Hair functions to protect us from environmental factors such as UV radiation, helps regulate our temperature, and of course, plays a key role in how we identify and perceive ourselves and others. Our hairs grow and shed from our hair follicles, each at a different stage of the growth cycle, leaving the impression of a continuous full head of hair. For many, visually noticeable hair loss is a normal part of ageing, but gender, genetics, hormones, diet and stress levels can all be contributing factors to the speed and amount of hair loss.
In this health centre article, we’ll look at the difference between hair shedding and hair loss, as well as covering how much hair loss is considered normal.
How much hair loss is normal per day?
Of the 80,000 to 120,000 hairs that the average healthy adult has on their head, between 50 and 100 are shed each day as part of the normal hair growth cycle. Seeing the odd few hairs on your hairbrush or in the shower is to be expected; washing or brushing your hair can remove hairs that are in the resting phase and are already loosened from the scalp. For those with longer hair, hairs coming off onto the hair brush or in the shower basin will likely be more noticeable, but are not usually a cause for concern.
Frequent styling and firm brushing can increase the number of hairs shed per day, and consistent tugging of the hair such as with hair styles that put strain on the hair strands, may damage the follicles and speed up hair loss.
If you’re noticing chunks of hair falling out or bald spots emerging, you may be experiencing hair loss as a result of stress or a particular medication and should see a doctor or dermatologist to seek advice.
Can hair follicles be regenerated?
Perhaps surprisingly, we have the most hair follicles we’ll ever have as a 22 week old foetus. No new hair follicles form after this point, they can only continue to produce hairs or die. Once a hair follicle dies, either from normal ageing, genetics or some trauma, it scars over and can no longer produce hair strands. Therefore, it’s important to look after the hair follicles on your head whilst they are still able to produce hair, such as getting enough hair-supporting vitamins in your diet like Zinc and Iron. The process of hair follicles shrinking is typically gradual, so the follicles are still active when you first start balding and thinning. If you support your hair during this stage with topical minoxidil treatment, oral finasteride treatment (for men) and a nutrient-rich diet, you can widen your follicles again to promote hair regrowth and prevent further hair loss.
Hair loss versus hair shedding
Hair shedding is typically thought of as the daily 50-100 hairs we lose as part of the ongoing, healthy hair lifecycle. In contrast, hair loss most commonly refers to alopecia, also known as balding, whereby hair follicles start to shrivel up, thinning the hair strand, and eventually cease to produce new hair.
Whilst hair shedding is usually not noticeable on the scalp, excessive shedding can occur due to factors such as stress or taking specific medication.
Anagen effluvium (AE) is a form of hair loss caused by the chemicals used in cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or even radiotherapy, developing quickly and often causing individuals to lose all their hair. Thankfully, AE is not usually permanent, and the hair regrowth is fairly rapid once the factor causing the hair loss is removed (eg. the course of treatment finishes).
Following a physically or emotionally draining event, such as a major surgery or an unexpected death of a loved one, intense stress might cause a condition called telogen effluvium (TE). TE is characterised by hair thinning all over the head, noticeable from about 3 months after the stressful event. After a traumatic event, the body focuses it’s resources on more essential bodily functions, potentially stopping hair growth. The hair then remains in the resting phase for approximately 3 months, before shedding. Lasting between 6 to 9 months, the good news is that your hair will usually grow back to it’s full thickness over time. You can read more about telogen effluvium in our blog article exploring the impact of stressful events (such as getting Covid-19) as a trigger of the condition.
How to reduce hair loss
If you still have active hair follicles (follicles producing some hair, even if they’re very thin strands) then you can benefit from treatments to slow hair loss and even boost hair regrowth.
There are 2 MHRA-approved hair loss medications that are clinically proven to fight hair loss.
Topical Minoxidil is an ingredient able to increase the blood flow to the hair follicles, stimulating the hair’s growth phase and strengthening existing strands. For men, Regaine extra strength foam and Regaine extra strength solution are forms of minoxidil that differ only in their application, and have been proven to be effective in approximately 90% of men. Similarly, clinical trials have shown Regaine foam for women and Regaine solution for women to be 80% effective at regrowing hair in women.
Finasteride is a tablet medication that can help halt or even reverse male pattern baldness. The active ingredient works to prevent testosterone from being converted into DHT, an androgen that causes the hair to thin. Propecia is a popular brand of finasteride, but the generic versions contain the same active ingredient and are just as effective. Proven to be effective in 90% of men, Finasteride is an essential component of any hair regrowth plan.
Click below to browse our full range of hair loss treatments for men and women.