What Is Shedding?
Shedding is when old cells are ‘shed’ from our bodies to reveal ‘new cells’ in the form of skin, nails, or hair. Human beings and animals – sea, air, and ground life, plants – all go through some form of rejuvenation in the form of ‘shedding’. We see it more obviously in the change of the seasons. And funny enough, it is also the same for us, though it might not be that obvious.
One should make a little note of awareness here as to how one can decide if the hair that is hed is due to normal hair shedding or due to hair breakage. If you see a tiny bulb at the base of the strand, then it is shed hair; if you see two blunt edges, then it is hair breakage. Of course, you can have both occurring at the same time, but if your hair shed is excessive, it might make more sense to take the time to compute the percentage of hair bulbs to hair breakage.
Let’s look closely.
What Causes Your Hair To Shed?
There are quite a few reasons why your hair will shed:
- it is a normal changing of old hairs being replaced by new hairs
- stressors like postpartum, anxiety, circumstantial events (job loss, death, divorce), weight loss, surgery, cessation of taking hormonal enhancement such as birth control pills
- the weather seasons
- improper hair care using harsh chemicals, hair products
- improper use of hair appliances
Old Hair Replacing New Hair
Our bodies are created in a wonderful way where it automatically renews itself as needed. Each hair follicle goes through 4 phases of its life:
- growth (anagen)
- cessation (catagen)
- shedding (exogen)
- rest (telogen)
Each hair follicle will grow and protrude from beneath the skin, and exit at the scalp. It will continue growing underneath the scalp – which is the only ‘living’ part of the hair strand – once it emerges, it is ‘dead’ and can only be altered chemically or by heat.
According to Wikipedia, ‘Normally up to 90% of the hair follicles are in anagen phase, while 10–14% are in telogen and 1–2% in catagen. The cycle’s length varies on different parts of the body. For eyebrows, the cycle is completed in around 4 months, while it takes the scalp 3–4 years to finish; this is the reason eyebrow hair have a much shorter length limit compared to hair on the head.’
So, each hair follicle at one point or another will be going through different phases of their hair life, thankfully, because if all the hairs on our heads went through the hair phases all at the same time, we would all be bald!
In our world today, with the constant emergence of new experiences, products, things, you name it, it is not unusual that the human body will go through some type of stress. And, it is while we are going through (and sometimes after) the stress that it will affect our health, physical bodies, and emotional response.
Let’s look at a few stressors which affect our hair:
- postpartum – when a woman has a baby, her body goes through a lot of hormonal changes and it goes to say that once she has delivered her bundle of love that her body needs to readjust to its prior state. This means that all the hormones that were produced to help make a healthy baby, need to go back to normal as its job is done. It is not unusual that the woman will shed her hair in large quantities while the hormones return to their normal level. It happened to me once I had given birth – I was shocked because I did not know that this could happen. My hair returned to ‘normal’ about 4 months after I gave birth.
- anxiety – this is also another trigger for hair shedding. I give you an example: you are studying to take your driver’s license exam. You take a few weeks to prepare yourself and during this period, you have temporary hair shedding more than your daily average. Because you are tense and your body senses the new discomfort, you experience stress (tension) because you HAVE to pass the driver’s test in order to secure your dream job – hence hair shedding can occur.
- weight loss – it has been seen where people who lose more than 20 pounds of excess weight, will also have some amount of hair shedding more than usual. Of course, this simply means that their body is also experiencing hormonal changes and hair shedding is one way of adjusting as well.
- surgery can also result in hair shedding. Ultimately, it is the period where the body tries to normalize its hormones that cause the hair to shed.
- emotional circumstances like death of a family member or close friend, a divorce, or even a job loss will cause some amount of stress and indirectly initiate hair shedding prematurely and temporarily.
- a very common stressor is when you stop taking birth control pills. As you know, these pills are usually a way of normalizing the woman’s hormonal cycle and of course, once you stop taking them, the body starts readjusting and this can cause hair shedding as well.
Weather And Seasons
There are four seasons that we are accustomed to, though it might not be very obvious in some countries:
It has been noticed that people tend to shed more hair during the fall and winter months. It is my guess that it has to do with the moisture level of those periods and the inability of the body to always stay hydrated because of the warming of the indoor heating systems and the drying of the outdoor environment. I am sure these factors play a role to some extent.
Improper Hair Care Using Harsh Chemicals, Hair Products
Undoubtedly, this will cause some amount of hair shedding and sometimes too excessive shedding which is more like hair loss.
Improper Use Of Hair Appliances
I think that we all need to be more careful of how we manipulate our hair – how often we comb or brush it, how often we use heat appliances (blow-dryers, flat irons, curling combs, and so forth). Undeniably, it will take a toll on our tresses. It can create hair shedding and sometimes, hair breakage.
When Does Hair Shed Turn Into Hair Loss?
It is normal for hair to shed as much as 50-100 strands daily, however, if you find that there is too excessive an amount of hair around you – on your pillow, on the bathroom floor, after you wash your hair, in your hairbrush, then you might be experiencing hair loss.
With hair loss, you will lose hair, however, it may not grow back and this is the issue at hand. You can experience hair loss because of:
- health reasons and the effect of drugs or medication
- genetic reasons
- immune systems and their reaction
- hairstyles which pull too tightly on the hair
- hair care products
- emotional compulsive habits such as pulling out one’s hair
It is important to determine which is the main source of the hair loss issue in order to address the issue with the best solutions. To be sure, you will need to seek medical advice from either your medical practitioner or a specialist (dermatologist, trichologist).
Before you push the panic button, please check the strands and maybe even count them over a period of time – a few days – to see if it is getting better or worst. Also, check the strands to see if there is the hair bulb on one end or if there is a blunt end on both ends, then this can better define your issue – normal shedding or hair breakage.
I know that either scenario will not be a pleasant one for you, but look on the bright side, you are aware of an issue and you are seeking a solution.
Remedies To Help With Hair Shedding
Mother Nature can help alleviate some of your hair shedding and hair loss issues. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
A very common tea rinse is the black tea rinse. It is easy to prepare, simply boil some water and immerse a black tea bag in about 4 ozs water and let it cool. Once it has cooled, simply use as a hair rinse after you have cleansed your hair. You can also use green tea as a rinse too. You can also use the tea rinses as a leave-in rinse.
There is also a pre-made Green Tea Reconstructor by Aphogee which also helps to combat hair shedding and breakage.
There are a few essential oils that are great in helping with hair loss by stimulating hair growth as well:
Simply combine the essential oilwith a base oil like olive oil, coconut oil, or jojoba oil and then massage into the scalp. You can cover with a plastic cap for 30 minutes to one hour or overnight. Then rinse and style as usual.
Mother Nature has so many resources to help us with our hair care. You can use the juice of:
to massage the scalp, leave it on for 30 minutes to one hour after covering with a plastic cap. Rinse and condition, then style as usual. You need to do this consistently for a few months in order to see noticeable results.
One sure way to ensure hair growth and minimize hair loss is by doing scalp massages. Be gentle while massaging the scalp, you do not want to aggravate the issue. Using essential oils as well as natural oils like:
to do the scalp massages will not only make the scalp cleaner due to the antibacterial properties of most of the natural oils but help act as a hair conditioner as well.
My Final Thoughts On Why Does Your Hair Shed
As you can see, there is a combination of reasons why your hair could shed in addition to what is considered a normal biological expectation. You have to be mindful of your health in general followed by your hair care regimen in order to minimize hair shedding. It is not easy, especially when we have to concern ourselves with other things called ‘life’.
However, just ensuring that you have a healthy diet and great hygiene practices should be sufficient to see healthy hair ‘in your cards’!
I would love your feedback or recommendations.
Image courtesy of Blausen.com staff (2014). “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014”. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 2002-4436. – Own work