How much hair loss is normal in women?

The bald or the beautiful? Culturally, women’s hair is often seen as part of their pride, and – since less women go bald than men – it can be quite challenging when you start noticing how your thick curls start giving way to your scalp.  85% of women regard their hair as their single most important feminine asset … so, losing it, is a big deal!

When it comes to hair, we’re all losing some of it, all of the time!

  • the average scalp has 100 000 – 150 000 hairs on it
  • 90% of the hair on your head is in the growing phase
  • 10% is in the resting phase, which will fall out and then allow new hair to grow
  • as people age, the rate of hair growth slows
  • hair grows on average, at a rate of approximately 1cm every 28 days
  • hair grows faster in summer than in winter

Hair doesn’t just grow randomly on our heads!  It follows a specific growth cycle:

  • normally, we only shed a certain number of hairs per day (approximately 50 – 100, up to 150/day in some cases; on the days we wash our hair it can be up to 250/day)
  • each strand of hair on our body is in its own stage of development (going through the growth cycle at different times, otherwise all our hair would fall out at once!)

There are 3 stages of hair growth, which follow each other in a distinct order:

  • Anagen

             -growth phase (active phase)

              -lasts 2-6 years

  • Catagen

-transitional phase

-the time when the hair follicle undergoes renewal

-lasts 2-3 weeks (1% of hair is in this phase)

  • Telogen

-the resting phase

-the hair is shed/falls out, a new hair replaces it and the growing cycle starts again

-lasts 3 months (10-15% of hair is in this phase)

How would you know if your hair was thinning, or being lost at higher rate than it should be?

check your pillow case in the morning – look at the amount of hair on a white pillow case

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look for visual clues over time, or compare a photo of yourself a few months apart:

  • look for thinning on the top half or third of the scalp
  • note if your forehead looks wider
  • note if more of your scalp is visible when your hair is pulled back
  • comb your hair gently – are there more than the usual number of hairs left behind on the comb?
  • take about 60 hairs between your fingers and pull, whilst running your hands through your hair (5-8 hairs would be normal; more than 15 hairs may possibly be abnormal)

As a guideline, if you’re losing more than 150 hairs per day, or if there’s excessive hair shedding for more than 2-3 months, it could be too much

What are some of the causes of hair loss?

Genetics: inherited hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia, is the most common cause (it’s also known as female pattern hair loss). Women tend to have thinning of hair on the top of the head; whereas men tend to have a receding hairline or go completely bald.

Anything that interferes with the growth cycle of hair can potentially stop the hair from being formed correctly, including:

  • thyroid conditions
  • auto-immune illnesses
  • anaemia, especially iron deficiency
  • pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
  • stress, severe illness, major surgery, high fever
  • extreme weight loss, malnutrition
  • chemotherapy, radiotherapy to the head
  • burns, injuries
  • medication (contraceptive pills, blood thinners, beta blockers, certain blood pressure medication)
  • chemicals (hair dyes and treatment products), tight braids, curling irons)
  • trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling)
  • ringworm infection of the scalp

If you think your hair is thinning, or you’ve lost more scalp hair than you think you should have, rather see your doctor to have the condition correctly diagnosed.  If there’s a treatable underlying cause, hair loss or thinning may only be temporary:  within 6-9 months hair fortunately tends to regain it’s normal fullness.