Are You Having Seasonal Hair Loss?

Written by Rali Bozhinova, Superintendent Trichologist, The Belgravia Centre

We often get asked if people have seasonal hair loss, if it is normal for the hair loss to increase every autumn, and if this will lead to baldness. There is no simple answer to this because people can lose hair for many reasons however, it has become a kind of trend to hear this question in the autumn months. Before you start to panic, you may find the following points useful and reassuring, and if there is still a concern about hair loss, we are here to help.

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The Hair Growth Cycle

 

First things first – let’s go through the normal hair growth cycle. Your hair, just like everybody else’s hair, grows in a cycle. You have thousands of follicles on your scalp and each follicle has its own growth cycle which happens in the following stages:

Anagen Stage

This is the growing phase of the hair growth cycle. There is increased activity in the hair follicle, and oxygenated blood and nutrients enter the follicle. Stem cells actively divide moving upwards, making the structure of your hair strands as well as other keratin-made structures that keep the hair anchored to its follicle during growth. As a result, your hair keeps growing in length. This is the longest stage of the hair growth cycle and it can last for several years, depending on your genes. On your scalp, the average length of the anagen stage is 3-7 years. The duration of your anagen phase determines how long your hair is able to grow. On average in a healthy set of hair, approximately 85-90% of your hair follicles are in the anagen phase at any given time. Each follicle will have a slightly different duration of anagen – for example, the hair on the margins of your hairline may be naturally slightly shorter compared to the rest of your hair.  

Catagen Stage

Towards the end of the anagen phase, cell division slows down and hair growth eventually stops. The catagen stage is a very brief transition stage that only lasts for approximately 10 days and less than 1% of your follicles are in the catagen stage at any given time.

Telogen Stage

This is the resting phase of the hair cycle because the follicle remains at rest since no activity happens during this time. The hair strand eventually falls with a little white bulb on its root, which is a completely natural process. The follicle then remains empty for a short time before it is ready to start its cycle again. Approximately 10% of your follicles are at the telogen stage, which is why it is normal to lose some hair on a daily basis. As the telogen phase can last for nearly 3 months, it is normal for the telogen follicles to remain empty during this time before they return to anagen.

 

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Normal Amount Of Hair Loss

 

You lose on average 100 hairs per day - in your brush, in the shower, on the floor – this number is considered normal and it is unlikely that you perceive this number of hair loss as alarming. Of course, you don’t see each single hair strand that falls. When people tell us that they see increased shedding, they may not know whether this is more or less than 100 hairs per day, but what they do know is that the amount of shedding is different to their usual amount.

It is, however, important to note that the follicles across your scalp do not have a synchronised cycle. Each follicle has its own duration of its own cycle which may be slightly different to the follicles nearby. So, in reality, the number of follicles which are in the telogen phase will differ slightly over time, and the 10% number is only approximate. Sometimes only 4% of the follicles may be in telogen, and sometimes as many as 20% of your follicles may be in telogen – this would explain why the amount of shedding may feel different occasionally.

How Do Seasons Affect You?

It is important to remember that increased hair shedding can happen for many reasons, often due to a combination of several triggers. However, it is also interesting to look at how the seasons, especially autumn, may be affecting your hair.

Is It Your Behaviour?

Is it the change in temperature or the change in your behaviour that naturally occurs during season changes? When the weather is cold, you may spend more time indoors with central heating, a quite dry environment for your skin and hair. You then expose your skin and hair to the low temperatures outside when you go out. The cold and dry environments can sometimes trigger dry skin, eczema, itching on the scalp, dandruff, inflammation on your scalp, dry hair and hair breakage. Additionally, constant scratching of the scalp can contribute to further hair loss due to repetitive friction.

To minimise such discomfort, we recommend you use more hydrating products in autumn and winter such as moisturising shampoos and conditioners suitable for dry hair, or leave-in conditioners and hair masks. For those with sensitive skin, we recommend hypoallergenic shampoos; and for those with flaky scalp in the colder months, there are medicated shampoos that can help, depending on your scalp condition. Many of our patients find our B4 shampoo extremely helpful for scaly scalp conditions such as persistent dandruff and eczema. You can also wear a hat to protect your scalp and hair from the colder weather.

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Is It Your Diet?

During autumn and winter, you may also have fewer fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, and therefore you may be consuming fewer vitamins important for healthy hair growth. In addition, reduced sunlight often leads to low vitamin D, which has been associated with telogen effluvium – a condition characterised by increased hair shedding. Maintaining a balanced diet can help your immunity and your hair when the temperatures drop. Our patients also like to use Hair Vitalics to help them get a blend of useful vitamins, minerals, amino acids and plant extracts that support normal healthy hair growth.

Is It A Coincidence?

Is it just a coincidence that we see more hair shedding in autumn? Not entirely. Researchers from Sheffield, UK published a study in 1991 observing the changes in human hair growth and noticed that the peak in hair shedding was noted in early autumn. The British Journal of Dermatology published a study in 1996 suggesting that climate factors should be taken into account when assessing hair loss and that the peak in telogen hairs was observed in late summer with increased hair shedding in autumn. A Swiss study from 2009 also found seasonal changes in hair loss, with maximum telogen hairs in the summer which fall out by early autumn when people report increased hair shedding.  The delay in hair loss by 2-3 months after telogen follicles are observed is normal since the telogen phase lasts for approximately 3 months. However, we don’t have a full understanding of why seasonal fluctuations in hair loss happen and whether this is just part of our evolution. Other mammals also lose hair with changes in seasons and often this is associated with protecting mechanisms, and adaptation to light and temperature changes. It has been suggested that humans may need more anagen hairs in the summer months as protection from UV light however, there is not enough evidence to support this.

Is It Your Biological Clock?

Our circadian rhythm, a.k.a. our biological clock, changes with the seasons and it has been suggested that as a result, our hormones also have cyclic changes. For example,  the Journal of Urology published a study in 2021 that found that testosterone levels in men differ across the seasons and are at their highest in autumn and winter. There is also a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) that is synthesised by testosterone in the presence of the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. DHT can contribute to male and female pattern hair loss in those who are genetically predisposed to it. It is possible that the slight seasonal hormonal changes have an impact on the hair growth cycle. However, more research is needed on this as currently, the exact mechanism of the seasonal changes in the hair cycle is unclear. It is also unclear whether it is the season itself that is affecting the hair cycle or something else in our lifestyle that changes periodically.

When To Contact A Specialist

Occasional changes in the hair cycle are normal. Seasonal changes in our circadian rhythm, daylight exposure or temperature changes are just inevitable. When the temperatures drop, it is always a good idea to use more hydrating hair products and ensure that your diet stays healthy. If you are only experiencing a short period of shedding due to the season changes, this is likely to resolve quickly without any intervention and you may soon see new short hairs growing which is always a good sign.

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However, if you feel like the increased hair shedding is persisting for more than 3-6 months, that you are losing hair more than your usual amount, that your hair is thinning, that you can see more of your scalp through your hair, and that your hair is overall behaving differently than previously, you should book an appointment with a specialist as early as possible. They can examine your hair, discuss your medical history, lifestyle, and hair care routine, and give you treatment recommendations.

The Belgravia Centre’s pharmacy is dedicated to preparing bespoke treatment formulations tailored to our patients. Medications are prepared in oral or topical forms of various strengths and with various additives to maximise their effectiveness. This helps us choose a treatment plan that suits your type and severity of hair loss, your medical history, and your lifestyle. Additionally, our qualified hair loss specialists are available 7 days a week to support you with advice and answer your questions.

If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation in our Central London clinic with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the world and we will talk to you on Zoom. Take a look through our hair regrowth photo gallery – which is the largest gallery of its kind in the world and contains over 1,000 sets of hair growth photos and verified reviews from patients of The Belgravia Centre.

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The Belgravia Centre

The Belgravia Centre is a world-renowned group of a hair loss clinic in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation from anywhere in the world for home-use treatment.

View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world's largest gallery of hair growth photos and demonstrates the level of success that so many of Belgravia's patients achieve.

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