If Your Hair Is Falling Out Like Crazy, Here's Deal

High levels of stress, changes to your diet and hair-care routine, and a lack of vitamin D create the perfect storm for sudden hair loss.

There are myriad reasons that you may notice your hair start to fall out more than usual — and it can be worse when many factors combine. A prime example? A couple of weeks into the coronavirus quarantine (a lifetime ago, I know), I started to notice that my hair was falling out like crazy. What felt like suspiciously larger-than-usual clumps of hair were pooled on my floor post-shower, which my friends agreed was happening to them as well.

But a sudden surge in lost strands isn't always caused by an unforeseen stay indoors. "Hair loss is multifactorial, which means that there are many different causes," says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Between extremely high levels of stress, changes to your diet and hair-care regimens, and a lack of vitamin D, a life-altering change (whether permanent or short-term) can be a bit of a perfect storm for sudden hair loss.

Ahead, experts discuss how the changes in your life have the ability to impact the health of your hair — even triggering unexplained and unusual shedding and thinning. The good news? Experts in the fields of dermatology and trichology offer practices and products you can use to help combat hair loss.

Possible Causes of Sudden Hair Loss

Stress

As if being stressed isn't, well, stressful enough, it can also take a toll on your physical health — and hair loss is one of those frustrating side effects. Your sudden shedding could be caused by telogen effluvium, a form of hair loss that is typically temporary and happens after a stressful or traumatic event, physical or emotional stress, changes in weight, pregnancy, illness, medication, or dietary changes, explains New York City–based dermatologist Marisa Garshick, M.D.

But what if everything seemed normal at the start of that big life event, but you're just now starting to notice more hair in your brush after a few months? Well, with telogen effluvium, the hair loss often occurs weeks to months after the initial event, with some people noticing sudden hair loss three to six months after a certain trigger, says Dr. Garshick.

It's always best to manage stress as best as possible. While that's often easier said than done, these stress-relieving activities may help. Practices such as yoga and meditation are particularly helpful too, as they help balance the nervous system.

Lack of Vitamin D

Turns out, vitamin D — which you usually get from the sun — is not only crucial for your digestive system and immune system (and is useful as a mood booster) but "vitamin D is known to stimulate growth in hair follicles, so a deficiency can lead to hair loss," points out Sophia Kogan, M.D., co-founder and chief medical advisor of Nutrafol. If you're working from home or otherwise spending most of your time indoors, you're likely in short supply of sunlight; it's possible your vitamin D levels have taken a plunge, causing some excessive hair shedding.

If you feel like you could be low on vitamin D, it can help to start incorporating foods such as salmon, eggs, mushrooms, and dairy that is high in the vitamin into your diet, recommends Dr. Kogan. You could also consult your doctor to see if adding a vitamin D supplement — such as the PhiNaturals Vitamin D3 (Buy It, $15, amazon.com) — could help in your specific case.

Changes In Diet

First of all, go easy on yourself. There's no need to beat yourself up over a change in how you eat, especially when dealing with the stressors of a major life event. But your new diet could be the culprit for why your hair is thinning. "What you see happening to your hair is usually a manifestation of what's happening inside your body — so nutritional deficiencies are a common contributor to overall hair health," says Dr. Kogan.

When life is full of discomfort, "...you might have found yourself gravitating toward sweets, fried foods, and foods heavy in fat as a source of comfort," says Dr. Kogan. "This can disrupt the normal balance of bacteria within the gut, compromising the microbiome and leading to less absorption of nutrients," she explains. The bottom line: When the body lacks essential nutrients that are building blocks of hair, hair production can be compromised.

The fix? Add iron-rich foods to your diet. "A deficiency in ferritin (stored iron) commonly causes hair loss, especially in menstruating women," says Anabel Kingsley, trichologist and president of Philip Kingsley. Foods to prioritize for maintaining ferritin levels include red meat; dried apricots; beetroot; dark, leafy greens; and blackstrap molasses, she recommends.

Your Hair-Care Routine

If your trips to the salon have fallen way down on your list of priorities, that can be both a good and bad thing. On one hand, taking a break from your colorist means no harsh chemicals for those who dye their hair; on the other, getting frequent trims helps the hair not break from the ends, and without the ability to go into the salon for a cut, you may find that your hair appears less healthy, explains Dr. Kogan.

And while it may be tempting to slack on hair washing, it's not the best idea for your hair health. Your scalp is simply an extension of the skin on your forehead, and you wouldn't skip washing your face," points out Kingsley. Cleansing, massaging, and exfoliating your scalp will not only promote circulation but also new hair growth. Another misconception is that when you notice more hair loss, you should reduce your hair-washing frequency. "I always explain to patients that while it seems like a lot is coming out in the shower, it is hair you would have still otherwise lost, so simply washing your hair is not the underlying cause of the hair loss," says Dr. Garshick.

Try not to go more than three days without shampooing, and give your scalp some love too (more on that below), suggests Kingsley. Also, consider using this time to give your hair a break. Let it air dry, skip the hot tools, avoid color and dyes (you can always use a spray-on root coverup if you're desperate), and just let your hair do its (natural) thing. Finally, make sure your shampoo and conditioner are free of sulfates, parabens, and other chemicals as they can lead to immune or endocrine disruption, both of which can cause damage to the hair follicle, recommends Dr. Kogan.

Being Sick

If you've been very sick, whether with coronavirus or a fever, hair loss probably wasn't at the top of your mind — but if you experienced it and it upset you, the good news is that it's likely temporary. "For those who may have become infected with coronavirus, we know that any period of intense illness or hospitalization can cause stress on the body, which may lead to subsequent hair loss that is generally temporary," says Dr. Garshick. With regard to fevers, in particular, those over 102 degrees will almost always cause hair loss six to twelve weeks later (called post-febrile alopecia), notes Kingsley. "This is because your body shuts down the production of non-essential cells (including hair cells) in order to focus all energy on keeping your body functioning," adds Kingsley.

Focus on recovery rather than hair shedding, and be sure you are continuing to take care of yourself. "No need to take any action; this will stop of its own accord. However, being very unwell can deplete your body of nutrients, so it is important to eat nutritious and regular meals as soon as you can," says Kingsley.

When to See a Doctor for Sudden Hair Loss

In general, there are many different reasons for hair loss as well as different types of hair loss, so if you are noticing any changes, it is always best to check with your doctor. "We generally say that it is normal to lose approximately 50–100 hairs per day, and while it is not necessary or recommended to count each hair, I often find patients have a sense of when it increases beyond that based on what they are finding on the floor, in the shower, on the pillowcases or brushes," says Dr. Garshick.

"It is always important to be evaluated as there are other medical conditions that can also be associated with hair changes, such as thyroid disorders," adds Dr. Garshick. Early intervention is super important, as it can help minimize hair thinning, which ultimately translates to better outcomes, adds Dr. Zeichner.

The Best Products to Combat Hair Loss

From shampoo and conditioner to scalp treatments and supplements, there are a number of options that can help when it comes to fighting hair loss and stimulating new growth.

Nutrafol Women’s Hair Growth Supplement for Thicker, Stronger Hair

Nutrafol Women’s Hair Growth Supplement for Thicker, Stronger Hair product photo
AMAZON

This cult-favorite supplement combines a proprietary blend of 21 powerful ingredients, including a patented form of ashwagandha, a stress-busting adaptogen that helps balance elevated cortisol levels and build resilience to stress. The brand claims that 75 percent of those taking Nutrafol see a visible reduction in shedding in just two months.

Nioxin System 1 Cleanser Shampoo

Nioxin System 1 Cleanser Shampoo product photo
AMAZON

Nioxin has a ton of hair-loss product options (you can choose depending on your hair type) — and they come dermatologist-recommended. "This can help to improve the appearance of the hair that is there while waiting for the hair to grow back," says Dr. Garshick. "Many of these shampoos contain proteins that help to make the hair appear fuller," she explains.

Philip Kingsley Exfoliating Scalp Mask

Philip Kingsley Exfoliating Weekly Scalp Mask product photo
AMAZON

Give your scalp the treatment it deserves. This mask features BHA to clarify and zinc to balance the scalp and reduce excess sebum. This one's especially useful for those who like to stretch the time between washes.

Amika Thicc Volumizing Base

Amika Thicc Volumizing and Thickening Styling Cream product photo
SEPHORA

This styling-treatment hybrid works for as both a short- and long-term solution for hair loss. It immediately helps volumize hair to improve its appearance and also features redensyl, which is a patented blend of ingredients that work together to stimulate hair follicles to encourage growth.

René Furterer Vitalfan Dietary Supplement for Sudden Temporary Thinning Hair

Rene Furterer Vitalfan Dietary Supplement product photo
DERMSTORE

Specifically formulated for sudden, temporary hair loss resulting from imbalanced hormones, diet, or stress, this supplement uses blackcurrant to stimulate microcirculation alongside amino acids and fatty acids to encourage hair growth and keratin production. It's recommended to stick with it for three months for the best results.

Philip B Russian Amber Imperial Insta-Thick Hair Thickening and Finishing Spray

Philip B Russian Amber Imperial Insta-Thick Hair Thickening and Finishing Spray product photo
BLOOMINGDALE'S

When you want an immediate boost, turn to this volumizing spray. Dry shampoo meets hair-plumping polymers in this formula that instantly gives the appearance of fuller-bodied locks.

John Frieda Volume Lift Weightless Conditioner

John Frieda Volume Lift Weightless Conditioner product photo
AMAZON

Despite it being so lightweight, this conditioner is "designed to thicken and has been reported to increase hair volume by up to 40 percent," says Dr. Garshick. Keep in mind that with conditioner, a little goes a long way — too much conditioning, especially near the roots, can weigh hair down.

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