Everyone loses hair from time to time. It could happen during your morning shower, while you’re blowing it dry, or when you give it a quick brush—and that’s totally normal.
“On average, we lose fifty to a hundred hairs a day,” says Francesca Fusco, MD, a New York City dermatologist who specializes in hair loss. “That’s just hair going through its cycles, and there will be a new one to replace it.”
But when your hair starts falling out consistently in large amounts, you start noticing bald patches, or your hairline starts to recede in places it didn’t before, you may be dealing with something more serious.
While hair loss may seem like a superficial problem, it can take a toll on a person emotionally—especially for women, according to a 2015 review of research. Because it can be such a huge part of your identity, losing your locks can lower your self-esteem, make you feel depressed, and get in the way of your relationships with other people.
But to fight it, you need to know why your tresses are looking sparse in the first place. Here, dermatologists and other specialists explain why your hair is falling out—and what you can do to restore its health, volume, and shine.
1Pregnancy, surgery, and other stressful events
Telogen effluvium is a phenomenon that occurs after pregnancy, major surgery, drastic weight loss, or extreme stress, in which you shed large amounts of hair every day, usually when shampooing, styling, or brushing. It can also be a side effect of certain medications, such as antidepressants, beta-blockers, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. During telogen effluvium, hair shifts faster than usual from its growing phase into the “resting” phase before moving quickly into the shedding, or telogen, phase.
The symptoms: Women with telogen effluvium typically notice hair loss six weeks to three months after a stressful event. At its peak, you may lose handfuls of hair.
The tests: There are no tests for telogen effluvium, but your doctor may ask you about recent life events and look for small “club-shaped” bulbs on the fallen hair’s roots. The bulbs mean the hair has gone through a complete cycle of growth, suggesting that the cycle may have sped up due to stress.
The treatments: In some cases, such as after pregnancy or major surgery, you may have to bide your time until the hair loss slows. If medication is the culprit, talk to your doctor about lowering your dosage or switching drugs. If it’s stress-related, do your best to reduce anxiety. These natural anxiety remedies may do the trick.