Are you concerned about unexplained hair loss? Perhaps you find that there is a lot more hair in the shower or in your hairbrush than you’re used to. Does your hair look and feel thinner on the top of your scalp, or have you lost large amounts of hair quickly?

What you are experiencing may be due to telogen effluvium.

We’re here to help you understand what telogen effluvium is, and how you can best manage this condition.

Understanding Telogen Effluvium

Telogen effluvium is a form of hair loss, a condition usually following acute stress or a shock.  While we are used to losing some hair on a daily basis, in this instance hair loss is excessive and rapid. It occurs in both men and women, affecting european and afro hair alike. 

The good news, however, is that telogen effluvium is most often temporary and reversible. It differs from other hair loss issues such as alopecia areata which tend to be autoimmune triggered and very unpredictable.

Causes of Telogen Effluvium

Hair loss from telogen effluvium comes about due to an interruption to the hair growth cycle. At any time our hair is in one of three stages; growth (anagen), transitional, or resting (telogen) phase. When the body is stressed or triggered, a proportion of hairs in the growth phase can be prematurely pushed into the resting phase. This results in a greater proportion of hair naturally shedding after the resting phase and a drop in hair density.

As the resting phase normally lasts between 4-8 weeks, there is a 4-8 week delay between the trigger and the hair noticeably shedding more than normal.

Some triggers can force up to 70% of the hair follicles in the anagen (growth) phase into the telogen (resting) phase resulting in very thin hair.

You may be surprised to learn of the main reasons triggering this condition. Here are just a few:

  • Stress. Severe or prolonged stress wreaks havoc on our bodies. When we find ourselves in a constant state of “fight or flight” the stress hormone, cortisol, floods our system. Studies have found that this hormone acts on the cells in the hair follicles which forces them into an extended resting phase, thus slowing hair growth. 

Sadly, we’re all subject to ongoing stress today; life is tougher than it has ever been which puts us all at risk of stress-induced physical ailments. 

  • Diet. In a world filled with convenience foods, and little time to care for our physical necessities, it’s likely that our nutritional needs are not being met. A diet deficient in essential nutrients including B-vitamins, zinc, iron, and protein will result in both poor quality and quantity of hair. This is common if you have recently switched to a vegetarian/vegan diet without sufficiently supplementing your protein intake.

Likewise, some have found that sudden weight loss (and the calorie deficit needed to accommodate this) has contributed to thinning hair.

  • Medication. If you’re undergoing surgery or you’re taking certain medications, you may find that these impact your hair growth. For example, some antibiotics, antimalarials and general anaesthetics have also been associated with delayed shedding. 

Whilst these cover the main causes of telogen effluvium, it’s important to talk with a trained professional to get an accurate diagnosis and to understand your unique medical situation. 

How does Telogen Effluvium affect men specifically?

Telogen Effluvium results in noticeably decreased hair density and whilst this can affect both men and women, in men this can also highlight another male specific hair loss condition called androgenetic alopecia. 

Androgenetic alopecia, otherwise known as male pattern baldness is a genetic hair loss condition present in almost 50% of men. When male pattern baldness is present at the same time as Telogen Effluvium, it can exacerbate the appearance of hair thinning, particularly in the patterned areas across the top of the head.

Some men may see this as a sign to jump on minoxidil based treatment straight away. However, as already stated, Telogen Effluvium can recover effectively on its own as long as the trigger has been removed, therefore minoxidil may not be the most necessary treatment option in the short term.

Is Telogen Effluvium Permanent?

For the most part, telogen effluvium is a temporary concern that can be rectified when treated properly. Understanding the reasons behind your hair loss will point the way to the right solution for your particular situation.

Treatment Options

When the cause, or trigger, of telogen effluvium is removed, the condition will usually self correct. Recommendations for treatment include:

  • Gentle hair management
  • A healthy and balanced diet high in plant based foods, protein, iron and Vitamin B12
  • Nutritional supplements where required, such as iron and folic acid 

It’s important to treat any underlying skin or scalp disorders during this time to ensure that you’re giving your hair the very best chance of fully recovering.

Psychological Assistance

Stress, anxiety, and depression are all too prevalent today. The ongoing battle to manage family and financial pressures are – on its own – tough to handle, and it’s no wonder so many of us struggle with ongoing psychological and emotional issues. 

Men are not exempt from these challenges, and often overlook them as potential triggers for hair loss and other physical problems. Yet they are just as affected by major life events such as divorce, death, redundancies, and other serious difficulties.

Seeking psychological help to deal with today’s frenetic life is a wise decision, and should definitely form part of your recovery plan if this applies to you. 

Additionally, there is a chance that hair loss from stress-related events will exacerbate the stress itself. One source says, “The relationship between hair loss and psychosocial consequences may be complicated by hair loss that eventuates from a stressful experience or life event, which then leads to further distress, anxiety, and depression.”

Get an Accurate Diagnosis

As we’ve seen, there are several reasons why you may suffer from hair loss – but the best treatment will depend on the cause. This makes it critical to get an accurate diagnosis from a qualified trichologist which will put you on the right track from the start.

The good news is that telogen effluvium is usually a temporary problem and can be rectified.

If you are concerned about unexplained hair loss and would like to discuss it further, we invite you to talk to us. Please feel free to get in touch for a confidential consultation.

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