The signs range from subtle to obvious.
At some point, most adults have probably looked down at the bathroom or shower floor after getting ready for the day and noticed the amount of hair everywhere. Shedding hair is common, but if you’re concerned by the amount you’re shedding, there are ways to tell if you’re losing too much hair. All it takes is a little focused attention, and in some cases, a call to a medical professional to determine whether the excessive hair loss is due to a medical condition, the natural progression of aging, or the normal postpartum hair loss that comes after childbirth.
We naturally shed and regrow hair in regular cycles,” board certified dermatologist Janet Allenby, DO, tells Romper in an email. “Each hair follicle usually has its own cycle, that is why we don’t shed all at once and [the hair loss] is less obvious.” So, if you’re consistently losing hair on a daily basis, it’s not cause for immediate alarm. “Typically about 10% of our scalp hair is in the shedding phase at any one time,” Amy W. Fox, MD, Associate Professor at UNC Department of Dermatology tells Romper. “There are times when women can experience significant increases in shedding, and the reasons for this are various.”
That being said, increased hair loss can happen, and it’s usually subtle. “Sadly, by the time most people realize they have more than normal hair loss, approximately 50% of the hair has reduced,” says Dr. Allenby. That’s why it’s best to be observant of the amount of hair you’re shedding (but try not to obsess over it). Here are some things to be on the lookout for.
Your scalp is more noticeable
Depending on your hair’s natural texture, you may be able to see a bit of your scalp all of the time, so simply being able to see it is not cause for alarm. However, if you feel like you’re seeing more of it, that’s something to pay attention to. “If you can see into the scalp easier and the follicles seem more individualized” it could be a sign of hair loss, Dr. Allenby says.
You see lots of hairs trends on your pillow in the morning
Seeing hair on your pillow is not necessarily a symptom of hair loss; in fact, the American Academy of Dermatology says it’s normal, and an increased amount could just be a sign of increased shedding. However, if you’re consistently seeing a lot more hair on your pillow than you’re used to, that could potentially be a sign that you’re losing more hair than you should be, per Shape. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to call your physician to get their opinion on what may be going on.
Several hair strands come out when you pull or run your fingers through your hair
Have you ever tried to run your fingers through tangled hair? It’s painful, and you’ll likely pull more than a few strands out in the process, which isn’t uncommon. However, when it’s not a tangly mess, running your fingers through your hair can be used as a test for hair loss. In an interview with StyleCaster, Dr. James C. Marotta, a hair restoration specialist and facial plastic surgeon, suggested grabbing about 60 hairs and pulling on them as you run your fingers through your hair. It’s normal to lose about eight hairs when you do this, however, if you have closer to 15 or more, you could be losing too much.
Your part looks wider than it used to
Another way that you can tell if you might be losing more hair than normal is by looking at your part. “Your hair part becomes wider” when you’re losing a lot of hair, Dr. Allenby explains. It might be difficult to tell, but chatting with your dermatologist about your concerns or enlisting your hairdresser to help you determine if your part might be getting wider could help you get to the bottom of things.
There’s hair all over your shower
“Increased shedding in the shower” could also be a sign of significant hair loss, says Dr. Fox. Of course, it’s normal to regularly find some hairs on the shower floor, but an increased amount on a consistent basis may warrant a call to your doctor. This is a sign where attention to detail is important, because you need to be aware of your baseline before you can determine whether or not you’re losing more hair than normal.
You’re seeing an increase in your 60-second hair count test
Another test that you can try to determine how much hair you're losing is the 60-second hair count. An article published in 2008 in JAMA Dermatology found that brushing your hair from back to front for one minute and then counting the number of hairs that fall can give you an idea of whether or not you're losing too much hair. If you find about 10 hairs, you're likely losing a normal amount.
There’s a lot of hair in your brush and on the floor
Another thing Dr. Fox suggests paying attention to is the amount of hair you’re shedding when you’re brushing. Pay attention to how much hair is falling onto the floor while you’re styling it as well as how much your brush collected. Make sure you start with a totally clean brush and stand on a towel so you can easily gather and assess the amount of hair in your brush and that fell onto the floor.
Your ponytail seems to have gotten smaller
Have you noticed a change in your ponytail? “If you wear your hair in a ponytail and [find that] it takes more turns with the hairband to tie it up” it could signal hair loss, Dr. Allenby says. If you want to try this test, though, make sure you’re using a fresh hairband. Old hair ties naturally stretch out over time, which can be misleading in this situation.
Your hair doesn’t style the same way it used to
If your hair just doesn't seem to look the same way that it used to when you style it, that too could be a sign that your hair might be thinning, as Dr. Sonia Batra, MD, explains in Prevention. If your straightened hair looks flat, your natural hair just doesn't have the life it used to, or your style won't hold, there might actually be a real reason for that.
As always, it’s best to call your doctor if you’re concerned or if you’re exhibiting other symptoms. “If you are having symptoms on the scalp like tenderness or itching that persists or increased shedding that lasts longer than a few months,” that should signal a call to your doctor, Dr. Fox explains. Dr. Allenby agrees, and says the sooner you come in the better. “[With hair loss] the most important piece is determining the type, whether it is a medical problem versus the natural progression of aging,” she says “because the cause is the key to treatment and regrowing your hair.”
What Causes Dark Armpits & How To Prevent and Treat Them
You're used to seeing your body change before your very eyes, especially during the childbearing years. From wider feet to fine lines, you never know what's in store, and sometimes you don't know what's behind the change. Like suddenly dark underarms. What does it mean if you have dark armpits, and will you have them forever? These eight reasons you could have dark underarms might surprise you.
While there are some potential health risks associated with dark underarms, many people experience discoloration in that area of the body with no ill effects. A 2014 study by the Indian Dermatology Online Journal found that up to 74% of people suffer from dark armpits at some point in their life, and that risk factor increases depending on your age, weight, and race. Dr. Rachel Nazarian, a dermatologist based in New York, says this problem is usually just an inconvenience rather than a medical issue. She explained to Romper via email that it's important to remember that "darkening of the armpits alone is a simple cosmetic issue," but "if the texture is changing, becoming thicker or more velvety, then you should bring it to the attention of your dermatologist... It is important to remember that generally this condition is benign, and can even be hereditary." It's usually a combination of factors that indicate something more serious is going on.
But if you are just experiencing the discoloration and nothing else, you'll most likely be able to address the issue quickly. "Those who simply have darkening in the skin, but no other changes, can typically improve the skin by avoiding any trauma, using gentler shaving habits, and using lightening cream such as those that contain Kojic acid, licorice root extract, or even using gentle exfoliative agents that contain low concentrations of glycolic acid," says Nazarian.
Regardless, it's best to check with a doctor if you notice any sudden changes to your body before you self-treat, even if your underarms changing colors is your only symptom. Read on for the surprising things your body could be trying to tell you with darker pits.
Your deodorant might be hurting you
Certain deodorants can irritate the skin, and rather than that irritation causing a rash as it would in other parts of the body, you might develop darker skin instead. You're more likely to have discoloration than a rash in that area because of "the ease with which a body fold like the armpit can become irritated," explains Adam Friedman, MD, FAAD to Romper via email. People with darker complexions should be particularly cognizant of this issue: "The dark[er] one's skin type, the easier it is for even mild irritation to leave discoloration in its wake," Friedman continues.
This darkening as a result of irritation is called post-inflammatory pigment alteration, and it's extremely common; The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology estimates the condition impacts 45 to 83 percent of people. So if you notice your underarms getting darker, try swapping your deodorant first.
You might have a hormonal disorder
As anyone who went through puberty knows, hormones impact your skin in a variety of ways, and as it turns out, an imbalance in your hormonal output can cause skin discoloration. Skin discoloration as a result of a hormonal imbalance is called melasma, and it "occurs when the melanocytes (which are cells that cause skin pigmentation) are stimulated by abnormal levels of progesterone and estrogen," leading to increased pigment in different parts of your body according to Livestrong.
The condition springs up most commonly in women who are pregnant or those who are taking hormonal birth control, so if you notice sudden discoloration when starting a new pill or when you have a baby on the way, melasma is probably the cause. But you'll have to take a trip to the doctor to be sure.
You might be experiencing a side effect from a medication
Friedman says there are many medications that are known to cause darker underarms, "including nicotinic acid, insulin, pituitary extract, systemic corticosteroids, and diethylstilbestrol." The good news is that discoloration as a result of medication likely isn't harmful: a dark underarm is only dangerous "if it is associated with an underlying and untreated medical problem," reiterates Friedman. It's still best practice to see a professional to make sure your medication is the cause, though.
You might need to exfoliate
Another common cause of darker pigmentation in the underarms is dead skin cells. When dead skin cells collect, they increase the pigmentation process, and the underarms are particularly sensitive to accumulation of dead cells. Luckily, there's an easy fix; Healthline recommends regular exfoliation to remove dead skin cells from the body, which will lighten the skin's appearance if that's the cause of the apparent darker color. You can use a body scrub or even a facial exfoliator to fix the problem.
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