Hair loss is one of those things that carries a lot of emotional weight. It’s really easy to spiral once you’ve noticed significantly more hair in your shower drain, hairbrush, or on your pillow. After all, there is science behind this! We are hardwired to feel attached to our hair after centuries of societal programming and conditioning. Think about it – long, luscious hair represents health and wealth, historically speaking. So it’s no wonder that when your hair starts to fall out towards the beginning of the fall, you hastily hop online to figure out what’s going on. There is a massive spike in Google searches for “hair loss” during the month of September every year, proving that you are definitely not alone. Let’s break down what seasonal hair loss even is and what you can do to help combat it.

Why your hair might be shedding this fall:

Drop in temperature  

For most of us, September is when you really start to notice the temperature outside cooling down. And, unfortunately, with colder weather comes drier, more stressed skin. While you likely know to level up your hydration game in your skincare and perhaps switch out certain products for the winter, you are probably neglecting your scalp! This leads to dry, red, irritated skin on your scalp and inflamed hair follicles, aka hair loss.  Additionally, with less moisture in the air, your hair is much more brittle and prone to breakage.

Less daylight 

The fall equinox signifies the transition to shorter days and, therefore, less daylight. Your hair is essentially protection from the sun and its UV rays – kind of like built-in sunscreen (although if you’ve gotten a scalp burn you know the pain!). Therefore, you have quite a bit more hair during the summer months when your hair and scalp are exposed to a higher UV intensity. So when the days shorten and the UV index is lower, you no longer need the protection and your body sheds your excess hair for the winter season.

Now, this might seem counterintuitive because you’re probably thinking “wait don’t I want MORE hair in the winter to keep me warm?” It’s all about daylight in this case. You can think about your hair shedding in the fall in the same way you would think about a tree losing its leaves for the winter. The tree picks up the seasonal shift in circadian rhythm, signals with hormones, and ultimately drops its leaves. We are not much different!

Normal growth cycle 

Believe it or not, your hair actually goes through a growth cycle that can last years. It’s not as simple as just getting your hair trimmed and expecting significant growth, which we’ve probably all been told at one point or another. So there are four phases that you should know about: anagen, catagen, telogen, and exogen. The anagen phase (the growing phase) is when about 85% of your hair is growing at max speed, which is around a half an inch per month. In the catagen phase (the transition phase), your hair follicle shrinks and detaches from your skin cells, cutting off blood supply to that hair. This transition phase is short and sweet, only lasting 10 days. Next comes the telogen phase (the resting phase), which is when about 10-15% of your hair simply rests. And, lastly, is the exogen phase (the shedding phase). In this phase, your scalp releases individual hair strands from their follicles and they fall out. Then the cycle starts all over again!

The important piece here regarding seasonal hair loss is the telogen phase. One research study showed that most of us have the highest number of hairs in the telogen phase in July (1). Hairs in the telogen phase typically fall out around 3 months later, lining up perfectly with the spike in hair loss during September and October.

Our top tips for seasonal hair shedding: 

Massage your scalp

Who doesn’t love this one?! Regularly massaging your scalp stimulates blood circulation and oxygen to your hair follicles, promoting new hair growth and thicker hair (2). Not to mention it also helps to slough off dead and damaged skin cells on your scalp which can also encourage healthy hair growth. An easy way to incorporate scalp massage into your routine is to simply spend more time shampooing your hair in the shower! And if you’re looking for something a little more next-level, you can use a silicone massage tool instead of your hands. Pro tip: add your favorite hair oil, like castor or olive oil,  to dirty hair pre-shower and spend a few minutes massaging it into the roots of your hair and your scalp. Then continue on with your shower ritual as usual.

Lean on herbal allies 

Chances are you’ve probably seen the viral rosemary oil hack on social media by now. Rosemary is one of the few herbs that have been tested in clinical trials, where it was shown to improve hair growth. Nettle and horsetail are also wonderful herbs for hair health and you can make a simple herbal infusion with them. Nettle is mineral rich, nourishing your body from the inside out, while horsetail contains silica, a bone and hair strengthener.

Our holistic hair formula, Mane Magic, contains herbs traditionally known in Chinese Medicine as “blood building” or “blood moving” tonics, designed to encourage healthy blood flow as well as support the Kidney and Liver meridians. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, hair is seen as an extension of the blood, and is often affected by occasional stress, like seasons shifting. When taken daily, the blood building herbs in Mane Magic nourish your hormones and adrenals over time to “feed your follicles”, supporting healthy, happy hair.

Maintain a nutrient dense diet

Seasonal hair loss might be largely out of your control but you can certainly ensure your hair is getting the nutrients it needs from your diet! In particular, iron deficiency can lead to increased hair shedding and even telogen effluvium, a condition that can eventually become alopecia. This is because low iron levels switch hair follicles over to the telogen phase before they naturally should. Additionally, iron helps your body produce hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells. It carries oxygen to your cells (including hair cells!), aiding your body in growth and repair. Some foods that are rich in iron are: leafy greens, beans, dark chocolate, nuts/seeds, and meat. Which leads us to another biggie! Insufficient protein intake can be a major factor in hair thinning and hair loss. Your hair follicles are made up of mostly protein (collagen, fibronectin, and laminin), so it’s important that you are consuming enough amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) to grow healthy hair. Meat, particularly organ meat, is a surefire way to get in protein, iron, and a hefty dose of Vitamin A.

Our hope is that we can remove some of the confusion and emotional charge that comes with seasonal hair loss through education and tools that actually work. Because the truth is, seasonal hair loss is normal and temporary, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit around and just let it happen!

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