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Asking for a Friend: How Much Hair Loss Is Normal?

Maybe you've noticed more hairs than normal accumulating in your brush. Or maybe your guy has not-so-subtly commented that the shower drain gets clogged a lot more often now that you've moved in. Before you freak out, consider what season it is, says Francesca Fusco, M.D., CLEAR Scalp & Hair dermatologist. After all, it's normal to lose about 50 to 100 hairs a day. And that number fluctuates throughout the year—it's higher in the autumn and lower in the summer.

A few other everyday things can cause a totally normal, temporary uptick in shedding: a drastic diet change, starting or stopping birth control pills, and having a baby. But you'll have to think back—there's a delay (up to six months) between these events and the hair loss. And if you're shampooing less often now that it's colder out, realize that you'll lose more hair during each wash, since the hairs are accumulating for longer. (Read up on How to Use Dry Shampoo for Beautiful Hair.)

But if you notice a coin-shaped bald area (or areas) on your scalp, run to your dermatologist, says Fusco, since that could be a signal of alopecia areata, a medical condition in which the immune system attacks hair follicles, but which can be treated with a cortisone injection. You should also see your doc if you're especially itchy or if your scalp is red, tender, bumpy, or flaking, since these signs could point to a scalp problem or an allergy. (Prolonged inflammation can lead to hair loss.) And if you suddenly notice a massive increase in the amount of hair falling out each day, and it doesn't slow down after a month, schedule an office visit. Same thing goes if you're losing hair at the temples and front of your hairline and have a family history of female-pattern thinning. (And if you're constantly sporting a top knot, we've got news for you: It's one of The Worst Hair Styles for Hair Health.)

Simply notice that the hairs are short, relative to your hair length? The culprit is likely breakage (flatiron junkies, we're looking at you). "Take care of the hair you have," says Fusco. "Conditioner will keep it resilient." She also advises looking for products that are labeled as addressing the scalp as well as the hair, since a dry and cracked scalp will lead to brittle, dull hair.

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