It can sometimes feel like your hair is everywhere — in your shower drain, in your hairbrush, on your sheets, on your clothes — but just because you’re seeing it shed doesn’t necessarily mean you’re experiencing hair loss. You’re supposed to lose about 100 strands every single day, no matter how you wash or style your hair, Dr Amitabh Kumar, skin specialist, Max Hospital, Delhi says. But when you notice your hair’s not growing back after it sheds, or if you’re losing clumps that seem outside the norm, it’s usually a sign of or reaction to something else (or in many cases, multiple things) happening in your body, he says.
“In a lot of cases, dermatologists can trace your intense shedding back to telogen effluvium, a hair loss condition caused by a big change in your body, which can be anything from stress to starting a new medication. It’ll be pretty tough for you to self-diagnose, so seeing a doctor and telling him/her everything that’s going on with you will be crucial,” Dr Kumar says.
The trauma of seeing your hair fall can bring out a range of emotions, from helplessness to just plain confusion. Look out for these probable reasons for your hair loss and hair shedding.
Having a baby
People who just had a baby usually experience periods of ‘aggressive shedding’ about three to four months after giving birth, Dr Kumar. Estrogen levels are usually higher during pregnancy (which is why your hair is thicker), and then they drop suddenly after you give birth, he says. It’s very common, and usually the person’s hair will grow back to its normal fullness by the time the baby turns one.
Someone with a thyroid condition like hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism can experience hair loss, Dr Kumar says. “There are hormone receptors at the hair follicles, so in women where there’s an androgen hormone environment, that can contribute to the hair loss,” he says. Unfortunately, some thyroid drugs can also contribute to hair loss.
Day to day stress doesn’t usually cause hair loss, but when something significantly stressful happens (like the death of a loved one) it can definitely cause hair loss, skin specialist with AMRI Hospital, Prasanjit Bhattacharya says. “Stress that leads to loss of sleep or weight alteration could alter your cortisol to the point where it would also alter your normal hair cycle,” he says.
Tight or damaging hairstyles
“Any constant hairstyle that pulls the hair back so there’s pressure at the root — like ponytails — can cause traction alopecia,” Dr Bhattacharya says. Wearing extensions or wigs that clip in or are glued to existing hair puts more stress on your strands. Other treatments like bleach, dye, and perms can weaken your hair.
Male and female pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss and is genetic, Dr Bhattacharya says. “It’s a complete myth that it all comes from your mother’s side, so everyone can stop blaming their mother for their hair problems.” Hereditary baldness affects is usually caused by many other factors.
Sudden weight loss or diet change
When you lose a lot of weight rapidly, your body counts that as an inciting event, Dr Kumar says. Making a big diet change, like cutting out an entire food group, can also make your hair shed because your body isn’t getting the same nutrients that it did before. If you did make a big change, Dr Kumar says tracking your food for just three consistent days can be a helpful way to assess whether or not your new diet is balanced. “It’s usually easy to figure out where you can add a protein boost, like some more curd and milk,” he says.
Hair loss is a huge side effect for so many different types of prescription medications: Anti-convulsants, blood pressure and tons more — even OTC heartburn medications. These meds can cause chronic hair loss that’s really difficult to treat unless you find a medication that won’t cause hair loss. Dr Kumar says, “If the hair loss is really bugging you, you’ll need to work with your doctor to figure out whether you have other options — or if the benefits of the medication outweigh the hair loss.”
An autoimmune disease
If you notice your hair falling out in clear patches that aren’t growing back, this could be a sign that you have an autoimmune form of hair loss called, alopecia areata. Unlike telogen effuvium, this is considered “scarring” hair loss, because the hairs don’t grow back.