re starting to lose your hair.