We bet you can relate to this scenario: You’re taking a shower and once you’re done shampooing, you notice a big clump of hair circling the drain. Um, what is going on? And should you be worried?
You’ve probably heard that it’s normal to lose 100 strands a day. But that’s just a ballpark figure, says Dr. Lindsey Bordone, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City who specializes in hair disorders. Everyone’s “normal” is different. Your amount of hair fall per day depends on your mane’s density (aka how thin or thick your hair is).
“A lot of people who have really long hair or really dense hair feel like they shed a lot, but really it just looks like a lot of hair when it might not necessarily be,” says Dr. Bordone. “But then there are people who don’t have as much hair, so of course they’re not going to shed as much.”
In addition to your hair’s thickness and length, something as simple as wearing a ponytail all day could make it seem like you’re losing more hair than usual—even though you’re not. “Let’s say you’re sitting with your hair pulled back in a ponytail, then you decide you’re going to get in the shower,” says Dr. Bordone. “The amount of hair that’s going to fall out after it has been tied up will be much more than what you would get if you had your hair down and it was falling out on your clothes throughout the day.”
And it turns out that seasonal shedding is a thing. According to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, women experience peak hair fall during August and September. That being said, you probably won’t even know it’s happening. “To the average person, daily shedding wouldn’t be more noticeable during any particular season,” says Dr. Bordone.
Here are the times you might temporarily experience more hair fall than usual:
One of the most common times Dr. Bordone sees patients is after they’ve given birth. That’s because women often lose a ton of hair post-pregnancy. When you’re pregnant, your hair stays in its growth stage (known as anagen) for nine months, she explains. But once you pop that baby out, your hair shifts to the shedding stage (known as telogen). What that means is you can expect to see all of that hair that should’ve fallen out while you were pregnant shed at once. “It’s startling how much hair you lose, but it grows back,” says Dr. Bordone.
Another situation that can throw a wrench into how much hair you lose on the daily? That’d be stress. “Any stressful event, whether it’s a big surgery, blood loss or some type of sickness, can set off the shed,” says Dr. Bordone. Once your hair is in the telogen stage, there’s nothing you can do to stop it from shedding. The good news is, as with post-pregnancy hair fall, this is only temporary, says Dr. Bordone. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), stress-related hair loss typically resolves itself within six to nine months.
Now, if you notice a widened part on top of your scalp (something you’ve never noticed before), that could be a sign that you’re progressing beyond normal shedding, says Dr. Bordone. In that case, schedule an appointment with your derm to determine what’s going on.
While your BFF may lose 100 strands a day, you may not necessarily have the same baseline when it comes to your own hair fall. While there’s nothing you can do to prevent shedding (once your hair is in the telogen stage, it’s going to fall out, says Dr. Bordone), know that everyone’s hair is different and everything from the hairstyle you pick to how stressed out you are can affect it.