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Normal hair loss: How much hair loss is normal?

It's the million dollar question: how much hair loss is normal? Every man wonders at least a couple of times a year. Whether you have reason to worry or not, you've probably stared at the hair that's fallen out of the sink while combing your hair and wondered if it's the beginning of the end.

If you have bald heads in your family, you're probably worried about the hair you see down the drain every morning, ads for hair loss products have mistakenly led us to believe that every stray hair that isn't on your head is a losing battle a war of attrition: the good guys versus the bald guys, but hair loss throughout the day is perfectly normal and, within a certain limit, is no reason for you to worry.

There's a big difference between normal hair loss and hair loss.

Here's what you need to know:

How much hair loss is normal?

On average a man has over 100,000 hairs on his head and shedding about 100 a day is totally normal. Most of the hairs you find in the drain have ended up there as the end of their natural life cycle. Each hair has a normal life cycle, and the life cycle of each hair is independent of the others next to it.

The lifespan of a hair follicle can be divided into three phases: anagen, catagen and telogen:

  • The anagen phase is the growth phase, and 90% of a normal person's hair is usually in this phase at any given time.
     
  • The catagen phase, which is the sort of golden years of the follicle. In this phase the follicle stops growing, and basically retires and lives out the few remaining weeks of its life.
     
  • The telogen phase is the dead phase. The hair is dead and preparing to fall out and the follicle rests before starting the cycle again. Unless something goes wrong, a normal person will have about 9% of their hair in this phase.

Signs that you are balding

If you are noticing that you are losing more than 100 hairs or so a day or feel that you are not seeing as many follicles come back into activity as before you may be starting to lose hair.

There are different types of baldness:

Androgenic alopecia

Androgenic alopecia is the most common type of hair loss in men, and it is most likely the one you are suffering from. Androgenic alopecia can appear from the age of 20, although it may take longer to develop and may not be noticeable for some time.

The symptoms of androgenic alopecia are what we know as male pattern baldness: where you see that you have more and more forehead hair and less hair on the edges, the crown more visible or absolute baldness. Androgenic alopecia is caused by factors such as genetics, hormones and/or age.

It can be treated with a variety of topical and oral medications, which slow or stop hairline recession, and in some cases can even restart growth.

Telogen effluvium

Telogen effluvium is usually caused by severe injury or stress. It can be the result of a high fever, recent surgery, sudden significant weight loss, high doses of anxiety and day-to-day stress, or recovery from illness.

With telogen effluvium more than 10 percent of hair follicles are in the telogen phase, which causes a disproportionate amount of hair follicles to be inactive. Except in rare cases, it affects the entire scalp evenly, so you will not experience bald patches but fine hair.

Within a few months you will most likely regain your original hair, provided the disease or cause of stress has passed.

Traction alopecia

The medical term for wearing your hair in such a tight bun that it damages the follicles is traction alopecia. It is sometimes referred to as traumatic alopecia and can be caused by severe scalp injury or aggressive styling, i.e., anything that involves pulling, burning or otherwise damaging the hair.

Psychological conditions such as trichotillomania, which consists of literally pulling out one's hair (often caused by stress), should also be taken into account.

The best solution for this type of hair loss is to eliminate chemical and physical damage to the scalp. This means no bleaching, straightening or anything that may cause trauma to the scalp.

Alopecia Areata

Although technically an autoimmune disease, alopecia areata is a type of hair loss caused by your own immune system. Basically, the autoimmune system attacks the follicles causing damage that, if left untreated, ends up preventing the hair from growing completely.

Since it is an autoimmune disease, it is difficult to reverse and, at the moment, there is no known cure.


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