When the seasons change, we often think about two things: our wardrobes and allergies. For some individuals, however, this transition can also lead to hair loss. Like seasonal allergies (or even skin concerns), seasonal shedding occurs when a shift in temperature puts stress on the scalp and follicles, which leads to strands falling out. Of course, there's more biology to it than that. To give you the full rundown on seasonal hair loss, we tapped two of the industry's top trichologists. Below, discover how to combat this common concern.
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Spring and Fall Shedding
According to Penny James, a trichologist and the owner of Penny James Salon, most people experience extra hair shedding in the fall. While we typically shed up to 100 hairs a day, during the more moderate months of the year, that number can reach 150, she says. The reason? Our hair rests in the telogen phase in summer and enters the exogen phase (or the shedding phase) in fall-and occasionally spring, she adds. While this phenomenon isn't widely understood, a 2009 study by Swiss researchers found that, of 823 women evaluated over six years' time, more entered the telogen phase during summer than any other time of year; more research is needed, however, on fall's connection to the exogen phase.
Seasonal Hair Loss Versus Telogen Effluvium
As you may have guessed, the number-one symptom of seasonal hair loss is an increase in shedding during a particular time of year. You might notice more strands in your brush after combing or more a clogged shower drain, which is the result of a diffuse shed pattern. "Hair falls from all over the scalp-not in one area," James says. "This is often confused with telogen effluvium [which is temporary, stress-induced hair loss]." The difference between seasonal hair loss and telogen effluvium? The only stress associated with the former is a temperature change which triggers your scalp and follicles to enter a shedding phase. Of course, without a degree in trichology or dermatology, it can be difficult to know the root cause-which is why James advises checking in with a professional if you notice an unusual increase in hair loss.
Anyone and everyone can experience seasonal hair loss, but women report the condition most frequently. Ultimately, more research is needed to determine exactly why we shed when we do, notes James. "We used to need hair to protect ourselves from the elements-naturally we would shed that hair in the spring as the weather gets warmer," she explains, noting that beyond that line of thinking, in-depth research is lacking.
The Importance of a Healthy Scalp
To avoid seasonal hair loss, keep your hair and scalp as healthy as possible at all times, say our experts. "It is always a good idea to make an extra effort to keep the hair and scalp hydrated and moisturized. A dry scalp can cause inflammation and more hair loss," adds Bosley MD certified trichologist Gretchen Friese. "Using a deep conditioning mask once per week is important. Also, limiting heat styling can be helpful for the same reasons."
There is good news: Seasonal hair loss is temporary. It's not even technically considered "loss"-it's simply an accelerated shedding phase that James says should subside within a couple weeks into the season. So long as you tend to your hair and scalp and eat a protein-rich diet to heal your hair and scalp from the inside out, you should regrow those strands in no time, she explains.