By Dr. Abhishek Pilani, MD Dermatologist, Founder- Assure Clinics
We all lose hair from time to time, but it is good to know when routine hair loss translates into something more serious. Our hair grows and perishes in phases, and everything from nutrition and stress to hygiene and beauty products have a role to play in how much hair we lose on a daily basis. According to the American Academy of Dermatologists, it’s pretty normal to shed anywhere between 50 to 100 strands of hair per day. As for people with longer hair strands, losing them becomes more noticeable. After all, as per data, there are about 100,000 hair follicles — or more — on each person’s scalp, so the loss of some 100 or so hair strands a day doesn’t really alter a person’s appearance.
Looks apart, hair loss could be symptomatic of other, sometimes more serious, health issues. One needs to be aware of the sudden visible increase in the number of hair one loses in a day or an obvious patch on the scalp or beard where there is a sudden loss of hair. Having said that, unusual hair loss doesn’t happen overnight, it is a gradual process and can be controlled if closely monitored and treated on time.
Women suffer more than men
While hair loss affects everybody, shedding hair is a bigger issue with women than men. Apparently, 12 percent of women are destined to have experienced abnormal hair loss by age 30 as per statistics. And it’s a number that is, unfortunately, multiplying due to the pressures of modern life. Estrogen imbalance also plays a major role. Female pattern baldness, for instance, though largely genetic, begins when Estrogen levels drop. Women are also more likely than men to experience bouts of hair shedding due to life events like pregnancy and menopause.
Yet, are they destined to suffer in silence? Of course not. Lifestyle changes like adequate nutrition through food and supplements, regular exercise and advanced hair treatments are there to help women through this difficult transitional phase of their lives.
Hair loss vs hair shedding
Let’s get the difference straight. When the body sheds significantly more hair every day, it is called excessive hair shedding or telogen effluvium in medical terminology. Under stress, the body goes into a “conservation type mode,” shifting the hair cycle so that more strands get pushed into the resting phase, leading to more shedding. In this state, the body’s energy reserve is diverted to core essential activities needed for survival and away from other functions such as good skin, blood flow, growth, and reproduction. Now shedding hair can itself cause a lot of stress, making it a vicious cycle that necessitates immediate attention.
On the other hand, hair loss occurs when something stops the hair from growing. The medical term for this condition is anagen effluvium. The most common causes of hair loss are hereditary, an imbalance in the immune system, drugs, and treatments, hairstyles that pull on the hair, or chemical-laden hair-care products.
A good dermatologist can tell you whether you have hair loss or excessive hair shedding. Some people have both. There are enough treatments out there for hair loss. The sooner it begins, the better the prognosis.
When to see a doctor?
If you’re experiencing unprecedented hair loss with symptoms like a gradual thinning on the top of your crown, the appearance of patchy or bald spots on your scalp, or a general full-body hair loss, they could be signs of an underlying health condition. Added factors like stress, medication, and synthetic hair treatments can all aggravate hair loss. A professional assessment can put your mind at ease and save your beautiful tresses.