The arrival of autumn brings with it a recurring worry, because our hair falls out more at this time of year. But is that just a belief, or is it true? People have always said that in autum we lose more hair, just like the leaves fall from the trees; a throwback to the times when humans lived in caves and were covered in hair. They moulted, just like other mammals do.
Specialist Enrique Herrera says this greater loss of hair is a typical process of renewal in humans and it varies from person to person. The whole human race doesn't lose the same amount of hair, or at the same time.
“No, our hair doesn't fall out more in the autumn,” he insists. It is a cycle which differs in each person, so we may all lose more or less hair, depending on the time of year.
This phenomenon is known as 'effluvium' explains Dr Herrera. The cycle is divided into three phases: anogenic, catagenic and telogenic (a growing phase, a stable phase and a phase when the hair falls out). Nor is all the hair in the same stage at the same time. “If that were not the case, and it grew all at once or fell out all at the same time, we would be completely bald some of the time,” he explains.
Times when we lose more
There are times in our lives when we have more hair at the start of the final phase, the telogenic. Instead of losing about 10 per cent of our hair, which is normal, we lose up to 20 per cent. We can go from losing 100 hairs a day, which is also normal, to shedding 150. “That can be alarming for a woman with long hair because it seems as if she is losing an awful lot, but there is no need to worry about it,” says Dr Herrera.
This phenomenon, known as telogenic effluvium, or diffuse alopecia, is temporary. “It's a normal process,” he insists. The loss of hair can also be associated with stress and diet. Most of it is, in fact, explains the doctor.
The scalp contains around 100,000 hairs. The problem occurs when we lose a disproportionate amount or the quality of the hair is diminished. However, there is no cause for alarm, says Dr Herrera. A test can be carried out to find the cause, or extra vitamins may be needed until things return to normal.
He points out that telogenic effluvium can last up to six months, but the hair completely recovers afterwards. Our hair randomly repopulates itself throughout our lives, but it is not an immediate process. Hair takes about three months from the time it dies to the time when it falls out and we find it on the pillow or around the bathroom washbasin.