The average human scalp has about 100,000 hairs, and each hair follicle grows in a repetitive cycle, which includes three phases:
Anagen – A growth phase, which typically continues for 150 weeks or more, depending on how long the hair can be grown on the scalp.
Catagen – A transitional phase, during which time, the bulbar portion of the follicle is almost completely degraded through apoptosis. Catagen lasts for 1 week.
Telogen – A resting phase that lasts for 12 weeks on the scalp. Approximately 50–100 telogen hairs are shed daily, mostly because of normal washing and combing.
Telogen effluvium occurs when factors such as extreme stress or hormonal imbalances cause the hair to skip the Anagen (growing) phase and enter the resting (telogen) phase. This causes a significant amount of hair to fall out about 2–4 months later. This type of hair loss is widespread over the scalp, so the decrease in volume may not be easily noticeable at first, and no bald spots will typically develop. If the conditions of extreme stress continue, the thinning will become apparent. Generally, when conditions improve, hair will start to re-grow within 6 months, and no medical treatment is necessary. If you’re unsure about the reason, your doctor can check for the underlying cause.
Common features of telogen effluvium include: Sudden or excessive hair loss Uniform shedding of hair over the entire area of the scalp (No defined bald patches) Shedding seems noticeably increased when combing, brushing and washing
This type of hair loss may be caused by thyroid or hormonal imbalances, emotional stress, surgery, chemotherapy, nutritional or age-related factors, or even medication being taken or underlying disease. Women who have recently given birth may also experience telogen effluvium, however, hair conditions almost always return to normal once the baby approaches his or her first birthday.
Use gentle shampoos and conditioners to cleanse the hair. After washing your hair, let it naturally air dry. Hot air dryers can often damage hair and cause it to break. Activities such as over-brushing or over-styling can often lead to more hair loss. Use a large-toothed comb to minimize the risk of breaking or pulling out hair. Avoid hairstyles that pull on the hair such as ponytails. Cut back on hair styling products that contain alcohol, which may irritate the scalp.
The best strategy is to consult a dermatologist when you first notice any signs of excessive shedding to make certain that an underlying medical condition is not the actual cause. Only a qualified physician can dispense proper advice and medical treatment to minimize or reverse hair loss.
Minoxidil, (Rogaine) is a common over-the-counter treatment for hair loss in both men and women. It has been shown to decrease hair loss and increase hair density. Minoxidil can come in a foam or liquid form and is typically applied directly to the affected area.