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The ongoing coronavirus pandemic hasn’t just changed going outside like we used to — it’s also to blame for how we’re feeling on the inside, with lots of us experiencing stress from staying in, including nightmares and sleepless nights.
As always, it’s best to talk to a doctor if you’re encountering hair loss that doesn’t seem normal for you (you know your hair best, after all!). A doctor can help figure out if it’s related to things like hormones or vitamin deficiencies.
But we also asked some hair stylists and experts — who literally know hair from the inside out — for their recommendations on how to stop hair from falling out. Check out what they had to say about stress-induced hair shedding below.
What’s the difference between hair shedding and hair loss?
On average, we can shed about 50 to 100 hairs a day. Anything much more than that is considered excessive hair shedding. The technical term is telogen effluvium, and it is usually temporary.
The “hair loss” you might be experiencing right now — seeing more strands in the shower or in your hair brush at the end of the day — might technically not be considered hair loss. Scientifically speaking, hair loss means your hair isn’t growing at all, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association.
Instead, think of telogen effluvium as thinning, said Kali Ferrara, a New York City-based hair stylist at The Salon Project. It forces some follicles to fall out and can happen with “just the regular stress of life,” according to Ferrara. It’s the same as the hair loss phenomenon postpartum women go through after giving birth.
Since so many of us are feeling stressed out now, it’s no surprise that we might be shedding more than normal. The AADA also says that different stressors — including losing weight and having a high fever — can cause shedding.
But if you’ve been dealing with an overwhelming sense of stress and are concerned about losing more strands than normal, it’s important to first deal with the stressors causing your symptoms.
“The focus should be on how to manage the stress in a healthy way.”
“Just remember that it’s almost always a temporary condition and there’s some solid remedies that can add thickness or encourage hair to grow back faster,” said hair stylist Fae Norris of Rock Paper Salon in Los Angeles. “But the focus should be on how to manage the stress in a healthy way.”
What can you do about hair shedding right now?
Before turning to hair loss and shedding products, there are a lot of other ways you can improve your hair health. Having healthy hair doesn’t just mean worrying about what shampoo and conditioner combination to use.
“Being healthy from the inside out is the first and foremost way to curb stress-induced hair loss,” Ferrara said. For her, that means making sure to eat healthy foods, get regular exercise, find ways to manage stress and take vitamins (she loves Vitafusion’s hair and nail gummies).
Jana Rago, owner of Boston-based Jana Rago Studios, said you could also search for vitamins with folic acid, a B vitamin that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends women take every day.
When it comes to your actual scalp, Norris recommends you give it some much-needed R&R through a massage. She said to massage the scalp for about four minutes a day, which can help with blood flow and give your roots a bit of a boost. Plus, these massages can serve as a way to reduce stress — a win-win. To help with the massaging, you could even try out one of those handheld scalp scratchers or a scalp massaging shampoo brush from Amazon.
“If you think you are losing hair from stress, I would first stop using heat on your hair and style it less,” Rago said.
She recommends washing your hair every other day, laying low on hair products and cutting back on using hot tools to dry and style your locks. She said you’ll also want to leave your hair down or in a loose low ponytail, preferably using a silkier-feeling scrunchy rather than a rubbery one. (Our shopping experts swear by the silk hair ties from Slip.)
What should you look for in hair loss products?
Of course, when it comes to your hair, you need to be careful about what you’re buying and what DIY hair loss hacks you're trying.
“While there’s an at-home remedy for everything these days, you’ll be better served to trust a professional and then make decisions about whether to treat topically or through other forms of treatment,” said Nick Stenson, a L’Oréal artistic director.
The one ingredient you probably want to stay away from in your hair care products is sulfates, said Nikia Londy, owner of Intriguing Hair, which specializes in extensions and wigs. Londy said products with sulfates in them can be harsh and harm your hair follicles. Sulfates are common in hair care, but they can strip out the natural oils that your hair needs.
On the other hand, all of our experts mentioned two ingredients in particular might help with hair loss and thinning hair: minoxidil and biotin.
“Minoxidil, at 5% or 2% strength, is the one ingredient that those seeking hair regrowth should seek out. That’s not to say that none of the many methods and combinations of ingredients will fail,” Norris said. “But it can get very costly jumping from one remedy to another and the science is there for minoxidil.”
The other is biotin, which you’ve probably seen in supplements and shampoos on the shelves. There’s a bit of a gray area when it comes to biotin, though. There are those who say it isn’t exactly the “miracle” product that it’s been made out to be. Then there are those who swear by it.
Of course, it’s smart to be skeptical of any product that promises magical results.
“We all know that the hair loss industry is well-known for big claims and dubious results, so my suggestion is to use what’s been tested and proven rather than the ‘next new thing,’” Norris said.
If you’re wondering what products our hair care experts recommend, below we’ve rounded up all of the hair shedding products that they approve of. Take a look.
Check out these expert-recommended products for hair thinning and shedding: