It's completely normal to lose about 100 strands of hair every day, but let's be real: nobody's going around counting every single hair that escapes their head. To adequately determine if you're losing too much hair, it's important to look for more calculable and visible signs of hair loss. From there, you can determine whether it's time to see a trichologist or dermatologist for proper intervention.
With expert insight, here's how to know how much is too much hair loss, what specific signs to look for, and when to call in a pro.
How Common Is Hair Loss in Women?
"Because there are so many different causes for hair loss—hormonal changes, diet, medication, illness, stress, genetics, and more—it is very common in women," notes Gretchen Friese, a board-certified trichologist for BosleyMD.
Interestingly, she says there's been an uptick in female hair loss since the beginning of the pandemic—a type of temporary hair loss called telogen effluvium.
Long story short, spikes in stress hormones stop the growth (anagen) phase of the hair cycle, resulting in too much hair loss. The same thing happens in women who go through pregnancy. Fortunately, telogen effluvium is temporary, and recovery typically begins within three to six months.
Signs You're Losing Too Much Hair
On average, people lose roughly 20 percent of their hair—sometimes even more—before they even notice it's thinning. Below we've outlined some of the obvious visible signs of excess hair loss, as well as some more subtle observances you can make to catch hair loss before it gets this far.
“If you can wrap your hair tie around your ponytail more times than in the past, that is a sign your hair is getting thinner,” says Dr. Friese. You might also be able to tell it’s smaller simply by the way it feels in your hands.
Whether you’re on team center or team side part, keep an eye on the width of your part. When you see more scalp than what’s typical for you, that is a sign of hair loss. It’s good practice to take routine pictures of your part so you can compare over time. Set an alarm on your phone as a reminder.
Women are less likely to experience a receding hairline compared to men. Instead, they’re more prone to overall thinning. However, a receding hairline isn’t impossible, and it can also occur due to something called “traction alopecia.” This is a type of hair loss caused by wearing tight ponytails, buns, braids, or even extensions.
Less Volume/Reduced Thickness
If you notice less volume than usual—and it’s not simply an off hair day—this could be a sign of excessive hair loss. Only you know what your usual hair thickness and volume is, so look for small visible changes.
Fuller Hairbrush and More Hair in the Drain
Our hair cycle goes through two phases: growth (anagen) and rest (telogen). “The majority of our hair follicles are usually in the anagen phase. However, when there is imbalance, such as stress, there can be a shift to the telogen phase,” explains Sunitha Posina, MD, a board-certified internist in New York City.
If you notice that you’re collecting more hair in your brush or in the shower drain, and this becomes an ongoing issue, there’s a strong possibility you’re losing too much hair. In cases of excess hair loss, you may also notice more hair around the house, on your clothes, or in your car compared to usual.
When to See an Expert About Your Hair Loss
If you've noticed the above symptoms and are concerned about your hair loss, your best course of action is to schedule an appointment with a physician—ideally a trichologist, dermatologist, or doctor who specializes in hair loss—right away.
"I recommend always checking in with a medical professional first, just so you can rule out any internal issues—such as illness or vitamin deficiencies—before trying over-the-counter products," says Dr. Friese.
Addressing the exact cause of your hair loss will get you on the path to recovery more quickly. In cases where hair loss caused by illness or vitamin deficiencies, addressing those underlying health concerns will improve your general well-being while also reversing your hair loss. In cases of genetic-related hair loss, acting quickly is very important to restimulating the hair follicle to prevent permanent loss. Finally, even in cases of temporary hair loss, such as telogen effluvium, your doctor can help create a customized approach to help you get back to your usual head of hair.
While seeing an expert is the recommended route, we understand that sometimes cost or access is an issue. There are over-the-counter treatments you can explore, such as For Hers Minoxidil 2% for Women ($45; forhers.com) and Nutrafol Women ($88; amazon.com), both of which can help with age/genetic-related hair loss.
That said, an over-the-counter option cannot address underlying medical issues—such as hormone imbalance or thyroid issues—and not knowing what vitamin you're deficient in might make supplementation futile. When possible, seek expert help and you'll find yourself with a personalized game plan, better peace of mind, and improved hair health.