With all the time, care, and money we put into our tresses, it can be discouraging to see clumps of them come out in the shower. Not only can this mean that our hair is thinning or becoming less voluminous—something we naturally expect with age—but it can also signify a potential medical condition. And that, of course, is scary. But those two things aren’t always the case. Read on to learn from dermatologists about why you may be losing more hair than usual right now. Plus, they share how to encourage regrowth and when to see a professional.
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Hair loss is somewhat like a headache or upset stomach in that it can be caused by a range of factors, from the fairly insignificant to the highly serious.
“Hair loss can be caused by a variety of underlying diseases, such as alopecia or stress,” says Cory Gaskins, BSc, MD, CCFP, director of cosmetic medicine and dermatology at SkinCV. “Hormonal imbalances can cause hair loss due to the changes in hormone levels that they cause. Autoimmune diseases like lupus can cause hair loss because the body attacks its own healthy cells, including those in the hair follicles.” Additionally, both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can lead to hair loss because they impact the thyroid, which affects hair growth.
Genetics also comes into play here. “If your parents or grandparents had a lot of hair loss, it’s more likely you will too,” says Cheryl Rosen, director of dermatology at BowTied Life. You’ll even want to pay attention to nutritional deficiencies, such as iron, zinc, and biotin, and aesthetic choices like tight hairstyles that can cause breakage.
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If you’re losing more hair than usual right now, it may not be because of an underlying condition or natural thinning. It could simply be because it’s autumn.
One 2017 study found that in the summer and fall months, more people searched on Google for “hair loss” than during other months of the year. The researchers found that their results aligned with anecdotal evidence from trichologists, who say hair loss occurs mostly in the summer and the transition to autumn.
So, why might this happen? “In the summer, we tend to hold on to more hair to provide increased protection from the sun, and in the colder months, more hairs than normal fall out to make way for thicker hair growth for the winter,” says Gökhan Vayni, a hair specialist at Vera Clinic.
Low temps are also to blame. “Excessive hair loss in winter is largely due to the dry air outside that dries moisture from your scalp,” Vayni adds. “A dry scalp leads to dry hair, which in turn results in hair damage, breakage, and hair loss.”
Rampant hair loss should never be ignored. “If you have noticed you are developing bald patches and losing hair in clumps more than usual then you should seek a professional about hair loss,” says Vayni. “Other signs to look out for are if your head also itches and burns or if you have sudden hair loss. Ultimately, if you’re worried about your hair loss and notice unusual patterns then it is worth professional advice.” Not only can they ease your fears, but they can also suggest ways to encourage regrowth.
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Because there are so many causes of hair loss, there are also many solutions. “Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and reducing stress are all key factors in maintaining healthy hair,” shares Firdous Ibrahim, MD, trichologist and aesthetic physician of Aesthetic Visions Clinic. “Additionally, there are products and treatments available that can help to improve hair loss.” For example, Ibrahim says topical treatments such as Rogaine or minoxidil can stimulate hair growth, as can low-level laser therapy.
You’ll also want to up the ante on your haircare routine. First, Ibrahim suggests being careful when using hair products that contain harsh chemicals such as bleach and permanganate. You should also choose a mild shampoo and wash your hair as infrequently as it will tolerate.
Finally, indulge in a bit of beauty rest. “Lack of sleep can be detrimental to overall health, and it can also cause hair loss,” Ibrahim says. “Make sure to get at least eight hours of sleep every night.” See, your path to thicker hair can be as easy as kicking back and relaxing.