What is telogen effluvium?
Reviewed by our clinical team
It’s normal to lose a certain amount of hair every day, usually 50 to 100 strands. However excessive hair shedding where you can lose up to 300 hairs a day means that hair will become noticeably thinner. If you’ve noticed that you’re losing more hair than normal, you could have telogen effluvium. In this article we explore the symptoms of this condition, the causes and treatments available.
What is telogen effluvium?
Telogen effluvium is a temporary and often reversible form of hair loss. This type of hair loss occurs after stressful events, such as illness or childbirth.
Telogen effluvium happens when a considerable number of hair follicles, around 25%, enter the telogen (resting) phase of the hair growth cycle prematurely and shed their hair.
Normally, hair follicles go through a cycle that includes a growth phase (anagen), a transitional phase (catagen), and a resting phase (telogen) before a new hair begins to grow in the same follicle. Telogen effluvium disrupts this hair growth cycle causing an increased amount of hair to fall out.
Telogen effluvium symptoms
The primary symptom of telogen effluvium is increased hair shedding or hair loss. The hair loss starts abruptly and tends to last for less than 6 months. Telogen effluvium does not usually cause baldness or permanent hair loss.
The common symptoms of telogen effluvium include:
- Increased hair shedding: You may notice a significant increase in the amount of hair falling out when you brush, comb, or wash your hair. Hair shedding may also occur throughout the day, including when you run your fingers through your hair.
- Diffuse hair loss: Hair sheds evenly from all over the scalp rather than in specific patches or areas.
- Thinning hair: Over time, the increased shedding can result in visibly thinner hair, making it look less thick or full.
- Scalp sensitivity: Some people with telogen effluvium may experience a sensation of tingling or tenderness on the scalp. This is known as trichodynia.
- Slower hair growth: New hair takes longer to replace the lost hair.
If you think you may be experiencing hair loss, you should speak to your GP. They will be able to diagnose you and give guidance on how to manage the condition.
Telogen effluvium causes
The most common trigger of telogen effluvium is significant physical or emotional stress, such as surgery, illness, childbirth, or a major life event or trauma. Find out more about how stress can cause hair loss in our article.
The hair loss usually becomes noticeable several months after the triggering event. Once the underlying cause is addressed or resolved, hair growth returns to normal within 6 to 12 months. Typically, the condition is temporary and reversible, and hair loss should gradually improve over time.
Other causes of telogen effluvium include:
Eating a healthy balanced diet is the best way to give your body all the nutrients it needs. If you are deficient in certain vitamins or not getting the amount you need, hair loss can occur. Not getting enough essential nutrients like iron and protein can disrupt the hair growth cycle and lead to hair shedding.
Crash diets or extreme weight loss can also lead to telogen effluvium as the body prioritises essential functions over hair growth.
Hormonal changes due to pregnancy, menopause, thyroid disorders, or stopping hormonal birth control can trigger hair loss. Postpartum hair loss is especially common for new mums.
Certain medical conditions, like autoimmune diseases, can disrupt the hair growth cycle.
Some medications can cause hair loss. If you are affected by these side effects speak to your GP. They may be able to offer alternative treatment options.
Other types of diffuse hair loss
Diffuse hair loss, like telogen effluvium, is where the hair sheds abruptly and rapidly. This shedding thins the hair so that often the scalp is visible. Other types of diffuse hair loss include:
- Female pattern baldness
If you notice increased hair shedding or thinning, and it persists or causes concern, talk to your GP.
Does hair loss from telogen effluvium grow back?
Yes, hair loss from telogen effluvium is typically reversible, and the hair often grows back once the underlying cause or trigger has been addressed.
Telogen effluvium is characterised by the premature shedding of hair follicles in the resting (telogen) phase of the hair growth cycle. When the underlying cause is resolved or the triggering factor is removed, the hair follicles gradually return to the active growth (anagen) phase, and new hair begins to grow.
The regrowth process can be gradual, and it may take several months for noticeable improvement to occur. The rate of regrowth can vary from person to person. Full recovery from telogen effluvium can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months.
Preventing telogen effluvium
Preventing telogen effluvium largely depends on identifying and addressing the underlying causes or triggers of the condition. While it may not always be possible to prevent all instances of telogen effluvium, you can take help to reduce the risk and promote healthy hair growth:
Eating a balanced and nutritious diet that includes essential nutrients for hair health can help to support healthy hair. Avoid cutting out food groups or following crash diets as this can contribute to telogen effluvium. Losing weight too quickly can also affect your hair. If you’re trying to lose weight aim for gradual and sustainable weight loss.
Practice gentle hair care to keep your hair in good condition. Avoid excessive heat styling, chemical treatments, and tight hair styles which pull hair. You could also use mild shampoos and conditioners suitable for your hair type.
Stress is a common trigger for telogen effluvium. Practice stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or mindfulness to reduce the impact of stress on your body.
Telogen effluvium treatment
The first step to treating telogen effluvium is to find out what is causing it. Speak to your GP if you’re not sure what is causing your hair loss, they may be able to evaluate your symptoms and rule out underlying medical conditions.
Depending on what is causing your hair loss you may not need medical intervention rather patience while your hair grows back. While waiting for regrowth, you can make sure to care for yourself and your hair by:
- Using mild shampoos
- Avoiding excessive heat styling
- Caring for your scalp
- Maintaining a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients for hair health
- Managing stress
- Managing any other health conditions, you may have
- Using over-the-counter topical treatments such as Regaine (minoxidil) to promote hair growth or strengthen existing hair
- Exploring hair loss treatments for men or for women and getting expert advice from a healthcare professional