For many women, it’s a familiar scene: more than a few strands of hair collecting at the bottom of the shower, coming out more than usual in a hair brush and making random appearances in every place from the bedroom pillow to the office desk. Hair loss isn’t uncommon among women, but it’s still a condition that leaves so many wondering why it’s really happening — and how they can put a stop to it.
Dr. Emmy Graber, a dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at the Boston University School of Medicine, has come across many patients worried about their thinning hair, and she stopped by the web series #OWNSHOW to explain one of the big culprits: stress.
“We certainly do see a lot of patients who, in the past, have undergone a really stressful time in their life, and then — months later — begin to develop hair loss,” Graber says in the above video. “It’s not always that patients have some stress and then immediately their hair falls out.”
This stress-related hair loss behaves differently than hair loss due to genetics, she adds. “Stress hair loss, we do tend to see over the entire scalp, whereas the more common types of genetic hair loss do happen primarily on the top of the head,” Graber says.
Aside from seeing strands of hair fall to the floor, the hair loss may not be obvious by sight or simply looking in a mirror. “It’s not exactly bald spots that one would notice,” Graber says. “More that they feel like it’s thinner all over. They might feel like when they put their hair into a ponytail, that the ponytail is thinner than it was before.”
Certainly, avoiding stress can prevent thinning hair, but that can feel like an impossible task. Then, when hair loss does happen, the search is on for a quick fix. In reality, Graber says, there’s no such thing.
“Time will resolve this condition,” she says. “There really aren’t any great prescription medications or shampoos that can reverse this.”
Speaking of shampoos, a lot of women with thinning hair tend to avoid washing their hair for fear that it will cause even more hair loss. According to Graber, this is a big myth that may actually make things worse.
“If people go too long without washing their hair, without combing it, to avoid losing it, their hair will end up looking more greasy, and then sometimes the hair loss is more evident,” she explains.
Instead, Graber suggests a little patience.
“I always tell patients to give it some time. The hair will go back to normal,” she says. “And to wash and style their hair as they normally otherwise would.”
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