As we age, we come to expect certain realities of life. A few wrinkles, some gray hair, and creaky joints are not the end of the world. But those concerns are more justified when that hair fall seems to occur at an unusually high rate.
Let’s look into some big-picture points on hair loss and determine how much is considered normal. We’ll offer some pointers on assessing your own level of hair loss and tell you when (and how) to get the help you need.
For many people, the quality of hair starts to change, and hair growth can slow as they approach middle age, but is hair loss really a normal phenomenon? How much hair loss is excessive hair loss, and how do you know when it’s time to take preventive or even restorative measures?
Before you jump to conclusions about your hair shedding, some extra context always helps. Here are some hair loss basics that can help you make sense of your situation and determine if your amount of hair loss matches the average person.
Hair grows rather quickly, between 0.2 and 0.7 inches per month. It also sheds at a fairly rapid rate, with the number of hairs totaling between 50 and 100 hairs per day. However, these numbers shift around as we age and compound with other lifestyle factors and events.
For example, androgenetic alopecia can affect men as young as 16, resulting from a buildup of DHT byproducts in the scalp. Combinations of medical conditions, medicine, environmental factors, and hormonal changes or imbalances can accelerate that hair loss, even at an early age.
It’s also worth noting that a full “youthful” hairline is exceedingly rare to maintain beyond a person’s teenage years, showing that some degree of hair loss is normal regardless of hair type.
The challenge is determining when hair loss has gone too far beyond the “mature” hairline and into receding hairline and pattern balding territory.
Both men and women can experience hair loss at any stage of life, but men are far more likely to experience advanced male pattern balding. The Norwood Scale reveals the familiar male pattern baldness of the M-shaped hairline and thinning vertex area, applying almost exclusively to male patients.
On the other hand, women tend to notice thinning around the parting of the hair where directions diverge, though this typically happens at a far later period of life.
It’s rare for women under 40 to notice thinning hair to a significant degree, whereas more than half of all men experience pattern balding or bald spots at this age.
The one caveat with female hair loss is that the causes of hair loss seem to be more heavily influenced by medications, hormonal issues, menopause, and environmental factors and stressors.
It can occur due to too-tight hairstyles like braids or ponytails that cause breakage. In this case, a change of hairstyle can encourage new hair growth and encourage healthy hair follicles.
Female pattern baldness isn’t always genetic and may depend on these external factors.
Some health experts maintain that hair loss has become more common in recent years, pointing to factors like pollution, poor dietary trends, and the prevalence of toxic chemicals in household products.
While it’s difficult to determine excessive hair shedding and hair loss trends on such a large scale, it’s clear that many of these factors are not helping the population’s general health and hairline.
While medicines and treatments have advanced, many patients find themselves fighting an uphill battle with hair loss and overall lifestyle optimization.
The takeaway here is to always account for your environment and try to maintain natural, clean systems for your hair health and wellness overall as the world continues to change.
We’ve learned that some degree of shedding is normal — up to 100 hairs per day is the acceptable range. But since counting each strand is not a realistic metric, what can you do to determine when shedding strands of hair has exceeded the reasonable limit?
Here are some key differences to look for when assessing your hair’s condition and putting an end to the trend before it’s too late.
Every fair judgment starts with a framework and point of reference. These are key factors when figuring out your level of hair loss and when it feels like a lot of hair.
Take the next opportunity to make a mental note (or photo evidence) of your current level of shedding in various settings and instances. Where do you notice the most shedding or clump of hair, and do you suspect that the amount is increasing over time?
For many people, the shower drain or the hairbrush are the first places to look. Shedding is exacerbated by brushing, washing, and grooming, and this may be a starting point for your investigation.
Check in the same places, at the same times, throughout the week, and compare results from one day to the next. Once you start paying attention, you’ll know if trends start to change and if any new developments are cause for concern.
It’s not just the amount of shedding that you notice on occasion but also the frequency of that shedding that might sound the alarm for more severe hair loss. For women especially, hormonal fluctuations (such as those due to birth control) may mean that shedding increases for a period of time, only to stabilize shortly thereafter.
Knowing this, you need to zoom out and track the frequency of shedding instances with higher volumes of lost hair for a given time. If these trends persist for many days and weeks in a row, that’s a good signal to take recourse.
This reinforces the importance of consistency when tracking shedding and recognizing when problematic hair loss trends start to take form.
Some shedding here and there is fine, but don’t forget to go to the source when gauging your level of hair loss. This means keeping an eye on the condition of the hair on your head, not just the hair that sheds on your pillow and hairbrush.
For men, the Norwood scale is your reference point when identifying androgenetic alopecia. However, you will likely feel hair thinning and shedding excessively before seeing noticeable changes in the mirror.
Ultimately, it’s a combination of look, feel, and pattern recognition that will help you catch balding before it gets out of control. Take a few minutes in your daily hair care routine to judge each of these factors and take the necessary action steps at the right time.
Speaking of action steps, what are the right hair protection methods for this early shedding that might precede the more advanced stage of balding?
Here’s how to put together a protocol that will put you ahead of the curve in terms of hair preservation, especially if your hair seems to be on the verge of decline.
Continually tracking and measuring hair loss is not only an imperfect science, it can also be confusing and potentially cause psychological distress. Some days you might be convinced you’re losing your hair, while other days seem normal.
Rather than playing mind games with yourself, simply reaching out to a trusted dermatologist can be a healthy first step toward a solution. Even if you aren’t sure about the status of your hair, making this connection is key to getting the right answer and moving forward in an effective manner.
Once you determine that the hair loss isn’t genetic, meet with your dermatologist to try to determine the cause. The final step once you have a diagnosis is to determine what solutions are available from a trusted hair loss restoration expert like Jae Pak, M.D., so you can start discussing a plan of action. This could involve approved medicines or advanced treatments.
The hair restoration field has come a long way with many different treatment styles. Your physician will help point you in the right direction based on your unique goals and circumstances.
If you’ve caught hair loss in its earliest stages, you’ll have far more options on the table.
For those who have already experienced advanced hair loss, interventions such as hair transplantation may be the best course of action. The latest FUE hair transplants offer higher transfer volumes and increased success rates with long-term results.
With just a minor FUE procedure, you can restore some of the early damage done by androgenetic alopecia and get back to square one with a strong hairline to protect from here on out.
One treatment or procedure can help your hairline short-term, but a big-picture strategy is needed to preserve your hairline for years to come.
By working alongside a leader in the field like Dr. Jae Pak, you will get the best of both worlds, protecting your hair long-term and avoiding common pitfalls. Dr. Pak has experience with a wide range of patients over decades and can create a custom plan that suits you best.
A bit of shedding is normal here and there, but continued hair loss and balding are problems that need a solution. Use this guide to assess your current hair loss situation and take the next steps that will get you the results you want.
Reach out to Jae Pak, M.D., for guidance on your hair loss woes.
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