11 Reasons You May Be Seeing Excessive Hair Loss, And What To Do About It

For many of us, a bad hair day has the power to make us pretty cranky. The same can be said for hair loss. Our hair forms an important part of who we are and how we see ourselves. It makes total sense, then, that many of us freak out when we notice more hair loss than usual because let's be honest — none of us want to go bald.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) notes that it's normal to lose anywhere from 50 to 100 hairs daily. To put this into perspective, most of us have around 100,000 hairs growing on our heads, and the ones that fall out are typically replaced with new growth. But sometimes, hair fails to regrow, and that's when excessive hair loss happens. Hair loss can occur over a period of several years, but in some cases, it occurs suddenly.

If you start seeing more hair sitting in your hairbrush after a combing session, notice your hairline receding, or spot your usual part getting wider, you might be dealing with hair loss. Some people even notice bald patches. Finding hair clogging your shower drain and experiencing itching or pain on your scalp (this usually means a skin condition is responsible for your hair loss) are other telltale signs. If any of the above applies to you, discover what might be causing your hair loss, and what to do about it.

Stress is a common culprit when it comes to hair loss

We probably don't even need to tell you this, but stress can really mess with hair growth. Speaking to Self, assistant professor of dermatology and director of the Women's Skin Health Program for Northwestern Medicine, Dr. Bethanee Schlosser, explained that going through a very stressful or traumatic experience can cause hair loss. This doesn't really include everyday stress — Schlosser is referring to very intense, life-altering stressors. Experiencing the death of someone close to you, going through a divorce, losing or starting a new job, or moving to a new place can all trigger severe stress.

Schlosser explains that our hair actually doesn't grow all at once or at the same speed, "Some are growing, some are resting, and some are actively being shed." She adds, "When you have these conditions, your body halts hair growth, and then things get restarted, and all these hairs that have been halted start to get pushed out at the same time." Schlosser also shares that undergoing major surgery or being hospitalized for any reason can trigger intense stress. Losing a lot of weight very quickly can have the same effect (another reason to stay far away from crash diets).

The good news is that this type of hair loss is not permanent. If you're worried, speak to your dermatologist about products that can help you get your hair back on track.

Your genetics might be to blame

Oh, how we all wish we had perfect genes. But alas, if your family has a history of hair loss, it's very likely you'll deal with it, too. The AAD explains that hereditary hair loss is incredibly common. It is often referred to as either female pattern or male pattern hair loss. The medical term for this condition is androgenic alopecia.

If you have androgenic alopecia, it means that you possess genes that can lead to hair follicle shrinkage. This stunts hair growth and eventually causes hair to stop growing altogether. People who are predisposed to this condition might start to see hair loss as early as their teens. This is not very common, however. Androgenic alopecia presents differently for each person. Women tend to notice excessive hair loss all over their heads, and the first telltale sign that this is happening is usually a wider part. Men, on the other hand, typically experience a bald spot on top of their heads or a receding hairline when this condition starts to take its toll.

While this sounds pretty grim, there is some good news: Your hair might regrow if you get treatment in time. If you suspect this condition is causing your hair loss, speak to your doctor or dermatologist about treatment options. If you forgo treatment, hair loss will continue indefinitely.

Your favorite hairstyle could be the problem

We hate to break it to you, but your favorite sleek, tight hairstyle might be causing your hair loss. Yup, even Ariana Grande might need to rethink her signature ponytail, and if you've been copying her style, it's time to ease up a bit.

GoodRx Health notes that the tight hairstyling habits we tend to favor while we're in our 20s often start to catch up with us later in life. Tight hairdos (like that Ari-style ponytail), weaves, and braids can put a lot of pressure on your hair's roots. Eventually, the constant pressure starts to affect hair follicles, damaging them and leading to scarring, which, unfortunately, leads to permanent hair loss. Yes, we wish that wasn't the case. You'll typically notice the first signs of hair loss along your hairline, but it might also manifest as general thinning or excessive hair loss at the top of your head.

This doesn't mean that you can't wear your favorite hairstyles, it simply means that you need to mix up your hairstyles. Don't keep braids in for longer than recommended (which is typically two to three months) and take care to loosen them around your hairline so there's no excessive pulling. Switching between different hairstyles is also a good idea, as is giving your hair a break from your favorite styles every once in a while. It's also wise to steer clear of bonding glue if you wear a weave.

Using excessive heat on your hair might be the reason you're dealing with hair loss

Most of us love using various hairstyling tools, but all that heat might be the reason you're experiencing hair loss. Dermatologist Francesca Fusco, M.D., told Self that many of her clients who complain of hair loss have their styling tools to blame. Using too much heat on your hair can lead to a condition called trichorrhexis nodosa. Fusco explains that this condition develops when the hair shaft is severely damaged by heat and then forms weak points that cause the hair to become brittle and break off. Bleaching can also cause this. This means that your hair loss isn't starting at the root, it's coming from the hair shaft.

In order to treat trichorrhexis nodosa, you have to figure out which styling habits are causing your hair loss, and then avoid them for a while (note that aggressively brushing your hair can be one of the culprits). Evergreen Beauty College recommends you always use your hair dryer on its medium or low setting. To minimize heat exposure, don't try to blow dry your hair while it's still soaking wet. Wait until it has dried about 80% before you reach for your hairdryer or other heat-styling tools. If your hair is bleached, you should proceed with even more caution, and try to avoid excessive heat since your hair is already at a higher risk of sustaining damage.

You might be overprocessing your hair

Most of us are guilty of putting our hair through the wringer, so to speak. Thanks to all the amazing treatments out there that can alter the appearance of our locks, like perms and color treatments, most of us like to treat ourselves to a brand-new look every once in a while. And while our new hairdo might make us feel extra amazing, our hair usually does not have the same experience.

Whether you frequently color, perm, straighten, or relax your hair, you're introducing harmful chemicals to your hair follicles, and they can only put up with it for so long if you don't give your hair breaks. "After repeated insults, the hair follicles just won't grow back," Bethanee Schlosser, M.D. tells Self. Your hair will start to thin out, and you might start to notice that your scalp is more visible than it used to be — eek!

If you suspect your hair loss is due to excessive chemical treatments, it's time to slow it way down and give your natural hair a chance to thrive. Holding off on any immediate chemical treatments can help you prevent the existing damage from getting worse. Growing back the hair you lost, however, isn't as simple, and it's a good idea to enlist the help of a dermatologist.

You might be using medication that's triggering hair loss

If you've recently started using new medication and suddenly seem to be shedding more hair than your dog, those drugs might be to blame. Oftentimes, commonly used drugs, like birth control pills, can cause hair to fall out. Interestingly enough, Medical News Today notes that some women experience hair loss after they stop taking birth control.

If your brand of oral contraception has a high androgen index, it might be accelerating hair loss. Common brands include Loestrin and Ovral. Your doctor can prescribe oral contraception with a low androgen index if you deal with excessive hair loss. It's important to note that other forms of contraception, like skin patches and implants, can have the same effect. If you know you're at risk of hereditary hair loss, the American Hair Loss Association recommends you opt for non-hormonal birth control.

Other types of medication that can lead to hair loss include antidepressants, beta-blockers, blood pressure meds, hormone replacement therapy medication, anticoagulant medications, and anticonvulsants (via Synergy Wellness). Cholesterol meds and blood thinners are also common culprits. If you use Accutane for acne, it's likely you'll notice significant hair loss as well. Speak to your doctor if you suspect your medication is causing hair loss.

You might have a scalp condition like dandruff or psoriasis

If you've been noticing some excessive hair loss alongside a very itchy scalp, it's possible that your hair is shedding because of dandruff or even psoriasis. The good news is that if dandruff is the cause of your hair loss, it can easily be remedied, dermatologist Francesca Fusco, M.D., tells Self. You can buy a wide range of anti-dandruff products at your local drugstore (Head & Shoulders Classic is an all-time favorite), and as long as you use it consistently, your dandruff should start to clear up and so should your hair loss. The trick, Fusco says, is to opt for an anti-dandruff shampoo you actually like. This will ensure you don't fall off the wagon halfway through treatment.

If you religiously use your anti-dandruff shampoo without noticing any improvement, it's possible that you have a more serious form of dandruff called seborrheic dermatitis. This means that your dandruff is caused by a buildup of oil and yeast. Seborrheic dermatitis can only be treated with prescription medicine. Aside from this condition, psoriasis can also be the cause of hair loss. This is an autoimmune disease that causes the skin to form thick, rough patches, and it can affect your scalp as well. Your dermatologist will be able to prescribe something to help you manage this condition and restore your locks to their former glory.

You might be dealing with an undiagnosed autoimmune disease

If your hair loss occurs suddenly and you notice that you seem to lose hair on other parts of your body as well, you might have an autoimmune disease called alopecia areata. This sudden hair loss is caused by your immune system launching an attack on your hair follicles, and this can cause eyebrow hair and eyelashes to fall out in addition to the hair on your head, Medical News Today explains. This disease is, unfortunately, pretty common, with around 6.8 million people in the United States living with it. 

Currently, there is no cure for this condition. Doctors can, however, prescribe some treatments to encourage hair growth. The most common treatment is corticosteroids, which work to inhibit the immune system so it can no longer attack the hair follicles. A 2013 study published in Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine found that photochemotherapy might work to help to treat alopecia areata. Because this treatment is less invasive, it's often a more desirable treatment for people with this condition.

If you recently gave birth, that might be the reason for your hair loss

Having a baby changes your entire life, but it can also have an impact on hair growth and hair loss. The AAD notes that it's incredibly common for new mothers to notice excessive hair loss. As you might have already guessed, it has everything to do with hormones: As your estrogen levels drop and go back to normal, your hair will follow suit. Dermatologists even have a name for this — excessive hair shedding.

While dealing with hair loss and a new baby can be very daunting, you'll be happy to learn that hair loss after childbirth usually isn't permanent. You don't have to reach for any supplements to get your hair back on track — it will happen naturally. By the time your child turns one, your hair will likely have regained its former body and thickness. For some women, their hair grows back even faster. In the meantime, you can ask your dermatologist what products they'd recommend so your hair can look its best while shedding. Typically, shampoos that provide extra body and conditioners formulated for fine hair (heavy conditioners will only weigh your hair down) work great to make hair look full and voluminous while you're in the shedding phase.

Changes in your diet could lead to hair loss

What you eat really matters when it comes to ensuring healthy hair growth. Synergy Wellness warns that restrictive diets and excessive weight loss can trigger hair loss. Crash diets, eating disorders, and a lack of protein can have a similar effect, Healthline notes.

If you lack certain vitamins and minerals, hair loss might occur as a result — vitamins B12 and B6 as well as amino acid L-lysine and zinc all work to ensure hair stays healthy. People who have an eating disorder, like anorexia nervosa, often lack these vitamins and minerals and, therefore, tend to deal with hair loss. Some dermatologists also note that following a vegetarian diet can cause hair loss because it's easier to develop an iron deficiency when you cut out meat. Women are more prone to iron deficiency because of the blood loss during menstruation.

This is why you should steer clear of extreme diets: Many fad diets don't provide people with a balanced meal plan and instead lead to malnutrition. The damage done to your hair can be reversed if you start to nourish your body properly early enough. This is why it's vital you only follow diets prescribed by your doctor or dietician.

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who does, visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

You might be dealing with telogen effluvium

Telogen effluvium what? While this might sound like a rare, life-threatening disease, this condition is incredibly common and often the cause of excessive hair loss. The good news? It's not permanent.

Healthline explains that telogen effluvium (TE) is a temporary condition where a change occurs in the number of hair follicles that are in the resting phase and those that are in the growing phase. Various factors can trigger this condition, including experiencing chronic illness, severe stress, high fevers, or infections. Crash diets, eating disorders, and protein deficiency can also trigger TE. Certain medications are also culprits, like some antidepressants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), retinoids, calcium channel blockers, and beta blockers. You can often gauge whether your hair loss is due to TE by inspecting the strands that fall out. If there's a little blob of keratin covering the root, TE is typically the cause.

It's important to note that TE can develop up to three months after you initially experienced any of the above-mentioned triggers. While the hair loss can be alarming, your hair will grow back again. If, however, you experience continuous excessive hair loss, speak to your doctor.

Up your self-care game to curb hair loss

If you're currently dealing with excessive hair loss (we feel you), there are a few steps you can take to ensure it doesn't become a long-term thing (given that you spoke to your doctor and there's nothing serious causing it).

Since stress is a very common culprit, take some steps to reduce stress in your life. This can include making some lifestyle changes, like adding regular exercise and meditation to your daily routine and making sure you eat healthy, balanced meals that are chock-full of healthy fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

Switching up your haircare routine can also help. Ditch that heavy shampoo and conditioner — it'll only weigh down your hair and make it look less voluminous. Instead, opt for products that are lightweight — they will give your hair some extra body. Staying away from super-tight hairstyles can also help, and remember to go easy on the heat, whether that be your hair dryer, your straightener, or your curling iron. Your hair will thank you for the extra TLC with new growth. Just remember to be patient — results won't happen overnight.

Consider taking some supplements

Aside from making sure your haircare routine is on fleek, you can also opt for some supplements to give hair growth a boost. GoodRx Health notes that there are no FDA-approved supplements to promote hair growth on the market just yet, but some supplements, like biotin, are known for encouraging hair growth. If you suspect a nutrient deficiency is responsible for your hair loss, the best way to figure out which supplements you need is to get some bloodwork done. Your doctor can then prescribe a supplement accordingly.

It's crucial to understand that simply taking supplements without knowing if you actually have a deficiency can pose some risks. If you take too much vitamin A, for example, you could exacerbate hair loss. Too much vitamin D, on the other hand, can lead to kidney damage. Taking biotin also comes with some risks. This substance can make it appear as if you have an overactive thyroid and can inhibit cardiac enzyme levels, which are very important indicators of heart health. Needless to say, don't supplement without speaking to your doctor first.

Your doctor can prescribe medication to curb hair loss

Depending on the cause of your hair loss, there are certain medications that can help slow it down and encourage new growth. Healthline explains that there are effective over-the-counter treatments you can try. They typically come in the form of foams, gels, solutions, or creams that need to be applied to the scalp. The active ingredient in most of these products is minoxidil.

If over-the-counter treatments don't seem to do the job, it's time to pay a visit to your doctor. They can figure out the root cause, and depending on what it is, they can prescribe medication to treat your hair loss. A common prescription drug for hair loss is finasteride (commonly known as Propecia). Doctors usually prescribe this if you have androgenetic hair loss. This drug can slow down shedding and even encourage new hair growth in some.

There are also some newer treatments on the market, like microneedling combined with platelet-rich plasma injections, laser therapy, and some oral medications. Most of these treatments still need more research to prove their efficacy, but if your doctor gives you the green light, you can totally give one of them a go.

Hair transplant surgery is also an option

Cleveland Clinic reports that hair transplant surgery is an option for those who have tried other treatments but didn't see improved hair growth. The surgery consists of removing pieces of your scalp (usually from the back of your head) that have healthy hair follicles and transplanting them to areas where you're experiencing excessive hair loss.

Because the procedure is pretty invasive, you do run the risk of getting an infection. There's also a risk that the transplanted scalp's hair might fall out as well — doctors call this shock loss. You should also keep in mind that, if the bald patches on your head are very big, a hair transplant might not cover all of it. With that said, assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School and co-director of the Hair Loss Clinic at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Dr. Deborah Scott, assures that hair transplant surgery can be very successful albeit very expensive (via Harvard Health Publishing). This treatment can cost thousands of dollars, and your insurance won't cover it. You'll also need to take some time to recover after the surgery.

Another treatment you can consider if you're not a good candidate for hair transplant surgery is protein-rich plasma injections. Your doctor will draw blood, remove the platelets, concentrate them, and then add them to your blood again. This mixture is then injected into areas where hair growth is lacking to encourage new growth.