As we get older, our slowing metabolisms can make it harder and harder to stay thin. But the one thing that seems to get thinner without much effort is something we wish didn’t: our hair.
Ironic, isn’t it?
Female Normal Hair Loss
Everyone is born with a fixed number of hair follicles on the scalp that produce hairs throughout life. Hair grows from the base of the follicle at a rate of about one centimetre a month for about three years. This growth phase is called anagen. After anagen, the hair dies (catagen hair) and no longer grows. It sits dormant in the follicle for a three-month phase called telogen. After telogen, the hair follicle undergoes another anagen phase to produce a new hair that grows out of the same follicle. As it grows, the old telogen hair is dislodged or pushed out. This is a cycle that continues throughout life.
Seeing a lot of hair whirling down the shower drain? Don’t freak—yet. “Hair loss in women is, to a certain extent, normal,” advises leading New York-based hair restoration specialist Dr. James C. Marotta. “The average woman loses between 50 and 100 strands per day, even up to 150 in some cases.”
But if you really feel like you’ve started to lose an excessive amount of hair each day, Dr. Marotta recommends this trick: “Take about 60 hairs between your fingers and pull, running your fingers through your hair. Usually between 5 and 8 hairs, which is normal,” he says. “An excess of 15 hairs, however, is not as common and means you are losing more hair than you should be.”
Here’s the deal, says Dr. Marotta: “For most, 90 percent of the hair on your head is in the growing phase, while about 10 percent of your hair is in the ‘resting’ phase, meaning that 10 percent will fall out and leave room for new hair growth within a certain period of time. If you are losing more than 15 hairs per pull, it likely means more than 10 percent of the hair on your head is in the ‘resting’ phase,” he explains. “While this still may not be a true cause for concern, it would be a good idea to ask an expert about what to do to halt this process.”
You may find your hair sheds more a few months after a stressful event. It’s not uncommon to find you’re losing more hair about two months after giving birth. It can also occur after undergoing surgery, suffering severe emotional stress, losing 20 pounds or more or having an illness (especially if you’ve had a high fever). Dr. Marotta says, “so it’s important to take a look at your lifestyle when hair loss becomes an issue.” He does warn, however, that “hair loss can also become prevalent due to hormonal, immunological, and infectious issues,” so no matter what, a trip to the doctor is never a bad idea, if only to ease your anxieties.
That’s temporary. Eventually, your body readjusts and, along with that, the shedding slows and the hair on your head fills in, regaining its normal fullness.
But real hair loss—or female pattern baldness (the most common type of hair loss among women)—is different. The evidence is much more apparent than some random strands falling out.
Female Pattern Baldness
You may have inherited your father’s blue eyes — and your mother’s thinning hair.
If the condition runs in your family and you’ve noticed your hair looks thinner than it did a few years ago, you may have the beginning stages of female pattern baldness. The condition is surprisingly common — up to half of women will experience it by the time they reach 50 years old, research shows. It can start early on in life during puberty, around age 12, or later on in adulthood, around age 40.
Whether you’re currently experiencing thinning hair or suspect you’re in for it in the coming years, it’s important to arm yourself with the necessary knowledge so you know what to expect — and how to slow the process down.
What happens with female pattern baldness is that over time the hair follicle shrinks and eventually stops growing new hair. The part in your hair may get wider or your ponytail may lose its bulk. Maybe there’s an unusually large amount of hair on your pillow when you wake. Or there’s a lot in the comb or brush, even though you brushed softly and without tugging. This type of hair loss usually begins in midlife but can begin earlier.