Medically reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 7/24/2021
For anyone worried about hair loss, the shower drain can be a scary place to look each day.
Shedding can be caused by a variety of factors and underlying conditions, but it can also be completely normal day after day.
What makes the difference is the volume of hair shed — the question of normal versus excessive shedding.
If you think you’re experiencing hair shedding you probably have some urgent questions. Why am I shedding hair?
How much shedding should I expect? What do I do to stop this? How can I get back on track to healthy hair growth?
Let’s take these questions one at a time, so you can get the problem addressed and your locks back on track.
Extra hair circling the drain might scare you. But even then, it’s possible your hair loss volume is perfectly normal.
Three phases make up the lifespan of a hair follicle. They consist of the anagen, catagen and telogen phases — each and every hair is in an independent phase of the cycle from the others around it.
The anagen phase is the growth phase of the cycle, the growth slows in the catagen phase and the follicle goes away in the telogen phase. This is the natural and normal life cycle of your hair.
In fact, each person is assumed to have around nine percent of their hair in the telogen phase at any time.
The shower is one of the places you’ll see the most accumulated hair, so let’s put this in perspective.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the average person has more than 100,000 hairs on their head, and it’s perfectly normal to shed about 100 hairs per day.
It’s actually important for your body to shed these hairs — this refreshes the hair growth cycle for healthier hair.
What’s not normal is when the numbers go up; when your hair’s normal three-phase hair growth cycle is interrupted, it can cause more than nine percent of your hair to enter the telogen phase.
Your hair loss in the shower may actually be perfectly normal, but if there are more follicles than usual or you’re suddenly seeing less hair on your head, it may be caused by one of several conditions.
One of the possible explanations is a condition called telogen effluvium, which is what happens when a more-than-normal number of follicles get stuck in the telogen phase, causing fewer hairs to grow.
Telogen effluvium has several possible causes, including trauma or stress to the follicle.
Severe injuries and stressors to the hair or the body generally can cause your hair follicles to go on an “extended vacation.”
There’s some good news here: most cases of telogen effluvium are temporary, and the hair follicles will return once whatever caused them to fall out has subsided, leaving the way for normal growth to resume.
Other causes of hair loss causing you to see more shower drain follicles may be more serious.
Traction alopecia, for instance, is hair loss caused by trauma to the follicle in the form of burning, pulling or chemical irritation.
It can be caused by exceptionally tight ponytails, and also by stress-related disorders that literally make you pull your own hair out.
But tight ponytails and external stressful events aren’t the worst case scenario — the most serious cause is a disease with hair loss as a symptom.
Alopecia areata, for instance, isn’t technically one of the types of hair loss — it’s hair loss as a result of autoimmune diseases.
With alopecia areata, your immune system attacks the follicles, causing them to fall out and stay dormant as long as the condition goes untreated (sometimes permanently).
After a certain point, the damage is enough to cause permanent hair loss. This is why you should always address the problem at your first instance of concern.
And last, but not least, there’s androgenetic alopecia, also known as female pattern hair loss.
This form of hereditary hair loss is the most common, and is believed to be caused by the androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
So how do you stop seeing more hair in the shower drain?
Well there’s good news, as we mentioned, for telogen effluvium: it often corrects itself.
You might speed up the process by taking better care of yourself — reducing stress, eating healthier and generally taking better care of your health will help follicles return to the anagen phase of hair growth after a period of several weeks or months.
And for other forms of hair loss, medications might also provide some help with hair growth and assist in the regrowth process.
Topical minoxidil (better known as Rogaine®) is effective in increasing blood flow to hair follicles, which stimulates the dormant ones to reenter the anagen phase and begin growing your locks back again.
Most studies are conducted on men, but the results are promising for women, as well.
In one study conducted over a 48-week period, minoxidil increased thickness and boosted hair count by as much as 18 percent.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, studies show that minoxidil is an effective and safe option for speeding up the recovery process.
Relief and support might also come in the form of particular shampoo ingredients designed for whatever is plaguing your scalp. For more, check out our Women’s Hair Loss Shampoo.
It’s perfectly normal to be worried about the amounts of hair you’re seeing in the shower each morning. After all, hair loss can be a sign of significant health issues.
Excessive hair loss can also be a crushing blow to your self esteem — not to mention a new problem to have to solve with medications, wigs, hair transplantation or other solutions.
Maybe it’s temporary. Maybe it’ll go away on its own. But as much as worry might make you want to avoid the problem, the right thing to do is seek out medical help.
If you’re seeing more of your scalp than you’d prefer, it’s time to take this seriously. It’s best to do so early, when attention to hair health might make all the difference in the outcome of your treatment.
Start by getting answers to your biggest questions. That may involve a healthcare professional or exploring those questions with further reading, through our sudden hair loss guide.
Whatever you decide to do next, take another step today, because the follicles you have now deserve protecting.