Here’s a little fact I learned this week: the average person has more than 100, 000 hairs on their head, and loses between 50 and 100 strands per day. You might be wondering, who cares? Fair enough, and you probably shouldn’t unless you notice handfuls coming out at a time. If you do, there’s a problem.
Angie Strlic first realized this problem three years ago while in New York with her daughter. Walking down the street, Angie’s daughter looked up and asked why the back of her coat was covered in hair. Angie had no idea, but the hair loss kept happening. She remembers crying in the shower as clumps came out each day. “I just shed, like a dog,” she told me. “My hair falls out continuously.”
Angie was losing about 500 strands of hair every day, caused by a condition called aggressive telogen effluvium, or one type of hair shedding for us average folk. I was admittedly surprised when I met her, as she still appears to have a normal head of hair. But for Angie, who is well aware of what she’s lost, her condition has at times been emotionally wrenching. “Hair has a lot to do with how we feel and look, and when that’s happening to you, you become an emotional wreck.”
So why does hair shedding happen? Sunnybrook Dermatologist Dr. Jeff Donovan says, there are several reasons. For some, it can be triggered by a highly stressful event, like surgery or the loss of a loved one. For others, thyroid problems, low iron levels and even crash diets can be to blame. Certain medications can also trigger hair shedding, including some anti-depressants, blood thinners and even some high blood pressure pills. Knowing hair shedding can be a symptom of a bigger health issue, Dr. Donovan says it’s important to get it checked out by a dermatologist as soon as you can.
After being treated for a thyroid condition and taking certain vitamins daily, Angie is happy to report significantly decreased hair loss. She also uses a special powder to conceal any thin spots on her head, and a laser brush for 15 minutes every other day to promote hair growth.
Angie agreed to talk to me about her hair shedding with the goal of helping others like her. Her advice? Follow through with recommended treatments, and no matter what, stay hopeful. “I used to cry and I don’t any longer,” she told me. “I feel good now.”