Medically reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 7/21/2021
Are you losing hair? Are you losing alarming amounts of hair? Just how much hair should you see on your pillowcase and in the sink before you start to worry?
Hair loss is a source of fear for many women, but the difference between hair loss and excessive hair loss is not often well understood.
Rather than explore the myths and embrace the cosmetic fear mongering, it’s important instead to understand how your hair really works. You might be surprised to find out that, even if you’re seeing a lot of hair strands in the shower drain, it’s nothing to worry about.
For the average woman, the sight of hair in the shower, sink, bed, hat or wherever else you may find lost follicles is totally normal. In fact, it’s normal to see hair in these places on a daily basis.
The average person has more than 100,000 hairs on their head, and shedding around 100 a day is totally normal and expected, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
Most of the hairs you see on the floor and in the shower aren’t doing anything for your locks. In fact, they’ve likely been dead for some time.
Every hair has a unique and independent lifespan, which can be broken into three phases: anagen phase, catagen phase and telogen phase.
For a normal woman, about 90 percent of the hair on her head will be in the anagen phase, also known as the growth phase.
Hair will exist in this phase for most of its life cycle, and only when it begins to wind down its journey will it enter the catagen phase. You can think about this like a sort of retirement phase for the hair follicle — no more growing, just riding out the last few days.
When the telogen phase begins, the hair is dead, and begins to release from the follicle.
The good news is that this is a highly trafficked phase: average people will have about nine percent of their hair in this phase.
Whether you’ve been counting or eyeballing it, you may be worried to see that you’re shedding more than 100 hairs per day. Just remember that your daily hair loss may vary.
But, if your numbers are consistently higher than average, you may be experiencing hair loss.
There are a few common types of hair loss that most people who are losing hair will experience — some treatable, some temporary and some permanent. Here’s a brief overview of the main sources of hair loss.
Androgenic alopecia is (especially for older women) the most common type of hair loss in women. Androgenic alopecia can show up as early as your late teens or 20s, though it may take years to develop.
The symptoms of androgenic alopecia in women mostly appear as thinning hair — no receding hairlines or bald spots on the crown, which are typically seen in men. Androgenic alopecia may be caused by genetics, hormones and/or age — science hasn’t pinned down an exact mechanism.
Telogen effluvium is typically caused by some form of trauma or stress, which can include surgeries or major injuries, as well as things like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
High fever, recent operations or significant and sudden weight loss can also cause you to temporarily lose your hair.
The reason this condition is called telogen effluvium is because a large portion of your hair follicles suddenly enter and remain in the telogen phase of the hair growth cycle.
The good news is that telogen effluvium is generally considered temporary hair loss, and it is likely to resolve on its own over time — though some medications can help speed up the process.
When you pull your hair out with a hair tie, you’re technically experiencing traction alopecia.
Sometimes referred to as traumatic alopecia, traction alopecia is caused by trauma to the follicles or the scalp itself, which in turn cause damage to the hair shaft.
Hair styles, coloring, burning and other ways of manipulating your hair can cause this.
Sadly, in many cases, this damage leads to permanent hair loss.
So, the best way to avoid traction alopecia is to protect your hair from this sort of wear and tear early on and stop any practices that may be causing it now.
This medical condition is the result of your autoimmune system attacking your follicles, which can cause damage that will stop the hair from growing altogether.
There are no known cures for alopecia areata, and treatment starts with managing the autoimmune condition.
Speaking of best hair loss treatment options for women, there are several that can help you respond effectively to these health conditions.
The most common medication is the topical agent minoxidil, which has been shown to increase blood flow to hair follicles (encouraging hair growth in the process).
A study showed up to an 18 percent increase in hair growth; the study was done over a 48 week period, and focused on men, but women can expect similarly effective results.
You may be experiencing some nutritional deficiencies that are inhibiting your hair to grow more healthily and create stronger follicles. Some of these important nutrients include vitamins A and D and biotin (like the stuff found in hers’ Biotin Gummy Multivitamins).
Normal hair loss will happen every day, for the rest of your (hopefully) very long life — even if you have perfectly healthy hair. So, those follicles you cast off shouldn’t be cause for alarm. But as you age, it’s important to keep an eye on these things.
Vigilance is the key to preventing serious hair loss, because some forms of hair loss may become permanent if left untreated over time. That means that treating hair loss before it gets too far along is your main priority.
If you’re experiencing hair loss, we can help. You can find out more about sudden hair loss with our guide, and we also have hair care products for treating many hair problems — you can also purchase them together in our Complete Hair Kit.
Insider tips, early access and more.