The usual suspects strike again.

Morgan Noll
Updated August 13, 2020
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If you've ever noticed a larger-than-normal clump of hair in the shower or on your brush and started to panic that all your hair is about to fall out, you're not alone. We've all been there. So, before spiraling into your next hair-related state of worry, let's talk about the different types of hair loss, why it happens, and how to treat it, first.

For starters, what exactly is a normal amount of hair loss? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it's normal to shed between 50 and 100 hairs a day. Sapna Palep, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, has her patients collect and count the strands of hair that fall out in a 24-hour period, making sure they wash their hair in that time frame. So, if you're worried you might be losing more hair than normal, tallying up your lost strands is a good, though tedious, place to start.

However, because the reasons for hair loss can range from external stressors to lifestyle habits to underlying conditions and more, Dr. Palep says it's important to "cover all your bases" before moving on to treatment. For patients who are struggling with hair loss, Dr. Palep likes to conduct blood work to ensure no factors are overlooked. Before involving needles, though, you can read up on some of the reasons for hair loss below.

Reasons for hair loss:

1. Stress

Unsurprisingly, stress, the culprit behind many health and beauty-related issues, can play a role in hair loss as well. Telogen effluviam is a common, stress-induced form of hair loss, in which an increased amount of hair starts to fall out about two to four months after a traumatic or stressful event. For a by-the-numbers example, according to Harvard Medical School, someone experiencing telogen effluviam may lose an average of about 300 hairs per day, instead of 100. The good news is that telogen effluviam is temporary and the hair will grow back without any treatment needed (other than trying to manage your stress).

2. Genetics

Hair loss or thinning is normal with age, but for those with androgenetic alopecia—a common, genetic hair loss condition—the process can happen much earlier on in life. As Dr. Palep explains, hair loss causes can be compounded, meaning that telogen effluviam could onset and progress the effects of androgenetic alopecia for those with the genetic predisposition. While hair loss caused by androgenetic alopecia is permanent, there's still hope for those who don't want to give up their hair for good. PRP, which stands for platet-rich plasma, is a hair loss treatment that involves injecting someone's own plasma into the scalp to restore hair growth. The procedure may sound a little scary, but Dr. Palep assures it works amazingly—she speaks from personal experience, as she's used the procedure to treat both her androgenetic alopecia and telogen effluviam.

3. Poor scalp health

Dr. Palep explains that poor scalp health can be another cause of hair loss, as a buildup of oil on the scalp can lead to fungal infections and a skin condition called seborhheic dermatitus. "This causes the hair to loosen up at the bulb and start shedding," Dr. Palep explains. Stress and telogen effluviam can also be connected to seborhheic dermatitus, since stress can lead to excessive oil production.

To treat seborhheic dermatitus, and improve overall scalp health, Dr. Palep recommends using anti-dandruff shampoos, like one by Selsun Blue or Head & Shoulders just on the scalp and following up with your personally preferred shampoo and conditioner from there.

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Dr. Palep also adds that massaging the scalp is a good way to promote hair growth, because it helps with blood flow. "Increased blood flow to the tissue is increasing your nutrients to the tissue and the circulation, so that's always good for hair growth," she says. A scalp massager tool can be easily incorporated into your shower routine as you're washing your hair—plus it feels great, too.

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4. Autoimmune conditions

Hair loss is a side effect of various autoimmune conditions, like lupus, Graves' disease, Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and more. So, that's why it's important to get blood work done or run other tests to check for underlying health conditions if you're experiencing hair loss and don't know the cause.

5. Thyroid issues

According to Heathline, both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause dry, brittle hair or thinning hair on the scalp and body, but the hair loss is typically temporary in this case. As with hair loss caused by other underlying health conditions, the key to treatment here is to work with your doctor to manage or treat your thyroid issue.

6. Vitamin or iron deficiencies

Dr. Palep specifically points to vitamin D deficiencies as a common cause of hair loss. "A lot of times when I do blood work, I find that a majority of people have vitamin D deficiencies and vitamin D is involved in the creation of new hair follicles," she explains. If you're vitamin D deficient, other hair loss treatment methods will be ineffective if you aren't specifcally treating the vitamin deficiency, Dr. Palep explains.

An iron deficiency in those with anemia can also lead to hair loss, since, according to some research, hair follicle cells can be particularly sensitive to decreased levels of iron. In addition to diet changes and other doctor-recommended treatments, supplements can be one way to help treat these deficiencies, and in turn, hair loss.

For vitamin D deficiencies, Dr. Palep specifically recommends Nutrafol. It's an oral supplement designed to treat hair loss and includes vitamin D, C, and A, as well as biotin, which promotes hair growth.

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7. Hormonal imbalance

Another unsurprising suspect, hormones can be a cause for hair loss, so it's important to make sure your hormones are balanced if you're struggling with hair loss. Dr. Palep specifically recommends checking for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is a common yet often undiagnosed hormonal disorder that can affect hair growth, among many other things.