Losing your hair is terrifying and awful, especially as a woman: your mane is often a symbol of your femininity, and a token of your beauty, so to lose any of that can be incredibly stressful. The good news is, you may be able to reverse, or at least slow the process, if you can narrow down the cause.
And before you panic, know that a bit of daily hair loss isn't cause for alarm. "Hair loss in women is, to a certain extent, normal," hair restoration specialist Dr. James C. Marotta told StyleCaster. "The average woman loses between 50 and 100 strands per day — even up to 150 in some cases." Phew!
So when should you worry? Dr. Marotta recommends a test you can do yourself, to see if your hair loss is cause for concern. "Take about 60 hairs between your fingers and pull, running your fingers through your hair. Usually between 5 and 8 hairs [will come out], which is normal," he said. "An excess of 15 hairs, however, is not as common, and means you are losing more hair than you should be."
If you're in the 15 and over camp, read on to find out what may be the culprit, so you can recover those lush, full locks again, stat.
Over-styling hair and using too many products
Over-styling your hair, whether it's over-brushing, overuse of heat tools, or even overusing some long-hold hair products, can cause breakage. This may make it look like you're losing your hair — but it's actually breaking off of the ends or the shaft, not coming out at the roots.
"Hair myths, such as brushing your hair one hundred strokes each day, can cause split ends," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Paradi Mirmirani told the American Academy of Dermatology. "Having healthy hair is possible if you know how to care for your hair before and after styling." Dr. Mirmirani recommends towel or air-drying hair, brushing as little as possible, avoiding long-hold styling products, and setting styling tools to low or medium heat.
Wearing the same hairstyle all the time
Are you committed to your extensions, top knot, or high ponytail, a la Ariana Grande? If so, you may have "traction alopecia," a condition that occurs after "persistent gentle pulling on the roots, over several hours or days," The Independent reports. Exactly where the hair loss occurs can depend on what style you prefer: if you apply rollers too tightly, you may get a somewhat irregular traction alopecia pattern, while those who prefer top knots may get a horseshoe-shaped pattern of hair loss. Those who opt for cornrows or braids may find they lose hair along their parts. Ladies who prefer ponytails may see hair loss on the sides of their foreheads.
If this is the cause, the remedy is somewhat simple, if gradual: Dr. Mirmirani suggests taking breaks from cornrows, braids, extensions, or any other super-tight styles, to allow your hair a chance to grow back. Even simply switching up your part can help.
A hormonal imbalance can cause levels of hair-growing hormones (like estrogen and progesterone) to dip, and hair-loss hormones (like androgen and testosterone) to rise, Women's Health reports.
What's important here is to determine the cause of the hormonal imbalance itself: you may have a thyroid issue, polycystic ovary syndrome, or simply benefit from medication that regulates hormones, like birth control. Once your doctor determines the cause, he or she can develop the best plan of action to correct (or at least minimize) the problem.
Your birth control
Birth control can solve so many problems when you find the right formula: Your cramps are reduced, your mood swings aren't as severe, your skin may clear up…and hopefully, you'll keep your hair.
Stopping or starting birth control in general can sometimes cause hormonal fluctuations that can trigger hair loss, and endocrinologist Dr. Geoffrey Redmond explained to The Daily Beast that certain formulations of birth control are more likely to cause hair loss than others.
"The pill has two types of hormones in it, or most of them do: a form of estrogen, which is good for hair, and a progestin, which is a modified form of progesterone, and those vary in their androgenic activity," Dr. Redmond said. "The two situations which might give rise to hair loss over the pill are, first of all, if someone is on an androgenic progestin, of which the norethindrone in Loestrin is one of them, and norgestrel, which is in a variety of other pills…that's the one that's most androgenic."
Translation: If you're concerned about hair loss stemming from your birth control prescription, talk to your OBGYN about an anti-androgen formula. It may take some trial and error to find a method that's perfect for you. If changing your oral contraceptive isn't an option, Dr. Redmond also suggests adding an anti-androgen medication to counteract any potential hormonal hair loss that may come with its use.