When Should You Be Concerned About Hair Shedding?

It's a common scenario. You take a long and luxurious shower, wash your hair and deep condition, and you're feeling so fresh and new. Then you happen to glance down at your shower drain and gasp to see a gathering of hair strands that just left your head. There are so many, you feel mildly startled because you think that just cannot be normal.

Actually, it's completely standard to shed many strands of hair daily, and probably way more than you may think. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, it's entirely normal to lose 50 to 100 hair strands each day out of the tens of thousands of strands on your head. Since you're scrubbing your hair with water and shampoo, hairs can fall out at the follicle root, especially if you have any tangles and run your fingers through wet hair. In addition, you may already have hair strands that have fallen out but are resting on your scalp, and these also fall to the shower floor.

However, if you find that you are losing more than this daily, you might have excessive hair shedding, which can occur for a multitude of reasons. 

Causes of hair shedding

Each strand of hair lives between two and seven years as your individual hairs follow a life cycle pattern. While everyone sheds hair daily, certain life events can cause you to shed hair excessively. Stress is a common cause of losing hair. When you undergo severe stress, such as a death of a loved one, job loss, or divorce, hair growth can be disrupted and you can shed hair at a much higher rate than what is considered normal. 

Sometimes health issues can cause you to lose hair. If you've recently given birth, lost more than 20 pounds, or had a recent surgery, illness, or a fever, it's not uncommon to shed more hair than usual. It's usually temporary and your hair will go back to its normal growth pattern when your body is stronger. After having a baby, it can take a full nine months to recover and resume your regular hair growth pattern. 

If you undergo severe stress for an ongoing period, it's possible to shed more hair than usual while you're stressed out. Medical professionals can help determine when you've shed too much.

Signs that you may be losing too much hair

While it's difficult to manually count how many strands of hair you shed each day, there are some signs to be aware of if you suspect abnormal hair shedding. If you notice way more hair in your shower than ever before, or if it seems alarmingly more than it ever used to be, you may be shedding excessively. The same goes for what gets left on your brush or even your hands when you run your fingers through it.

"Hair loss can be caused by stress, hormonal changes, childbirth, thyroid issues, medications, vitamin deficiencies, excessive weight loss, and some autoimmune disorders," says trichologist Dr. Gretchen Friese, who advises people to consider what is happening in their lives before worrying (via InStyle). Dermatologists can help determine whether a patient has excessive hair shedding or another type of hair loss.

Friese says to first consider whether you've been ill, had food poisoning, started a new medication or changed an existing one, drastically cut down your food, especially protein, or if you might be perimenopausal. If the shedding worsens with these conditions, your hair seems thinner than it ever was, or you notice bald patches on your scalp, it's worth a visit to your doctor. If you can likely pinpoint the issue — perhaps through blood work — you can see if the hair shedding corrects itself in a few months and consult with a medical professional from there.