Some of us were born with gorgeous, thick hair, and some of us have fine or thin hair, but one thing’s true for us all: Every one of us loses hair, every single day.
“On average, we lose 50-100 hairs day,” says dermatologist Rebecca Kazin, M.D., FAAD. “This is all normal and part of the natural growth cycle.” However, she adds, “When hair loss becomes more noticeable, it may be time to seek professional help to determine the underlying causes.”
There are a lot of reasons you might be losing your hair more than usual, from the totally benign to the worrisome. Here are some of the most common causes and some of the more concerning ones.
It could be as simple as a styling habit…
1. Using a plastic or artificial brush
“Plastic or artificial brushes can be aggressive with your hair and scalp,” says Dr. Kazin. “A natural brush will help limit damage.”
2. Skipping conditioner
“Conditioners help restore the natural oils that are removed from the hair and scalp during the washing process,” explains Dr. Kazin. “A nourishing conditioner will help soften and strengthen your hair.” She says to use protein-based formulas and to stay away from sulfates.
3. Brushing your hair when it’s wet
Hair is at its most fragile (and prone to breakage) when it is wet because the protective cuticle is slightly raised, explains Dr. Dorin. “Brushing your hair in the shower followed by aggressive towel-drying is a recipe for breakage.” Instead, he recommends, try this technique: Brush your hair before getting in the shower. Then, don’t vigorously towel-dry your hair by rubbing it back and forth, as this lifts up the cuticle layer of the hair, making the hair rough and dull. Instead, use a super absorbent microfiber towel, and gently blot your hair to absorb as much water as possible.
4. Taking super-steamy showers
Hot showers feel great, but hot water dehydrates the hair shaft, leading to dry, brittle hair that is more prone to breakage, says Dr. Dorin. Hot water also strips hair of its natural oils and “throws your scalp’s pores into overdrive in order to keep up with the oil production, which damages the root and leads to additional shedding.”
So, he says, always wash your hair in warm (not hot) water, and do a cool water rinse. “The cool water will cause the keratin-filled cells of the cuticle to clamp down and lay flat, rendering you hair more shiny and ensuring its natural integrity to protect the cortex of the hair shaft,” he explains. Got that?
5. Letting your head soak up too much sun
The keratin proteins in your hair break down when exposed to UV rays, says Dr. Dorin. “Sun can damage your entire hair, from the cuticle to the end, even causing dreaded split ends.” So wear a hat, ladies! And when you apply sunscreen to your face, Dr. Dorin recommends also using a hair mist or spray that contains UV protection.
6. Using “long-lasting” styling products
“Products that claim ‘all-day mega-hold’ are making hair harder to hold on to,” says Dr. Dorin. Why? They are usually high in alcohol content — the culprit in dry, brittle hair. Once you brush those products out, he explains, the residue causes hair to break and fall out. “Try opting out of products that cause hair to harden and stiffen,” he says. “Instead, try using softer-hold products, like styling creams that maintain the moisture of the hair cuticle without creating that friction when being brushed.”
Of course, it could also be something more serious…
7. Crash dieting
A sudden change in diet or starving yourself can lead the body to direct its energy toward the more essential functions (such as helping the heart and brain function), leading it away from making hair, explains Dr. Dorin. Of course, hair loss is only one of the many dangers of this kind of behavior.
Conversely, for a great hair-healthy diet, consider adding leafy vegetables and eggs to your meal repertoire, says Dr. Kazin. Also, she adds, “It’s been shown that diets rich in calcium and iron can help reduce or prevent hair loss. Be sure to also include proteins in your diet, because hair is rich in protein.”