So THAT's Why We Lose More Hair In Winter

Yup, it's not just you.
Carol Yepes via Getty Images

The temperatures are plummeting, we’re trying to keep nice and cozy and for some reason... we seem to be losing more hair than normal?

While we sometime notice changes to our hair growth and thickness at certain points in the year (hello summer shine amirite?), it can be alarming and distressing when unexplained.

So what the heck is going on with this winter hair loss? We spoke to Dr Sara Perkins, Advisor of Dermatology for Hims – the digital health platform connecting patients to licensed healthcare professionals in the UK – to get the lowdown on seasonal hair loss.

The good news? Although it’s incompletely understood, there is some data to support the notion of seasonal hair loss.

Changing levels of ultraviolet radiation or temperature may shift follicles from the growth phase into the resting, and subsequent shedding, phase.

One study found the highest number of follicles in the telogen (resting) phase in July, with another smaller peak in April. Hairs are typically shed at the end of the telogen phase, roughly 100 days after it begins, corresponding to the shedding in autumn that many people anecdotally notice.

According to Dr Perkins, seasonal hair shedding, and most cases of telogen effluvium, are self-limited and new hair re-grows.

However, if you’re noticing prolonged shedding, or start to see thinned hair density across the scalp, it’s important to seek an evaluation to consider other potential explanations, including genetic and hormonal factors, as in androgenetic alopecia.

Androgenetic alopecia can progress slowly and subtly at first, but may become more noticeable after a shedding event occurs.

Is there anything I can do?

If you want to be an active part of solving the problem, there are treatments available.

Topical minoxidil helps to shift follicles from the resting phase back into the growth phase, and also stimulates increased blood flow or circulation to the follicles themselves to support healthy growth.

Dihydrotestosteron (DHT) can damage hair follicles by shrinking them down, resulting in thinner, finer hairs. Finasteride blocks the conversion of testosterone to DHT, preventing further damage and stimulating healthy hair growth.

Because they work differently, combination products, like this topical finasteride and minoxidil formulation, allow people to benefit from both treatments at the same time.

Day-to-day hair care practices and exposures can also vary seasonally and impact the hair’s appearance. In summer, it’s all about protecting your hair from the sun’s harmful UV radiation.

Exposure can damage proteins like keratin and disulfide bonds, leading to increased fragility and frizz.

And sorry swimming lovers, but chlorine exposure from swimming can dissolve lipids within the hair shaft as well.

In the winter months, wearing hats and scarves may create friction, which can contribute to strand fragility and breakage. Finding the perfect balance between weather protection and a vibrant appearance is the key to conquering winter hair blues.

Understanding seasonal hair shedding provides valuable insights into the dynamic relationship between environmental factors and hair health. While some shedding is a natural and cyclical process, persistent or excessive shedding, or visible hair thinning, may require more attention and professional consultation.