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Autumn Hair Loss Panic: Is Seasonal Shedding Real?
Autumn is a season for transformation. Not only do trees turn colors then drop their leaves, but mammals begin similar process of trading light summer fur for thick winter coats. What many people don’t realize is that humans, as mammals, are much a part of this process, and thus our own hair goes through a brief but noticeable transformation each fall. For four to six weeks starting in October, the scalp begins to shed hair at an accelerated rate—up to four times faster than normal—often leaving many to mistakenly believe they’re experiencing progressive hair loss. In this article we’ll explore the biological forces behind autumn hair loss, the best tactics for keeping or recovering hair, and provide a simple test to help gauge whether your hair loss is seasonal or a sign of something else.
Follicle & Seasonal Cycles
Normally, around 90% of hair follicles are actively producing new strands in what scientists term the “anagen” phase. The remaining 10% are in the “telogen” phase, a two-to-six month term where the follicle rests and releases its hairs. Because of this cycle of anagen and telogen phases the average person can expect to lose around 50-150 hairs a day.
While this 90/10 split is the default mode for shedding, various environmental and hormonal factors influence hair fall patterns. According to Swedish scientists, seasonal shifts in hair loss are most noticeable in women. A study conducted on a 800 females’ hair fall cycles over the course of a year uncovered a curious pattern. A high proportion of follicle simultaneously enter that restive telogen phase in July and drop their strands around 100 days later—a range of time stretching from October through November. Afterwards, lost hairs regrow and resume their normal cycle.
Some scientists speculate that this seasonal trend might’ve arisen to protect the head from harmful summertime UV rays by holding onto hair longer, opting to release it later in safer, cloudier fall weather instead. Others believe that the cycle may be an evolutionary leftover from one of our furrier ancestors. Whatever the cause, the result is the same: each year people look to their brushes and drains in horror, wondering why they’re losing hair and worrying that it might never come back.
What Can I Do?
Hair loss in any season should be approached the same way: without panic but with a firm commitment to monitoring your situation, exploring possible causes, and giving your body the best shot at recovery. Many hair experts suggest that anyone experiencing abnormal hair fall supplement their diet with follicle-boosting vitamins A, B, C, and E plus minerals like iron and zinc. Also, make sure you’re paying extra attention to your scalp. Dry fall air and indoor heating can cause the scalp to become inflamed, resulting in dandruff and increased hair fall on an otherwise healthy head. Remedy the situation by drinking plenty of water, using fortifying conditioners, and keeping heated styling devices below 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are experiencing seasonal hair loss, all lost hair will grow back in a few months with no permanent effects.
Hair Tug Test
If you’re experiencing abnormal hair fall and suspect seasonal hair loss perform this quick test for confirmation:
1. In the morning—before brushing or washing your hair—spread the fingers of your dominant hand and insert them into your hair, staying close to the scalp.
2. Squeeze your fingers gently shut and comb your hair from root to tip.
3. Keep a count of any hairs your fingers collect. It’s easier to keep track if you drop strands on a blank sheet of paper.
4. Repeat the process five times or until you feel like you’ve combed through all of your hair.
0-10 Hairs: You’re experiencing hair fall at a normal rate. Everything is okay for the time being.
10-20 Hairs: Your hair fall rate is above average but consistent with the symptoms of seasonal hair loss. Keep an eye on the situation and perhaps add hair-boosting vitamins or supplements to your diet.
20+ Hairs: This is a high rate of hair fall. Keep track of your diet, energy levels, and any physical or emotional stressors in your life then discuss the situation with your doctor.
Seasonal hair loss is a natural occurrence experienced by millions every year; so if you’re seeing your own hair thin out this autumn, it isn’t cause for alarm. However, if hair loss continues well into winter months, take notice. Aside from your affecting your appearance, sudden hair fall can be the sign of a range of diseases, disorders, and environmental stressors. The body produces hair cells faster than any other cell-type save bone marrow, so hair loss is often the first sign of trouble. If you’re concerned about the amount of hair you’re losing, don’t spend your time stressing out and looking up symptoms on the internet; just pay a visit to doctor and get to the bottom of things.
If you’re interested in learning more about hair loss causes or want to talk about your situation with a licensed hair specialist, contact us today. In minutes we can schedule you a private consultation with one of our experts in a city near you!