The other day, I received an email from someone asking me if I could help her to determine “why I shed so much hair.” Needless to say, I needed a lot more information before I could even begin to guess or to pinpoint what possibly might be the cause. There are many reasons for hair loss and shedding, but below I’ll go over some of the questions I asked her and will also tell you how the answers might help to indicate the causes (or causes) of the excess shedding.
Have I Always Shed A Lot Of Hair Or Been A Heavy Shedder?: The reason that you need to ask yourself this question is because some people have a higher “normal” shed level than others. Basically, it’s considered “normal” for approximately ten percent of the hair that you have on your head at any given time to go into the “resting” or “shedding” phrase. So obviously someone with a very thick head of hair will have a higher number in their ten percent. Someone with a sparse head of hair would have a lower “typical daily shed” which would not really affect the over all appearance of their hair.
Typically if your shedding is “normal” for you, then your would have always been like this. You likely had thick hair even as a child and although you may not have noticed at the time (because children really don’t pay attention to these types of things) your mom may have gotten a lot of hair in the brush when she combed your hair. It’s often only when we worry about aging that we start noticing these things. However, with that said, if the appearance of your hair looks more thin or sparse and you are starting to notice more shed hair, then this combination is one that you should watch.
Have Their Been Any Changes In My Medication, Health, Or Scalp That Could Be Causing The Shedding?: Often times, changes or shocks to the body can cause a condition called telogen effluvium (TE) that causes much more than the “normal” ten percent of hair follicles to go into the resting phase at one time. Therefore, you get a lot of hair coming out at once. Usually though, you can go back about 2-3 months and pinpoint what is called the “trigger” or the change in your body that caused these changes in your hair. Maybe you became pregnant or gave birth. Perhaps you started or stopped a medication. Maybe you were ill, stressed, or had surgery. Many medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid issues, PCOS, and adrenal burnout (as well as many other conditions) can affect your hair. Or, perhaps you’ve noticed changes or damage to your scalp or skin. Any of these things can cause for your hair cycles to reset and as the result, you’ll see some shedding a few months later.
Am I At The Age Where I Would See Genetic Hair Changes?: Some people see genetic changes in their hair or the presence of androgens as early as late puberty or around the age of 18. This is sometimes the late adolescence period where those who are genetically vulnerable to hair thinning will start to see the first shedding or vulnerability in their hair. In short, some individuals are just very sensitive to the increases of decreases in hormones. That’s why some will see this process start earlier than others. (Although the majority notice it more as they reach middle age or so.)
It’s said that over ninety percent of all hair thinning or changes are related to genetics or AGA (androgenic alopecia.) And while not everyone has textbook AGA, many hair loss or shedding issues have at least some androgenic underlying issue or component. (Often you’ll see more fine regrowth regrow which makes your volume noticeably thinner.)
Many people develop a sensitivity to androgens which becomes worse as we age. There are many misconceptions about this. People assume that only men have AGA. This is totally false. People also assume that folks with AGA have too much testosterone or not enough estrogen. Again, not true. (What these folks have is a sensitivity to the fact that the substances are there, not that there are too many of them.) And, there’s a misconception that there’s little you can do but whip out the wigs and toupees.
Hair loss treatment has come such a long way. But, the first step is determining why you are shedding in the first place and then aggressively meeting this challenge head on. Because the longer you have this problem, the harder it is to regrow the hair and get it to acceptable levels again. While you’re determining the cause of your loss, it never hurts to combat inflammation of the scalp (which typically will be seen along side shedding) and do everything that you can to stimulate healthy regrowth.