Oh, if shower plugholes could talk.
Ask any man who’s lived with a woman what his biggest surprise was and it won’t be the volume of cosmetics she owns or why she likes those funny fruity teas. It will be her hair – specifically, how on earth it travels so far.
It’s like our hair has an Opal card. The obvious stop for it to get off would be the brush, yet it’s an adventurous sort: it likes the bedroom floor, to get twisted around socks in the washing machine, and to relax on the plate of food you’ve just served to a guest.
Though its personal favourite is the shower plughole – where it invites along all of its friends, gets cosy in some gloop, and tangles in for the long-haul* (*the arrival of the plunger).
But at some point you begin to question whether losing all this hair is normal.
Well, we’ve got good news. It is.
“Our hair naturally cycles: 90% of it is in the growing phase, and up to 10% is in the falling-out phase. We’re always losing hair, and that’s why you constantly see it in the sink, in the shower and in your hairbrush,” reassures GP Dr Sam Hay.
It’s estimated that we lose between 50 and 150 hairs a day, though if you’re blessed with the locks of a Disney princess, expect to lose more.
“Thick hair naturally sheds more: there’s more hair on the head, so more comes out,” he explains.
You might also notice more hair loss when you wash it, tie it back or use a new brush. Again, totally normal: “These simply promote a few more of those hairs that are teetering on the edge of falling out to actually come out.”
Sometimes you’re not even losing more hairs – it just appears that you are. For example, if you’re blonde, you’re more likely to notice hair loss when you wear dark clothes or use dark bed linen. But your total loss-count is no higher.
So, when to be concerned?
“If you notice an excessive change,” explains Dr Sam.
“If the change is ‘global’ – ie all over your head – it may point towards female pattern hair loss, similar to what we see in men. If hair comes out in circular patches, it could relate to a local skin inflammation or infection – particularly if your scalp is suffering from rashes or scaly skin. Hair loss can also be linked to a low thyroid, especially if there is extreme tiredness and achiness.”
If you’re under a period of intense pressure, the stress hormone will influence the natural cycling of your hair – and won’t be helped by the fact that stressed-out people often tend to play with their hair more.
Whatever your worry, Dr Sam advises seeing your doctor as soon as possible, giving them details of how long you’ve noticed an increase in hair loss, where from, and any physical changes (ie a thinning ponytail).
Finding the exact cause of hair loss is quite a specialised science. “Get it checked early so you can ask to see a dermatologist – a skin specialist – early too,” he advises.
Have you previously been concerned about your hair loss?
Dr Sam Hay is a director of a Sydney GP practice and a medical consultant on The Project and Embarrassing Bodies Down Under.
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