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Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Time is one of the scariest pieces of the hair-loss puzzle. When you look at moms and grandmothers, you can see how the decades change the landscape of a woman’s hairscape. But what about shorter periods — how much hair do you lose in a day?
As anyone with a shower will tell you, hair falls out of our heads every day. Whether it gathers in the shower drain, on your pillow or all over your partner’s possessions, there’s a daily hair loss reminder we can all find without looking very hard.
It begs the question: are these falling follicles signs of escalating hair loss risks or just normal bodily functions? The short answer is that it depends.
It depends on your age, your genetics, and most importantly, the number of loose hair strands you’re seeing every 24 hours.
Something else matters too: how many new hairs are growing in. But we’ll get to that later.
For the moment, what you need to understand is why you lose hair seemingly constantly — and why it’s not necessarily a reason to panic.
Hair loss is a normal, daily function of the scalp. While we’d all like to maintain indefinite hair growth throughout our lives, the reality is that, like the leaves on trees, our hair follicles have a life cycle, and at the end of that cycle, hair falls out before growing new again.
This is all part of your hair’s natural growth cycle — a complicated process most easily broken down into three phases.
In the anagen phase, which lasts for years at a time, hair follicles grow at a constant, barely perceptible rate. Most of the hair strands on your head — roughly 90 percent — are in this phase of development at any time.
And if you grab a handful of strands right now, most of what you’re grabbing is likely anagen-phase hair.
In the catagen phase of normal hair growth, your strands of hair begin the changes that come after growth has ended. In this stage, your strands may lose their girth as part of their wear and tear in the natural hair cycle.
They’ll also begin to form what’s called a club hair — a hair ready to be shed as part of the normal hair per day you lose. This thinner hair is still healthy hair, and this transition phase is really just a few weeks of preparing for the end.
The telogen phase is sort of like retirement for your hair follicles. No, they’re not heading out on seniors cruises, but in a sense, they’re downsizing their estates.
In the telogen phase, hair follicles stop producing new length — they stop growing altogether — and just kind of hang around.
Fun fact: about 10 percent of your total hair should be in this phase at any given time. When it’s less, you may be experiencing unusual growth.
When it’s more than 10 percent, you might be facing a medical condition called telogen effluvium (commonly known as hair shedding). This hair loss condition is caused by bodily stressors — everything from major surgeries or illnesses to giving birth. You can even get it from too much stress at work.
In the exogen phase, your hair follicles are dead and beginning to detach from your scalp. Most of the hair we see on the shower floor, sheets or sink on a daily basis is hair that was in the catagen phase.
A hair strand may enter this phase and immediately fall out, or it may take some time to jostle loose. But at that point, its growth cycle is dormant for a while before the anagen phase starts anew.
Now that you understand why normal hair loss happens, let’s talk numbers. So, how much hair do you lose a day?
An individual’s daily hair loss will vary depending on various factors, down to how aggressively you scrub your scalp when you shower or brush when you’re styling. For the most part, though, most of us lose between 50 and 100 hairs per day.
It’s a seemingly large number of strands per day — until you remember that you have way, way more than that on your head at any given time.
Let’s put it in perspective: most of us have between 80,000 and 120,000 hair follicles on our heads — roughly 1,000 times the number of hairs you’re expected to lose each day (or more).
So losing 100 a day is pennies.
Losing one-thousandth of your hair a day doesn’t really put a dent in your total supply, especially since other hairs are growing or renewing their cycles at the same time.
But what about when those pennies start adding up? We could say the magic number is anything over the 100 mark, but you’ll lose more than 100 hairs some days and fewer than 50 on others over the course of your life. There’s no hard-cut number we’re aware of upon which scientists would agree you’re officially in problem territory.
Aside from seeing your hair come out in handfuls, trying to count what you’re losing isn’t going to give you useful information.
More important than counting your fallen follicles (which isn’t really an effective or time-efficient way to gauge your hair health) is knowing how many are growing back.
If you’re losing large clumps of hair or notice patchy hair loss, it’s time to seek medical support. Irregular and sudden hair loss could signal an autoimmune disease or another disorder and is a prominent sign you have a major health issue.
And if you’re seeing gradual thinning of hair or patchy hair loss around the crown of your head, it may be a sign of female-pattern baldness. In these cases, a healthcare provider can help guide you through treatment options for androgenic alopecia or any other type of hair loss.
Your individual needs may vary, but a medication that may help you protect your hair is minoxidil.
Minoxidil is the generic form of Rogaine. While experts are still trying to understand how topical minoxidil works, its ultimate function is increasing blood flow to hair follicles, which in turn helps them stay active and healthy.
One study showed that over a 48-week period, people who used minoxidil saw 12 to 18 percent new growth.
Aside from these options, your healthcare provider may suggest alternative remedies. Hair transplants, laser combs and other more complicated treatments have varying levels of success, but they may help when other options fail.
Counting is for cards and muppets. If you’re wandering around with a notepad and a magnifying glass because you’re afraid you’re going bald, you’re focusing on the wrong numbers.
It’s OK to be scared of hair loss. But it’s also easy to do something about it simply by talking to a professional. Medication and other treatments can start working in the time it takes you to comb through the pillows.
The big picture: daily hair loss is not the problem you need to be worrying about. However, experiencing too much daily hair loss or not seeing a rotation of new hair growth to replace it is what should concern you.
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