We've all been there. After a particularly aggressive brushing or detangling session, the wad of hair stuck in our brush will often pose the question—is that normal? Sure, it's an understood fact that all of us lose a few strands over the course of the day, but the details on exactly what was considered routine and what would be an actual problem were fuzzy. That's why we called dermatologist Dr. Francesca Fusco to clear up the confusion once and for all.
"The average person who is brushing or combing their hair every day—and this part is important—should lose between 50 and 100 strands. The brushing or combing part should be noted, because not everyone does that, or needs to do that," Dr. Fusco says. "When you look closely at the hairs that are coming out, they should be more or less the length of your hair, and you should see a little white bulb on the end. That indicates the hair was supposed to shed, and it was just time for it to come out so that a new hair could replace it."
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While 50 to 100 strands may sound like a lot, it's certainly no cause for concern. It's when hair starts coming out in clumps, as well as throughout the day when you run your fingers through a la Laura Lizzie in The Craft, that there's a problem. According to Dr. Fusco, this could be triggered by a variety of things—anything from starting new medication, going vegan or vegetarian, a recent illness, an irritated scalp, or ailments like thyroid disease, anemia, or alopecia areata could be the cause.
"You should go to the doctor right away and have them look at the hair and do a blood test to see what could be causing it, but you also have to be your own detective and think about what has been different over the past four months," Dr. Fusco adds. Issues like thyroid disease, alopecia areata, and anemia should be addressed by your doctor, but if the cause is something irritating your scalp, simply shampooing with a scalp-friendly formula like Dove's DermaCare ($5; target.com) could be the solution.
Additionally, a few drops of rosemary oil added to your existing shampoo or conditioner may help stimulate hair growth. Dr. Fusco cites a study published in an international publication years ago, where rosemary was tested against minoxidil—the active ingredient in hair growth products like Rogaine. "Believe it or not, the rosemary was as effective in controlling male pattern hair loss as minoxidil," she tells us. "It was described in very chemical terms, like an 8.1 concentration of rosemary serum for example, so when my patients ask, I just advise using rosemary oil with their conditioner or shampoo."