Why does your hair shed?

If you haven’t already brushed up on the basics of hair I highly recommend checking it out, or referencing it if you’ve got questions as you read along. Don’t miss out on the rest of the hair myths series. I’ve addressed a lot of hair myths in my years behind the chair and starting my own website has given me a great opportunity to really address those in detail for you!

You can watch this video for a brief rundown of the text, skipping ahead to 0:40 to skip the intro.

Let’s start with the basics

The best place to start here is to explain the phases of hair growth. Every hair on your body rotates through 4 phases of growth. At any given time, about 90% of your hair is in the Anogen, or growing phase. The anogen phase lasts the longest of the phases and then transitions into the Catogen, or transition phase. This is where growth slows and your hair strand starts to separate from the follicle. After transitioning into the Telogen, or resting phase, the hair usually doesn’t fall out but isn’t actively growing anymore. At any given time, 10-15% of your hair is in this phase. The final phase is Exogen, or shedding phase.

So why does it feel like you’re shedding like crazy sometimes?

Excess shedding is caused by the hair follicle separating from the hair strand before it’s supposed to; typically because of a dietary/hormonal imbalance or medical issue. A lot of people who have given birth will experience some form of postpartum hair loss as hormone levels undergo significant changes in rapid succession, and because the hormones associated with pregnancy can significantly extend the amount of time your follicles spend in one of those first three phases before they all realize they were supposed to have been in the shedding phase. Anything that can affect the teeny blood vessel that feeds your hair follicle can have an impact on hair loss.

All the hair on your body is always in one of these phases at any given time, and they’re all on a different schedule. The hair on your head is usually in the growing phase for 3-5 years, but for some people it’s as long as 7. The hair on your eyebrows and face and arms and legs are all on a different schedule, which is why you typically don’t have 5 inch long hair on your arms.

What are some of the myths?

  • Shampooing makes your hair shed: You may feel like you lose more hair when you shampoo than at other times during the day. This could be a few things. It could be that you’re shampooing too roughly and “pulling” your hair out before it’s ready to hit the shedding phase on its own. It could be that those pieces of hair had already shed on their own and you’re pulling them all out at once instead of them working their way out individually. If you have longer hair that’s pretty common because the remaining hair can hold the shed hair in place.
  • My hair sheds more when I wear it up: This one could have the same answer as shampooing, with a few extra options. Your hair will naturally shed at a certain rate and with your hair up in a ponytail or a bun, those hairs don’t have a chance to fall out of the collective on their own until you take your hair down. It’s also possible you prematurely pulled a hair strand out, or that it broke somewhere along the hair strand and it didn’t actually shed.
  • Can I take vitamins and supplements for stronger/thicker/more hair? Does my hair really grow faster in the sun?: This goes back mostly to how your diet affects your hair growth. Remember that tiny blood vessel that feeds the follicle your hair grows from? That’s how your hair can be affected by vitamins and supplements. The vitamin D from the sun does help your hair grow, but that’s because your skin absorbs it most efficiently from being in the sun rather than supplements (don’t knock supplements though, they’re fantastic for keeping your numbers where they should be). It is important to get some sun, but it’s also important to make sure you’re protecting yourself from sun damage and wear your sunscreen.

Do you have more myths you’d like to see busted? Let me know in the comments or reach out on social media!


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