Chances are, you’re accustomed to seeing strands of hair on your hairbrush, your clothes, or in the shower. Hair shedding is a normal part of the hair growth cycle—it’s something we all experience as humans. But if you’re seeing more going down the drain than usual, you could be experiencing hair loss. “[Losing] 100 strands of hair a day is the standard,” says certified trichologist Dabs Ogboru. This may seem like quite a handful, but with new hair constantly growing in to replace those that shed, it’s hard to notice at all. When your hair falls faster than it is replaced, that’s when you might see signs of hair loss. “Hair loss can be sudden or gradual thinning of the hair on top of head, circular or patchy bald spots, or full-body hair loss. If you shampoo your hair and find strands of hair strewn all over and more than what you usually shed, this should alert you,” says Ogboru.
If you’re experiencing hair loss, we know it can be a struggle. After all, we all want to achieve healthy, voluminous hair. We’ve rounded up the 12 best tips for how to stop hair loss with help from Dabs Ogboru and Dr. Nazarian below. Read on—your healthy hair journey starts now.
Hair looking thin? Watch our tutorial on hairstyles for thin hair here:
About the Experts:
There’s no one answer. According to board-certified dermatologist, Rachel Nazarian, MD, “There are many reasons for hair loss. They range from stress, diet, and nutritional deficiencies, medication, external stressors leading to weakened follicles, hormonal, and genetic susceptibility. Other types of hair loss can be caused by autoimmune reactions such as alopecia areata that often recover fully.”
Not sure if you’re losing hair? Ogboru has an easy method to tell, “It's called the hair ball test, gather and roll the shed hair into a ball, if it's larger than a golf ball (relative to the length of the hair), keep track of the hair ball next wash day and compare if it stays the same golf ball size or whatever ball you choose to compare it to. (If you’re experiencing thinning hair, check out our list of tips for styling thin hair).
Chemical processes such as keratin treatments, chemical relaxers, chemical perms, and chemical dying can be great (and fun!) for changing up your hair texture and shade. But, constant use of chemicals can cause damage to your scalp and hair which leads to hair loss. Dr. Nazarain says, “Chemical processing of hair can cause it to weaken and become brittle, leading to increased loss and the inability to grow hair longer.” If you’re seeing dryness, breakage, and sparse spots, it’s best to give your hair a break between appointments, at least every few months, and to use high-quality hair products to encourage healthy re-growth. (Looking for a chemical-free alternative for straightening hair? Here’s what to know about silk press treatments.)
From work stress to life stress, keeping chill can be tough. But stress, while tough to avoid, can be a major trigger for hair loss. According to Dr. Nazarian, it can also be difficult to connect to hair loss because of your body’s reaction time. “Stress is a huge factor [for hair loss], and that includes physical stressors such as surgery or illness, along with emotional stressors. Oftentimes people do not manifest signs of hair loss until months later.” That major life event? It can affect your hair months later. While eliminating stress completely is, well, pretty impossible, adding moments of calm to your day with stress-relieving exercises like yoga, a quick workout, or treating yourself to a massage can help.
Aside from feeling ah-mazing, scalp massages have major benefits for hair regrowth. According to this 2016 research study, 340 participants experiencing hair loss performed scalp massages twice a day and found that it improved overall. Dr. Nazarian adds, “Scalp massage is certainly useful because it enhances circulation, which brings more blood flow and nutrients to the area, all useful for hair growth.” Scalp massage also helps stimulate hair follicles to grow thicker hair by stretching the cells within them. The best way to massage a scalp massage? Try using a healthy hair oil.
Hair oiling has recently become buzzy, but it’s a practice that has been used in parts of the world, like India, for thousands of years to nourish and strengthen hair. Ogboru says, “There's been a recent debate about oiling the hair—some hair experts argue for and others argue against it. My general thoughts on hair oiling are that using the right oils will help protect the follicle from surfactants by filling the gap between cuticle layers. Oils can help in scalp health when used to gently massage the scalp, however, some oil molecules are too big to be used on the scalp and will clog the hair follicles—those types of oils should be avoided.”
Our Pick: OUAI Hair Oil that glosses up strands, minimizes frizz, and smells irresistible (so it’s a joy to use).
While over-shampooing can strip away your hairs’ natural oils, it’s not the direct cause of hair loss. Dr. Nazarian says, “The frequency of washing does not alter hair loss or regrowth, with the exception of benefits coming from certain medicated shampoos that encourage hair growth and minimize loss—[in that case], shampooing should be performed a few times weekly to expose the scalp to the active ingredients frequently,” says Dr. Nazarian. So when you do shampoo, it’s key to use formulas that will improve your hair and scalp health and products that encourage hair growth.
What should you look for? Dr. Nazarian suggests, “Shampooing with ingredients such as ketoconazole, or other anti-inflammatory ingredients can improve specific types of hair loss in some people.” (Ketoconazole has also been shown in studies to help block the DHT hormone responsible for hair loss, particularly pattern baldness in men.) Dr. Nazarian adds, “I encourage the use of minoxidil, ketoconazole, and shampoos like RE-Fresh for people complaining of itchy or flakey scalp along with hair loss.” (Want more products? Check out our 15 Best Shampoos for Thinning Hair.)
Perhaps one of the most common treatments for hair loss is minoxidil. This over-the-counter medication is easy to find, and research, including this one study, has shown that it’s effective in treating hair loss in low doses. While minoxidil can encourage new hair growth, that doesn't mean you should reach for it right away. As Dr. Nazarian mentioned earlier, there are many causes of hair loss, some underlying (like hormonal changes or thyroid issues, for example), so you should always see a professional before using it to discuss any side effects and determine if it’s the best course of action for you. “Self-diagnosis is strongly discouraged when it comes to hair loss,” says Ogboru. “It is always best to see a professional. As a Trichologist, that is what we are trained to do—help our clients navigate and deal with [hair loss].
Brushing our hair is such a normal part of life that we hardly think of how and when we’re doing it. And, according to Dr. Nazarian, it can be great for your hair and scalp, with one caveat: Don’t brush it when it’s soaking wet. “I recommend people treat their hair delicately when dealing with hair loss. Brushing hair is fine and even encouraged because it also improves scalp circulation, but brushing wet hair can damage the follicle and increase fragility.”
Brushing hair when it’s too dry can also cause breakage. If you’ve ever attempted to tackle a dry knot of hair, you know the struggle. According to Ogboru, “Brushing completely dry hair can lead to hair breakage, so use a light mist or a leave-in cream to slightly dampen the hair. Then, work in smaller sections if you've got a lot of hair. Also, consider the quality of the brush bristles. I have found that PVC bristles can be too harsh on the hair shaft and cause more split ends.”
We love: FOXYBAE Rose Gold Detangling Brush to help gently comb through knots to minimize breakage and split ends.
Super tight hairstyles like tight ponytails and braids are a common cause of hair loss. Wearing them repeatedly can cause a form of hair loss called traction alopecia. Tight hairstyles can pull at the scalp, causing trauma to hair follicles that can result in hair shedding, hair loss, and receding hairlines. In addition, using rubber ponytail holders or scrunchies that are too small, can cause damage to the hair shaft, and breakage during removal.
When we’re healthy on the inside, it shows on the inside—from our skin and nails to our hair. One way to make sure you’re giving your body what it needs to function at its best is through food. Ogboru says, “Hair is mostly made of a protein called keratin and a lot of people with hair loss deal with several nutritional deficiencies including amino acids that serve as the building blocks of protein. Eating a diet rich in protein may help prevent hair loss. Healthy choices include foods like eggs, nuts, beans, peas, fish, low-fat dairy products, chicken, and turkey.”
According to this study, the Mediterranean Diet, which is rich in proteins, herbs, vegetables, and anti-inflammatory foods, can be helpful for minimizing hair loss. Many diets that help with weight loss can cause nutritional deficiencies (and actually trigger hair loss). The Mediterranean Diet is packed with essential vitamins and nutrients that boost overall health, including the health of your hair.
Dr. Nazarian says, “Healthy hair relies greatly on proteins, fats, and a range of vitamins and minerals. Look for foods containing vitamin B5, iron, fatty acids such as omega-3, vitamin C.” Another important vitamin to watch? Vitamin D. According to one study, vitamin D has been associated with forms of hair loss like nonscarring alopecia. Vitamin D is difficult to load up on in foods alone, and with many of us working from home where we’re out of the sun, we’re getting even less than the recommended daily intake. Vitamin A is also crucial to scalp health because it helps the scalp produce sebum, which can help prevent hair breakage. Vitamin A needs to be carefully balanced—too much can actually cause hair loss. If you suspect you might be vitamin-deficient, your doctor can perform blood tests to check, and possibly recommend supplements. (Also, check out our guide to vitamin D and hair loss for more info.)
There are lots of treatments today—from low-level lasers to light therapy—that can help minimize and stop hair loss (thank you, science!) with minimal or no downtime. Dr. Nazarian suggests, “Regularly use LED red light caps.” Red LED lights have wavelengths that penetrate deep into the skin, down to the cells’ mitochondria (or energy powerhouse). This type of therapy helps mitochondria process energy more efficiently, helping your body to function more optimally. Used on the scalp, it can help stimulate hair growth.
“Microneedling is another option that can be utilized at home, although it’s also performed in in-office settings,” says Dr. Nazarian. Microneedling stimulates collagen and elastin production in the skin by piercing the skin with super tiny needles that trigger a healing reaction. On the scalp, microneedling can help stimulate new cells to grow, and therefore improve hair loss and trigger new hair growth.
Our Pick: ORA Facial Microneedle Roller System that’s made with extremely fine needles so it’s gentle on your skin and scalp.
Ogboru’s final advice for dealing with hair loss? “The main tip I have for conquering hair loss is to partner with a professional, find a routine that works, and stay consistent. It’s the consistency that produces results.”
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