How Much Hair Loss Is Normal?

Hair loss can be worrying, but a certain amount of hair loss is normal.

How much hair loss is normal in a day?

The American Academy of Dermatologists says that normal daily hair loss is in the order of 50 – 100, whereas other experts say that the normal range extends up to 150 strands of hair per day. There actually is little empirical data available on the hair loss count, as tracking every single hair a person loses for a longer period would be a very difficult task. 50 to 150 may seem like a wide range, but it really isn’t, considering that the average scalp holds 80,000 to 120,000 hairs. Of course, you gain what you lose — normal hair loss is compensated with roughly the same number of new hair that grows on your scalp every day.   

Gender, ethnicity, age, and the season of the year may also influence how much hair is being lost. Women tend to lose less than men and African Americans lose only about half as much as their Caucasian compatriots. Younger men lose hair slightly slower than older men. Hair loss in the winter is higher than in the summer, and so on. Normal hair loss also fluctuates and in the short-term is temporarily affected by weak health, poor nutrition, external pollution, medicines you take and chemicals you may come in touch with. 

 

As a ground rule, hair loss of fewer than 150 strands shouldn’t concern you. In fact, you are very unlikely to accurately measure hair loss anyway. If you suspect that you have pattern hair loss — a genetic condition that affects nearly 80 percent of Caucasian men — speak to a dermatologist to get your hair problem diagnosed.  Another method is to regularly take pictures of your frontal hairline just after you had a haircut and compare these pictures over time. A doctor can also suggest medication and treatment methods that can stop pattern hair loss. 

 

How much hair loss is normal when washing?

We only notice hair loss when we are actually dealing with our hair, i.e., washing, drying, and brushing it. During the remainder of the day, we don’t pay much attention. So, concerns about hair loss typically start with a look in the shower pan, towel or brush. The longer and darker your hair is, the easier you’ll notice and get alarmed.  As for hair washing, keep in mind that many of the hairs that end up in the shower pan or towel may have loosened hours or even a day earlier (especially if your hair is long and you use sticky hairstyle gels or foams), depending on when you last washed your hair. 

Given all these factors, how much hair is lost when washing varies widely from person to person, and there is no general data available on this issue. However, if you notice that more than 100 strands of hair come off every time you wash your hair (assuming that you wash at least every other day) for a period of several weeks, see your doctor or a dermatologist for further check-ups.  

 

How much hair loss is normal when brushing?

This question faces the same difficulties as the previous one. Hair length, frequency of brushing, hairstyle products used, etc. all are factors that will lead to large differences in hair perceived loss count. Therefore, the same rule of thumb applies: if more than 100 hairs show up on your brush every single time for a period of several weeks, you’ll need to seek medical help as this level of hair loss could no longer be within normal boundaries.

 

How much hair loss is normal after major bodily trauma, such as surgery or illness?

Severe illness, an operation, a bad nutrition-poor diet, radiation, exposure to certain chemicals, and other stressful events that traumatize the body can cause acute and abnormally high hair loss, especially if the stress lasts for a longer period. This kind of hair loss is called telogen effluvium and can affect people of all ages. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause have a similar effect of increasing the rate of hair loss for a while. 

Such stress-related hair loss typically is only temporary. Hair loss slows down again to normal levels and new hair makes up for the earlier losses once the body recovers from the stress event.  

A psychological stress shock, like loss of a loved one or extreme trauma (being a crime victim, for example) can also cause acute hair loss by triggering an autoimmune disorder called alopecia areata. This disorder, whose occurrence in the U.S. population is around 2 percent, spurs the body to attack hair follicles on the scalp. Circular hair loss then appears in random spots across the scalp. There is no effective medication available yet, but in 34 to 50 percent of cases, most lost hair eventually regrows.    

 

For the stress factors discussed here, the rate of hair loss varies widely. Malnutrition will cause hair loss of 200 or more per day and progress very gradually. In contrast, some chemotherapy patients go completely bald within a month or two after treatment start.  

In summary, if you experience hair loss of greater than 150 strands per day for a prolonged period of time or if you repeatedly notice unusual quantities of hair in your brush or towel, ask a dermatologist or other healthcare specialist for help.

 

References

  1. Wasko, Carina A., et al. “Standardizing the 60-Second Hair Count.” Archives of Dermatology, vol. 144, no. 6, 1 June 2008, https://doi.org/10.1001/archderm.144.6.759. Accessed 5 Dec. 2019.
  2. Kovacevic, Maja, et al. “Novel Shampoo Reduces Hair Shedding by Contracting the Arrector Pili Muscle via the Trace Amine?associated Receptor.” Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 2 July 2019, https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.13054. Accessed 4 Dec. 2019.
  3. Nalluri, Rajani, and Matthew Harries. “Alopecia in General Medicine.” Clinical Medicine, vol. 16, no. 1, Feb. 2016, pp. 74–78, https://doi.org/10.7861/clinmedicine.16-1-74. Accessed 5 Dec. 2019.
  4. Dhurat, Rachita, and Punit Saraogi. “Hair Evaluation Methods: Merits and Demerits.” International Journal of Trichology, vol. 1, no. 2, 2009, p. 108, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2938572/, https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-7753.58553. Accessed 5 Dec. 2019.

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