My Hair is Falling Out — Do I Need to Be Worried?

If you’ve ever taken a shower and gotten out to see a small wad of hair circling the drain and thought —” Yikes! That’s a lot of hair! Should I be worried?” this info is for you.

A drain clogged up with hair isn’t just nasty; it can also be concerning. Is hair loss just a normal part of life, or should you be worried about it?

Here’s some good news for you: According to experts, losing minor amounts of hair isn’t something that causes great concern for most people. With that said, you are correct to want answers, as the clumps heading down your drain might be trying to tell you something about what’s going on in your body.

How much hair loss is normal to lose daily?

It is expected to lose hair each day, and we lose more than we typically think. “We lose 100 to 150 strands a day on average,” says Gretchen Friese, a trichologist. “Some people lose a little less, and some use a little more. It depends where you are with your hair-growth stage.” There are several stages of hair growth: anagen-the growing phase; catagen-the transitional phase where hair begins to release from the follicles; telogen-the resting phase; and exogen-the shedding phase.

Depending on your hair growth stage, you can shed more or less hair. There is no perfect science as to when you will enter each stage of hair growth. However, some evidence shows people are more likely to enter the phase of hair shedding in the fall when they get less vitamin D from the sun and the weather gets colder. You could also lose more hair or notice it more on days you wash your hair or when you pay a little extra attention to your scalp and hair.

How do you know if what you are experiencing is out of the normal or without counting each strand of hair in the sink? Dr. Susan Massick, dermatologist at the Ohio State University, says that losing hair each day is typical; you could lose an unusual amount of hair if you are experiencing “handfuls of hair” or notice easy shedding when you run your hands through your hair. Bald patches around your scalp could also signal you are losing more hair than can be replenished.

What causes hair loss?

Hair loss, when outside the normal range, is usually a symptom of additional going on inside the body. Several different things could lead to the loss of hair, including: 

  • Anemia
  • Hormonal changes, such as being postpartum
  • Thyroid disease
  • Stress
  • Nutritional deficiencies, including lack of protein
  • Vitamin deficiencies, especially vitamins D and A
  • Chemotherapy
  • Medications like beta-blockers and antidepressants

An intense life event, including death in the family or bouts of illnesses like Covid-19, may also be a culprit behind your hair loss. Temporary hair loss, known as telogen effluvium, can also be caused by severe stress to the body, either emotional or physical.

Many who have experienced telogen effluvium following a positive Covid-19 test. In 2021, performer Drake shared on social media that he lost hair as a side effect of Covid. Actress Alyssa Milano also revealed in 2020 that her hair came out in chunks after having the virus. The good news is that hair typically returns to average growth after the body reaches equilibrium.

How do autoimmune conditions affect hair loss?

Although your hair may bounce back following a quick illness or a stressful time, it is also possible for hair loss to be connected to something going off-kilter with your immune system. Lupus, an autoimmune disease that attacks many areas of the body, can lead to hair loss by causing inflammation of the hair follicles and on the scalp and rendering hair, including eyelashes, eyebrows, and facial hair, to thin and fall out.

One of the most well-known conditions that causes hair loss is alopecia, which “causes your immune system to attack the hair follicles [so that] the hairs just fall out, usually in patches, leaving behind smooth skin,” Massick explains. Ricki Lake and Jada Pinkett Smith are among the celebrities who have candidly spoken about living with alopecia.

There is another skin condition you should be alert of: If you notice irritated, itchy skin on your scalp, you may have scalp psoriasis, an autoimmune condition. Although there is no cure for the condition, there are several treatments to make it more manageable.

Hair loss can also be genetic

Sometimes, genetics are the root of the loss of hair. Female- or male-pattern baldness, called androgenetic alopecia, is the most common cause of hair loss. It is caused by the inherited sensitivity to dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, a hormone. 

This hair loss can commence any time after puberty, and where it occurs can look different in women and men. Women can find their center part widening over time, with men usually seeing a receding hairline.

Important to note — For a long time, it was believed that baldness genes were inherited from your mother’s father (especially if you were a man). However, that isn’t the case. The genes for hair loss can be inherited from both sides — so one grandparent with a bald head doesn’t necessarily mean your hair will do the same. 

The Food and Drug Administration has two medications approved for genetic hair loss: Propecia and Rogaine. Additionally, doctors may prescribe Avodart and spironolactone off-label.

How can I know if my hair loss is something I should be concerned with?

Generally, a little hair loss isn’t a huge deal, but if you’re noticing a significant shift in the amount of hair you’re losing, you should go to your primary doctor to be tested. They can rule out some significant causes of hair loss, like thyroid conditions and deficiencies. This is particularly important if you are experiencing any symptoms besides shedding hair that might reveal something more serious.

According to Friese, it could also be time to consult a dermatologist. “I dermatologist will focus more on your hair loss, because our scalp is skin.” While hair loss can often be treated by first addressing the underlying issue, a dermatologist can determine if you need more treatment, like corticosteroids.