You could make a small wig out of all the hairs you can gather from your hair brush and the shower drain? No need to panic. Losing more hair than usual in autumn is pretty normal.
Somewhere between September and November I seem to lose more hair than our dog Pepper. Which is quite exceptional, really, as I often wonder how on earth he still has such a thick coat of fur when I can spot his black hairs everywhere on our pale floors, half an hour after hoovering. Still, I’m not too worried about my own hair loss. (Better not to: stress can trigger hair loss).
On average we lose 100 hairs a day but at the beginning of autumn and spring we tend to lose a bit more. Research has shown that most hair falls out in autumn because in summer the number of telogen hairs – the hairs that are in the resting phase – is highest. They start falling out after three to four months, so roughly when the trees start losing their leaves. A second, not so high peak occurs in April.
“Depending on the season, you can lose a little more or a little less than hundred hairs a day,” says doctor Ingrid van Riet, dermatologist at Carpe in Antwerp, whose hair clinic helps people with hair problems. “You need not worry about that hair loss: it’s not a huge amount and it recovers itself.”
What if you are losing a lot more than 100 hairs a day?
If you are losing a lot of hair, you are most likely suffering from telogen effluvium, temporary hair loss that often occurs after pregnancy, menopause or a serious illness like covid-19. “From one day to the next, you lose 300 to 400 hairs a day. They come loose at the slightest touch. That massive hair loss often has an underlying, non-genetic cause. Thyroid problems or iron deficiency often cause it. Other deficiencies or hormones can also play a role. As can a major stress on the body, such as covid-19, a severe flu or being anesthetized. That form of stress can cause temporary hair loss some three months later.”
The good news: your hair will grow back eventually. But “you need to be very patient for at least three months to half a year. That’s the cycle a hair goes through from the time it stops growing until it falls out.”
Do supplements help?
Although the problem generally solves itself, a lot of people are tempted to invest in products that promise to help with hair loss. Like nutritional supplements.
A healthy diet generally provides enough building blocks for our body to build up keratin, the protein that makes up your hair. “Vitamin B6, zinc, amino acids such as cystine and arginine help. You can get them through a healthy diet, or you can take supplements for three to four months. Supplements do not stop hair loss but they do support the growth of new hairs.” (A deficiency can be traced with a blood test.)
Do shampoos, tonics and other products work?
Don’t expect miracles from shampoos and other rinse-off products. “Shampoos and conditioners can improve hair quality but don’t stay long enough on your scalp to act on hair loss.”
However, a leave-on product can help because it can penetrate the scalp, where the hair root is. “Medical lotions either act on the blood circulation, making it easier for the hair to absorb nutrients. Or they act on hormones.” Like prescription-only ingredient minoxidil. “Minoxidil is a hormonal treatment: the ingredient counteracts the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone that leads to chronic hair loss. If you stop the treatment, the hair loss returns. As with all hormonal hair loss treatments.”
Over-the-counter tonics and serums often contain a minoxidil derivative. “Like aminexil.” But they are less potent. “Massaging in a product like that every day can help a little but I personally think it’s better to go for the strong stuff right away.”
So does massaging products in help? “Massaging the scalp stimulates blood circulation. This allows the hair to absorb nutrients better. But massaging does not stop telogen effluvium because it is caused from within.”
If you suffer from long-term hair loss, go see a dermatologist or hair clinic. A professional can determine what is causing your hair loss and what treatments might work.
Good to know…
Your hairstyle can also lead to hair loss. “Poorly placed extensions, tight braids, dreadlocks and very hard brushings create constant traction to the hair root, which can lead to hair loss. For instance, people who have been wearing dreadlocks for years can develop a receding hairline over time.”