Excessive Hair Shedding and How to Combat It
One of the top questions that I get via social media and in real life is about excessive hair shedding. I’ve personally dealt with excessive hair shedding at one point and it is a very scary feeling. Luckily, I was able to identify the trigger (excessive intake of Biotin) and stop the shedding. I am no doctor, no trichologist, but I do know a lot about hair. With all of my advice on shedding, I always suggest that the person advise their doctor as excessive shedding is a sign of a hormonal imbalance or an issue with their overall health.
Shedding vs. Breakage
Shedding and breakage oftentimes are used interchangeably; however, they are entirely different issues. While they are both alarming, breakage is only an issue with your hair while shedding is an issue with your hair and your body. Shedding is actually a normal part of the hair growth cycle. The average person sheds between 50-100 strands a day. Some people may shed less or more than that, so it’s important to know what is normal for you to identify abnormal shedding. Shedded strands are usually as long as the length of your hair and will always include a white or clear bulb at the end. Broken strands are shorter than the length of your hair and doesn’t have a white/clear bulb on the end of it. Click on the links to learn more about the hair growth cycle and breakage .
If you’re certain that you’re experiencing abnormal shedding, take a moment to calm down. Woosaaaahhhh. Stressing over your hair can actually cause it to shed more. The very first questions that I ask when giving advice on how to combat excessive hair shedding are:
1. Have you taken any new medication or vitamins lately?
2. Has your diet changed?
3. Anything stressful or traumatic occurred recently?
4. When was the last time you’ve visited a doctor?
5. Postpartum, Perimenopausal or Menopausal?
Assessing what has changed in your daily routine usually helps to pinpoint the cause of the abnormal shedding. I’ve found that the cause is usually a change in diet, vitamins, or medication. With many medications, it can suck to find that excess shedding is a side effect. Recently, a person close to me was experiencing excess shedding due to their medication. When they asked their doctor for an alternative prescription, the doctor refused and wrote off the excess shedding as perimenopausal even though they hadn’t experienced excess shedding prior to the medication. Instead of changing the prescription the doctor told them to purchase 5,000 mcgs of biotin, iron pills, vitamin c pills, a slew of other vitamins, and the cherry on top, Rogaine. Bruhhh!!! The recommendation is a bit excessive and is more of a “let’s try to see what sticks” type of agenda. Plus the doctor diagnosed them as being perimenopausal without running any tests. The person actually started to see this doctor a few months ago. It would be in their best interest to get a second opinion. It’s important to not only get a second opinion, but to have a primary care doctor that you’ve been with for a great while, who knows your medical history, and that you trust.
As I mentioned earlier, abnormal shedding can also be a sign of something more serious. Excessive shedding can be a symptom of diseases including but not limited to lupus, thyroid disease, and autoimmune disease alopecia areata. This isn’t to scare anyone, but to bring awareness to how the health of your hair is a reflection of the health of your body. A healthy nutrient and protein rich diet are crucial in having a normal growth cycle. Deficiencies in your diet will definitely change the rate your hair sheds. Earlier last year, I played with the idea of being a vegan. Having a protein rich diet was one of my main concerns as I did not want it to affect my hair. Doing research helped to prevent this. With any new diet, make sure that it still contains adequate amounts of macronutrients (healthy fats, protein, and carbs) and micronutrients to keep your hair healthy. Limiting the use of alcohol and smoking helps as well.
Other Forms of Shedding
Male/female pattern baldness is usually genetic and can sometimes be caused by an internal imbalance. Saw Palmetto may be able to help with this but make sure that you consult your doctor before taking them. Traction alopecia is another form of shedding. However, it’s not caused by internal factors. Trauma from tight hairstyles, stress, or incorrect chemical processes can cause trauma to the hair follicle which can cause hair shedding and/or follicular damage. If too much trauma is caused, the follicle can fibrous/scar which prevents it from producing hair. A thin temple or nape is usually a sign of this trauma. If you find that you’re experiencing this, assess your hair care practices and change them accordingly. Limiting chemical processes like relaxers can help to prevent follicular damage as well. Rogaine/minoxidil has been proven to rejuvenate dormant hair follicles if they haven’t fibrosed over. However, it’s best to advise your a physician or trichologist to see if this is the best option for you. Lightly oiling the affected area with jojoba oil mixed in with a few drops of a stimulating essential oil like eucalyptus, peppermint, or rosemary oil is a natural alternative and has worked for a lot of people that I’ve recommended this to.