Is Seasonal Hair Loss Normal? We Asked A Trichologist—Here's What She Said

We’ve all been there: Wash day is going as planned, right up until you rinse out your conditioner. Suddenly, more than just a few hairs come out in a clump, and you’re left wondering if there’s a bald spot under your mane.

By Alina Clough3 min read

Those moments of shower panic can be heart-stopping, and for some reason, they seem to come more and more often as the weather gets colder.

Sometimes, this is a normal reaction to your environment, as hair can be shocked by changing temperatures, but sometimes it signals a nutritional deficiency. A little hair loss may be normal as the calendar flips forward, but significant shedding could be a sign from your body to address some medical problems.

If you’ve noticed a lot more strands of hair in your shower drain recently, you’re not alone. Many women notice that their hair shedding ramps up in the fall and winter, with some taking to social media to share their showertime frustrations. But is seasonal hair shedding normal? And if so, how do you know whether you're experiencing normal shedding or a sign of something deeper

The Changing of the Seasons

The first thing to know about seasonal hair loss is that, for the majority of women, it’s totally normal. Even on a typical day, most women lose between 60 and 100 strands of hair. The longer your hair is, the more noticeable this may be (especially to your roommates or husband, if you’re the one always clogging the shower), but since the average head has around 100,000 hair follicles, you’re bound to see them fall pretty regularly. 

“Hair loss after summer is a common phenomenon and should not be a major concern in most cases,” Marta Teixeira, a certified trichologist, tells Evie. “It is important to understand that seasonal hair loss is a natural response of our body to changes in the seasons.” 

During or after a shower is one of the most common times to notice shedding, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your shampoo or conditioner is to blame. Especially with long hair, strands that have already been shed are often just stuck in your hair and only end up nudged loose by water, washing, or brushing. 

Seasonal shedding, in addition to this normal shedding, is the result of a combination of factors ranging from your hair’s natural growth cycles to environmental impacts on your hair growth and health. Hair grows in four stages: In the anagen phase or “growth phase,” hair grows from the root, roughly six inches a year for 2-8 years. At any given point in time, most of the hairs on your head are in the growth phase. Hair growth then begins to slow in the catagen phase, which typically lasts anywhere from 10 days to 10 weeks. During this phase, the hair’s follicle begins to shrink, which slowly cuts off nutrients from the hair, limiting its growth. Once the hair is no longer receiving nutrients, it enters the telogen phase for 2-3 months, staying in its place but no longer actively growing. Finally, the exogen phase refers to the end of the telogen phase when the hair finally falls out of the follicle. 

A 2009 study by the University Hospital of Zürich showed that, in healthy women, it’s common for hair to rest in the telogen phase during summer and transition to the exogen phase as the weather gets colder. This is because although the exogen phase is a normal part of the hair growth cycle, the change in seasons can induce telogen effluvium, a term for stress-induced hair loss. During telogen effluvium, a greater number of hair follicles enter the telogen phase, causing more to fall out at the same time. 

The changing seasons also present physical issues for hair, depending on where you live. Colder temperatures and dry air can make hair more brittle and put more stress on your scalp, especially if you over-wash your hair, spend a lot of time in the cold, or don’t moisturize your scalp and hair well enough. The decrease in sunlight can also wreak havoc on your vitamin D levels, which are key to keeping hair in its telogen phase.

When To Seek Medical Attention

While some seasonal hair loss can be normal, it’s also important to keep an eye on your locks if you feel that you’re losing a lot more this year than in winters prior. “The limit of hair loss considered normal can vary from person to person, but on average, it is estimated that we lose about 60 to 100 strands per day,” Teixeira says, “If someone notices hair loss significantly above this limit and it persists over time, with decreased hair density, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist or trichologist for proper evaluation and diagnosis.” 

Other signs should give you pause too. Dr. Alicia Zalka, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine, says that if your hair loss ramps up over time, or if you notice bald patches or rashes, it may be time to see a doctor to rule out any underlying medical issues.

How To Stop the Shed

While a certain amount of shedding is unavoidable, there are some small things you can do to avoid getting hair loss for Christmas. Most importantly, make sure your diet is on point, especially your vitamin intake. Loading up on nutritious, anti-inflammatory foods will help ensure your hair isn’t falling out more than it already needs to. Unfortunately, data don’t tend to support most hair growth supplements, despite their popularity, so you may as well save your money when it comes to targeted TikTok ads. 

Ultimately, Teixeira says, “Hair loss is in many cases a symptom and not something that is treated by itself. If you don't know the reason for hair fall, you also won't be able to treat hair loss and may unnecessarily spend money.” 

Still, try to spend some time every day in the sun, and consider taking a vitamin D3 supplement to help make up for the lack of sunshine in the darker months.

The summer may be the best time to protect your hair, long before the fall shed begins, Teixeira stresses: “During the summer, the hair is exposed to the sun, pool chlorine and seawater, which can make it more fragile. Although there is less shedding in summer, it is important to protect hair from UV damage – so a hat is important. It is important to use adequate hair care products, such as conditioners and masks, to keep hair healthy.”

What you do when getting ready matters as well. Minimize styling damage by relying less on tightly pulled back styles, and take it easy with the hot styling tools too. Interestingly, though, this doesn’t apply as much to your blow dryer: When used with heat protectant (and not directly on the scalp to avoid irritation), new research suggests that blow drying your hair might actually be beneficial for your scalp and lengths alike.

Closing Thoughts

If, as the days get shorter, your hair is getting thinner, don’t freak out! You’re in good company with many women who experience seasonal hair shedding. As long as you’re keeping a balanced diet and being mindful of harsh hair styling methods, you likely have nothing to worry about besides clogging your drains.

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