Everyone loses hair. In fact, shedding is a natural part of the hair growth cycle. Hair follicles routinely release fully grown hair strands just before entering a resting period known as telogen phase. Weeks later, a fresh strand of hair begins to grow.
Pattern baldness is different from normal hair loss. This condition is characterized by a progressive loss of hair that usually occurs in a predictable pattern, beginning at the hairline and extending backward across the top of the scalp toward the crown. The signs of pattern baldness can be reversed, but treatment effectiveness is highest when the condition is recognized early. For this reason, adults are often advised by physicians to proactively monitor hair loss so a treatment can be used as soon as possible.
Fortunately, there is a simple way to determine if hair loss is normal: Count the number of hairs lost each day. If fewer than 100 hairs are shed, it is normal. When hair loss exceeds 100 hairs each day, however, it could be warning sign that androgenetic alopecia, pattern baldness, or Telogen effluvium (stress induced hair loss) has begun.
Tips for Checking for Hair Loss at Home
Hair restoration surgeons often recommend the following 3 ways to check for hair loss at home. The first two methods rely on collecting hairs and counting total daily loss. The third is a quick test that can give great feedback almost instantly.
1. Collecting Pillow Hair
The average person spends about 6 to 9 hours asleep in bed. That’s nearly 1/3rd of life spent with your head on a pillow. As you sleep, friction may cause hair to shed and accumulate on the pillow. Every morning, examine your pillow and collect the hair you find. If you share your bed, make sure the hair you collect belongs to you. Count daily pillow hair along with hair collected from the bathroom (described below) to determine if more than 100 hairs are being shed each day.
2. Collecting Bathroom Hair
Washing, styling, and grooming are all activities that may cause hair to fall out. Most of the time, it’s normal to lose hair while performing these activities. To make sure it’s not the onset of a hair loss condition, collect hair from the following areas of major accumulation: Shower drains, sink bowls/drains, hair brushes, and other styling and grooming tools. Count daily bathroom hair along with pillow hair, and be mindful as total hair loss approaches (or exceeds) 100 hairs each day.
3. The Hair Pull Test
The Hair Pull Test is a common method of evaluation used by hair restoration surgeons, dermatologists, and other physicians when diagnosing hair loss. This test is different from the methods of hair collection described above, as it is a general measure of the hairs that can be easily pulled from the scalp. To perform this test, grasp a thick clump of hair between your thumb and forefinger. Gently pull outward and away from the scalp. Allow hairs that are firmly rooted in the scalp to pass through your grasp, but maintain enough traction so that loose hairs are pulled clean. A “normal” result will be 2 to 5 hairs pulled from the scalp. If 8 to 20 hairs are pulled, however, it should be considered a sign that a hair loss condition exists.
Adults are often shocked to learn that hair loss is a progressive disease. Once it starts, hair loss will continue unless an intervention is made. Hair loss can be stopped—and sometimes reversed—provided it is diagnosed and treated early. Perform these tests at home to determine whether your hair loss is normal, or if it is a warning sign that a condition like pattern baldness is forming. Then, speak with a hair restoration expert to learn which treatment options are best for your hair. Hair transplant surgery, non-surgical laser therapy, and medications like minoxidil (Rogaine®) are just 3 of the most common and effective ways to restore hair once the condition is diagnosed.
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