For many, the triumvirate of beauty worst nightmares is made up of a massive pimple on the eve of a first date; telltale Fanta-and-milk fake tan stripes; and unexplained hair loss. The former two can be fixed with patience, exfoliation and salicylic acid, but hair loss is always slightly more disquieting. Of course, there’s plenty of academic reasoning behind why hair loss is so upsetting – hair is tied to our sense of femininity, it’s a safety blanket, it’s part of our self-expression – but it can be as simple as nobody wants their hair to just start falling out.
Hair loss is a complex issue, and there are as many reasons for it as there are for acne or insomnia, but I do have some good news. If, like many of my girlfriends, you’ve noticed more hairs on your brush or jacket in the last month or so, it’s probably nothing to worry about. Why? Because come winter, your hair enters the ‘shedding’ phase. "Your hair works in three different phases," explained Daniel Isaacs, chief product officer at Nanogen. "There’s the anagen phase, which is the ‘growth’ phase, which lasts about 3-6 months, the ‘transitional’ catagen phase, which lasts a couple of weeks, and finally the ‘resting’ phase, which is called telogen. This lasts about three months." During this telogen phase, which usually sets in towards the end of summer and beginning of autumn, the hair is resting rather than growing, and so shedding becomes more noticeable.
"When there’s a shift in the seasons, it seems to nudge the hair more into the telogen phase. No one’s exactly sure why – there’s a thought that it’s an evolutionary thing where the scalp needs less sun protection in winter so less hair is grown – but it will probably cause a bit of an increase in the amount of hair you see falling out," added Isaacs.
Of course, we are all losing hair all day every day, and likely more than you’d think. Trichologist Iain Sallis told me: "We all lose around 100 hairs a day, and it can be as high as 150 and still be considered ‘normal’. You’re only really getting into dangerous territory when you’re losing upwards of 150 a day." Now, no one has the time or energy to count every single strand of hair that falls out on the daily, so there are other ways to check. Isaacs and Sallis suggested that the main warning signs of an underlying problem would be hair falling out in clumps, rather than strands, and finding actual bald patches on your scalp. "Bear in mind, stress can lead to hair loss, so constantly obsessing over losing hair won’t help," noted Isaacs, laying out quite the trichological Catch-22.
If you’re troubled by seasonal shedding, help is at hand. The long-term solution is focussing on scalp health, which while undeniably unsexy, is pretty crucial, according to both Sallis and Isaacs. "Your hair is dead keratin, so your scalp is really your last chance to make a difference to the overall health of your hair," explained Isaacs, while Sallis noted: "The scalp and the hair need to be treated as two different body parts." Shampoo cleanses the scalp as well as the hair, but Isaacs suggested adding a mask or serum into your routine, as they have longer contact with the scalp and hair than shampoo, as well as trying to avoid aggressive chemical-based hair treatments.
Sallis recommended adding a supplement, like amino acid-rich Hair Jelly (£29.95), into your diet, as well as increasing your protein and iron intake. There are short-term solutions, too – I love Kérastase's Fusio-Dose treatments (£44 for four treatments). Previously only offered in salons, they're now available as at-home kits. Choose the Densifique Concentré and Densité Booster from the Fusio-Dose HomeLab range, and use one treatment a week for swingy, bouncy hair. Nanogen’s Hair Growth Factor Treatment Mask and Serum (both £29.95) contain growth factors to try and kickstart your hair back into the anagen phase and keep it there for longer, while also regenerating the hair follicle for optimal scalp health. They’re both heavy on the peptides, which give your hair better anchorage in your scalp – Isaacs said either the mask or serum is good, it’s just a case of what works better for your routine.
The long and the short of it? It’s most likely not a cause for concern. It’s not just your skin that needs an extra layer in the winter, so take the time to show your hair a little TLC when the mercury drops. Here are my five hair picks to see you through until summer…
With heat-reactive polymers that expand upon styling to thicken the hair, this will give you very expensive-looking locks. Smells divine.
This bargainous treatment uses protein bonds to strengthen and densify the hair for all-day body and hold. Plus, the results get better with every use.
A clever leave-in spray that uses carbs (no, not croissants and pasta) to create a fibre-mesh that weightlessly coats the hair, adding density and volume. The cellulose-starch-oat-bran mix supplements lost proteins in the hair.
Gently cleansing but heavy on volume, this thickening duo is one of the best I’ve tried. They use filloxane, which was originally designed to fill cracks in car windscreens – it inserts itself into the hair shaft and expands from the inside.
Prefer to keep things natural? Look to Aveda’s multi-award-winning and consistent bestseller, which has certified organic ingredients to expand strands from root to tip.