How Much Hair Loss Is Normal?

Mar 15, 2017 at 8:00 a.m. ET
Image: Michaela Early/SheKnows
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You finish showering, look down and see a surprisingly large clump of hair near the drain. Should you be concerned?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, we lose about 50 to 100 hairs per day naturally. When people lose significantly more than this, the medical term is called telogen effluvium, or excessive hair shedding.

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The causes include weight loss of 20 or more pounds, stress, recovery from an illness or operation or even something as simple as stopping your birth control. The good news? This type of hair loss is almost always temporary.

Hair loss, or anagen effluvium, has separate causes, which include harsh hair products, reactions of the immune system or hereditary loss. And unlike hair shedding, hair loss does not stop until the underlying cause is addressed, according to the AAD.

So how do you know what’s normal? Dr. Arielle Nagler, an assistant professor in the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center, spoke to SheKnows about different types of hair loss. Natural hair loss — the 50 to 100 hairs you lose per day — occurs any time you pull on your hair, brush your hair, or just move about, she said. That’s because your hair is constantly transitioning from the growth phase to the fall-out phase, Nagler explained, so this hair loss is a natural process that happens over time.

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But when you see any major changes in hair loss, it’s time to see a doctor. This could include unusual patterns of hair loss or itching and burning on the scalp, Nagler said. Any number of causes could be to blame: stress, medical illness or that tight ponytail.

In fact, tight ponytails or updos can actually cause something called traction alopecia, a condition that can become irreversible over time. And while you may be tempted to just lay off the updos and wait for hair to grow back, Nagler stressed the importance of seeing a dermatologist to help you decipher the underlying cause of any of these changes, since other kinds of hair loss — including ones that require medical attention — could look quite similar.

“Diagnosing what is causing hair loss is an art, so if you’re concerned, it’s important to see a dermatologist,” Nagler said. “A lot of it can be reversed or stopped if caught early enough.”

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Bottom line? That clump in your shower is probably part of the normal 100 or so hairs you lose each day — but if you notice any major changes, see your doctor. And maybe save that tight ponytail for a special occasion.

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