Let’s face it: Hair is precious. You might think you have plenty—until you’ve just finished putting on hair product and you see a bunch of strands in the sink. You can’t help but jump to conclusions. Is the product to blame?
We’re talking about you, putty. You too, wax, pomade and “forming cream.” But before you scrap your favorite styling product, read this. The culprit might be a chemical ingredient, but it could also be the way you handle your hair—and you need to know how much hair shedding is normal.
Culprit 1: Products that Dry You Out
Take a look at what you’re using daily. Your shampoo may contain a harsh ingredient like polyethylene glycol, which can stress your hair and make it brittle. Ingredients in your styling product can do the same thing.
Alcohol can especially dry your hair out, says Albert Julian, a master barber based in NYC. This leaves it weak and susceptible to breakage.
Pro tips: look for styling products that say “alcohol-free” on the label, and are water-based. Water-based products wash out the most easily, so you don’t have to shampoo more than you would anyway. Or if you want to be uber-gentle, style with a leave-in conditioner—Julian likes the spray from Bed Head for Men.
But even if your hair suffers a bit of damage, guys who favor close haircuts get a pass.
“Yes, the ends can dry out or become brittle,” says Julian. “But guys who wear their hair shorter, they clip that damage right off.”
Culprit 2: Salon-Level Damage
Harsh chemicals and treatments can destroy hair, like severe dye or chemical hair relaxers.
“Chemical straighteners are notorious,” says Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC. “They actually break apart the bonds on the outer layer of the hair that maintain curls. As those bonds are broken, the hair becomes straighter, but weaker.”
Okay, most guys aren’t running out to the salon to have their hair straightened. But plenty of men have gone for a dye job. What if fighting the gray means saying goodbye to your mane?
Dyes can weaken the hair strand with chemical agents, and often contain paraphenylendiamine, which can cause scalp irritation known as contact dermatitis. This allergic reaction has been linked to hair thinning as well.
The key here: Go to a professional—salon dye will be more permanent than what you’d try at home, meaning you can do it less often. (Also, a stylist will be better at keeping it off your scalp.) Use a deep conditioner before you go, and a couple days after.
Culprit 3: Harmful Techniques
Even if your hair isn’t chemically damaged, you’re still going to lose some every day. The upside here? It might be within the range of what’s expected.
“It’s normal for both men and women to lose hair on a daily basis,” says Zeichner. “The estimated number is somewhere between 100 and 200 hairs.”
And keep in mind that how you’re styling plays a role. If you’re using a brush, or blow-drying at home, you’re tugging on more strands. Plus, you’ll see the biggest difference if you haven’t washed your hair in a while.
“The amount of hair you see on your hands could also be a function of how often you’re washing your hair,” says Zeichner. “If it’s been a while since you did a thorough rinse, you may see more hair coming out.”
So try to keep things in perspective. But if you’re noticing more shedding over time, talk to your doctor. Of course, you knew that already, because when it comes to hair loss, men are programmed to be on high alert.
“Women tend to be better at coming into the office for skin care issues, but men come in much earlier than women do for hair loss,” says Zeichner. “When it comes to men, oftentimes it only takes a very subtle change.”