[Article reviewed by Dr. Joe Cincotta - August 2023]
Seeing larger than usual clumps of your hair in the shower drain can be shocking (not to mention scary!). There are many reasons for hair loss – some more serious than others. Luckily, not all hair loss is permanent!
So we decided it’s time for a deep dive. We spoke with our resident Color Wow hair expert, Dr. Joe Cincotta (PhD Organic Chemistry) to ask him all your most pressing questions. Here’s everything we learned concerning the hair life cycle, causes of hair loss for women and the ways you can help prevent it.
Read on for our comprehensive guide!
The Hair Growth Cycle
Before we begin to talk about abnormal vs. normal hair loss, a quick crash course on “the hair cycle” (aka, the lifespan of hair strands) is a must. Your hair strands are constantly moving through the hair shedding cycle, aka phases of growth, rest, and shedding.
The 3 stages of hair growth
The hair growth phases occur in three parts: anagen, catagen, telogen
The anagen phase
The anagen phase of hair growth is the actual growing phase. At any point in time, 80-90% of your hair is in this phase.
How long can YOUR hair keep growing? That answer lies in your personal DNA code. But typically, the anagen phase can last anywhere from two to seven years.
The catagen phase
The catagen phase of hair growth is the transition phase. At any given time, only 5% of your hair is in this phase, which lasts about 10 days.
As the growth phase begins to slow, your strands detach from the blood supply in preparation for shedding. Yet, your strands still remain in the follicle.
The telogen phase
The telogen phase of hair growth is the resting phase. At any given time, 10-15% of your hair is in this phase, which lasts about 3 months. During this time, your hair doesn’t grow, but it also doesn’t shed. New hairs, however, are starting to grow in the follicle. The end of telogen is called the shedding phase, also known as the exogen phase. This is when your hair actually sheds from your head through regular washing and brushing.
Overall, the entire hair growth cycle time can last anywhere from two to seven years, unless otherwise disrupted. More on that later!
Hair Shedding vs Hair Loss
Are you dealing with excessive hair shedding or hair loss? The two are often confused, but there are very important differences between them.
“Excessive hair shedding” is typically the result of an emotional or physical trauma in your life (i.e., giving birth, divorce, surgery, weight loss, etc.), which triggers more hair than normal to skip to the shedding phase. Most importantly, hair shedding is NOT permanent hair loss and stops on its own once the stressor has been removed from your life.
Hair shedding typically doesn’t occur until three months after whatever stress event triggered it. You’ll see your hair return to its normal density within six months. We also want to note that regular “hair shedding” occurs naturally every single day due to the hair growth and shedding cycle discussed above.
“Hair loss,” on the other hand, impacts the anagen (hair growth) phase, causing your hair to stop growing altogether. Hair loss can be both permanent (think genetics) and temporary (think treatments like chemo), and can be reversed or slowed down through the use of supplements, treatments, and special care.
It’s when your follicle is damaged due to breakage and constant pulling on strands that hair loss becomes permanent.
What are the main hair fall causes in women?
There are many reasons for hair thinning among women. Here are the most common:
Male/Female pattern baldness (or androgenetic alopecia) is the most common cause of hair loss in both men and women. For women, this usually means thinning on the crown of their head. Hair loss from this condition cannot be reversed, but fortunately there are treatments available that can stop further hair loss from occurring. Ask your dermatologist for more info.
2. Tight Hair Styling
You know those snatched ponytails and tight buns you love? Not so great on the hair follicles. Tight styles put a lot of strain on your strands and can result in major breakage and stress on the hair. Repeated damage can result in irreversible harm to the follicle and permanent hair loss (aka, traction alopecia). The solution? Take frequent breaks from tight styling.
3. Over-Brushing/Combing Wet Hair
Wet hair is extremely fragile. If your hair snaps while brushing or combing it, you’re causing damage that can lead to permanent hair loss. The key changes you need to make? 1. Always use a pre-shampoo detangler and/or conditioner that hydrates your hair and gives it “slip.” 2. Always use a wide-tooth comb. Start combing from the ends of your hair and work your way up to the roots, gently untangling as you go.
4. Harsh or Unhealthy Hair Products
All products are formulated to deliver a specific result but, unfortunately, some have negative side effects. In order to work, these products leave residues on your scalp that block hair follicles, or make your hair stiff, brittle, and easily susceptible to breakage. Chemical and colour treatments can also damage your hair when not done by a professional.
At Color Wow, it’s been our mission to only use good-for-you ingredients in our products so you can reach your styling and hair health goals together.
5. Stress and hair loss
Stress-induced hair loss is extremely common. It can be caused by anything from losing 20 pounds fast to caring for a sick one to getting divorced. The good news is, this kind of hair loss is temporary. As long as the stressor is removed from your life, you’ll begin to see your hair return to its normal thickness and fullness in six months.
6. Giving Birth
Giving birth puts a lot on your body, not to mention throws your hormones out of whack. You can expect to see your hair thin three to four months postpartum and return to normal by the time of your child’s first birthday.
7. Seasonal Hair Loss
While it may be concerning to see excess hair in your brush in the late summer months, this kind of hair loss is totally normal. As summer months approach, you grow more hair to protect your scalp from sun exposure. As temps cool, your scalp no longer has use for the excess hair and begins to shed. Think of your hair like leaves... fuller foliage in the summer, then some shedding in the Autumn.
Just like your body needs nutrients to stay strong and healthy, so does your hair. Going on a restrictive diet can disrupt your body’s usual intake of nutrients, which in turn can cause your strands to weaken and fall out. Not only that, but quick weight loss of 20 pounds or more is a major stressor on your body and can also result in hair loss.
9. Medications + Treatments
As we all know, medications and treatments can have negative side effects. Thankfully, when it comes to our strands, it’s not permanent. If you’re experiencing hair loss due to medications or treatments, talk to your doctor about your options.
Hair Loss Solutions
Looking for hair loss solutions for women? The important thing to remember is that there are a vast range of new treatments and procedures to address hair loss available today. Other than making an appointment to see your dermatologist (an absolute must if you want to prevent any serious issues before it’s too late), there are ways you can better care for your hair at home.
First of all, make sure you're using the right shampoo
We know it’s tempting to reach for a thickening shampoo or conditioner during this time, but DON’T DO IT. They’ll only make your problem worse, and here’s why:
In order to deliver on their thicker, fuller benefits, these shampoos have to leave ingredients behind on your hair. The problem is, these ingredients also build up on your scalp and block your follicles. And as you can imagine, it’s kinda hard to grow hair when the follicle is blocked.
(Btw, this is true for ALL shampoos that do more than just clean. Ex: defrizzing, hydrating, etc.)
Instead, look for a 100% clean, no-residue, sulfate-free shampoo that promises to do nothing but clean your hair. Leave your thickening and volumising to your treatments and stylers.
Our go-to anti-thinning shampoos?
Color Wow Color Security Shampoo – 100% clean, no-residue, sulfate-free formula for ALL hair types.
Every ingredient rinses completely off so nothing’s left behind to block follicles and impede hair growth.
Curl Wow Hooked Shampoo – 100% clean, no-residue, sulfate-free formula for curly or coily hair types.
Every ingredient rinses completely off so nothing’s left behind to block follicles and impede hair growth. PLUS, this formula contains Procapil®, a root-locking technology that helps “anchor” your hair in your follicles for less hair shedding.
Take a look at our article on the link between thickening shampoos and hair thinning for more information.
Other hair loss solutions
Here are other ways you can better care for your hair and help protect against excessive shedding and hair loss everyday:
- Use low heat settings or limit the use of your hot tools.
- Leave hair colour to the professionals! Don’t attempt at-home colouring or chemical treatments.
- Give your hair a break from tight hairstyles.
- Break any bad habits like pulling on your hair when you’re stressed.
- Keep your hair hydrated and conditioned; comb and detangle with care!
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
If you feel like you’re losing your hair faster than you’re used to, don’t panic! There are many reasons for hair loss in women. And for the most part, they’re not permanent.
If you’re super concerned, make sure to consult your dermatologist. At a minimum, make sure to switch to a 100% clean, no-residue shampoo to make sure you’re keeping your scalp optimally clean, healthy and buildup-free!
FAQs about hair loss
Is it normal for hair to fall out?
Yes, absolutely! Like we said, it’s extremely normal to lose 80-100 hair strands in a single day. This is because your hair is constantly going through the hair growth and shedding cycle. Even if you’re experiencing excessive hair shedding due to a stressor in your life, this is still normal and something a lot of women experience throughout their lifetime.
Is losing hair in the shower normal?
If you’re finding some hairs in the shower drain, in your brush or on the floor, no need to panic! It’s extremely normal to shed 80-100 hairs a day. Now, if you’re seeing a LOT more hair than that, this excessive shedding could be due to a major life-change event or physical trauma that’s caused more hair than usual to skip to the shedding phase. Either way, this hair grows back eventually.
How long does the hair shedding phase last?
Hair shedding typically doesn’t occur until three months after whatever stress event triggered it. You’ll see your hair return to its normal thickness within six months.
When is hair loss concerning?
If you’re wondering “when should I be worried about hair loss?” pay attention to how much hair you’re losing. Remember, it’s normal for hair to shed on a daily basis. But if you’re seeing clumps of hair falling out or visible thinning, schedule a visit with your dermatologist.