The Doctor is In: what is “normal” shed hair?

M. Carter Asks:Hello Dr. Williams, Does the amount of shed hair considered “normal” vary by person? Even when I was relaxed, I had a lot of shedding – full length hair, not broken pieces. I have very thick, coarse hair. This seems to have carried over into my natural hair journey. Just want to make sure I’m not having a negative impact on my hair during detangling or styling (mainly when shingling) with the tools I am using (Ouidad Double Detangler/Denman brush), based on the hair I see left in them. Thanks!


Dr. Kari Writes:

Yes, the amount of shed hair considered “normal” would vary. The resting phase, or shedding phase of the hair cycle is called telogen. When hairs are in the telogen phase shampooing, combing, brushing or manipulating the hair in any way will cause hairs to fall out. These are the hairs we see on a daily basis and this is natural. It is important to remember that if you only shampoo your hair once to twice a week or don’t comb it frequently, several hairs will be lost simultaneously when you finally do. A telogen hair typically has a club shaped bulb on the end of it. This bulb is an indication the hair strand has gone through a complete hair cycle and was ready to come out.

When the hair shedding is significantly and persistently above average and the density of your hair decreases to the point where your scalp becomes visible, this is a sign of hair loss. Consequently, there may be systemic reasons causing your hair loss. Some of these causes can be stress, illness, medication, nutritional deficiency, hormonal fluctuations or autoimmune disorders like alopecia areata.

Therefore, check your strands. If the hair you are seeing on a regular basis has a clubbed shaped bulb, then this is an indication that you naturally shed above the estimated average number of hairs during telogen; and this is normal. If you are noticing areas of thinning or breakage, there may be another reason why your hair is shedding excessively and I would recommend visiting a Trichologist or Dermatologist for proper diagnosis.

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  1. Dr. Kari is THE BOMB. I went for a consult this past summer. Great info because I too shed a lot. However, I too have heard that we shed strands all time and it’s normal until you start to see your scalp, as Dr.Kari has suggested. Great post!

  2. Great post. I’m sure many will find this helpful :)

  3. Generally, hair loss in patches signifies alopecia areata. Alopecia areata typically presents with sudden hair loss causing patches to appear on the scalp or other areas of the body. If left untreated, or if the disease does not respond to treatment, complete baldness can result in the affected area, which is referred to as alopecia totalis.

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