When beginning a hair loss treatment, it’s natural to want to see results right away. The hair cycle is a gradual process that takes time and patience to change. It is much easier to see hair fall out, which happens on average at a rate of 50-100 strands per day, than it is to notice hair growth, which happens at a rate of half an inch per month. It is important to document your hair loss progress to ensure that you are using the treatment that works best for your hair. We’ve compiled five easy ways to get you started.
1. Drain Test
The shower is an important locale for observing your hair loss treatment progress. Weakened or falling out hairs can stay on the head throughout the day, obscuring how much hair you are really losing. This hair will be loosened and washed out in the shower. However, it is also one of the more difficult locations to keep track of how many hairs are falling out.
How to Conduct a Drain Test
This method can be conducted and modified to find what works best for you. The boldest indicator is to keep track of how frequently your drain is being clogged. Normal amounts of hair loss can occasionally result in a clog, but are more likely to be washed down the drain. If you are routinely experiencing a clogged drain, your hair loss is likely still active.
Another version of the drain test involves showering with the drain plugged and recording how much hair has collected after your shower. Adhere to a schedule of completing this test to get an accurate depiction of your standard hair loss and any deviations.
You can also complete this test after five days of not washing your hair to get a more defined sense of how much hair you are routinely losing.
2. Tug Test
The tug test provides information on hair strength and density across your scalp based on how many hairs come loose with a gentle tug.
· Gently Pull on approximately 40 strands of your hair from different parts of your scalp
· If 6 or more strands fall out, you may still be actively losing hair
· Record how many strands you are losing each time, and from what areas of your head
· Complete this test on clean, dry hair
3. Picture Comparison
By comparing through pictures, you are relying less on your self-perception and more on photographic evidence. However, it can be hard to take quality photos of yourself from every angle, and can therefore be deceiving.
Ensure a Standard Routine and Environment
Photographs are vulnerable to the conditions under which they are taken. Here are some guidelines for what to look out for.
· Location: Pick a set place and take every photo at the same time of day
· Lighting: Decide between using natural or synthetic lighting
· Tool: Cameras are great for capturing detail, but phones are fine as long as you are consistent
· Photography: Try to take photos from the same angles at the same distances
· Appearance: Photograph clean, dry hair on a white shirt
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What Photos Should I take?
Shots to take include:
· Along your hairline
· Tilt your head forward parallel to the ground and take a straight-on photo
· The top of your head
· Both sides of your head
· The back of your head, particularly if you have longer hair
· Any parts in your hair
· Close-ups of hair texture and ends
· Close-ups of any bald or thinning areas
You can print these photos or keep them in an album on your phone, but make sure you are keeping track of the date of every set of photos. The metadata of each photo should keep the date, but it can be helpful to sort them into albums or add notes to every photo.
4. Comb Test
The comb test is a quick and easy way to check how much hair you are losing daily. This can be helpful in getting a benchmark both for how much hair you are losing on a regular basis, and on if this number is increasing or decreasing over time.
How Does a Comb Test Work?
Lean your head over a sheet or other white background on a flat surface. Run a comb through your hair from the back to the front of your scalp for one minute. You should be combing toward your face in order to separate hair that has fallen out or is weakened.
What Can My Comb Test Tell Me?
Typically, around 10 or less hairs will fall out if you are not actively losing hair. If you see more than 10 hairs on the white sheet after one minute, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor and dermatologist.
However, this number is an average and can fluctuate between individuals and across ages. As you get older, you are losing an increased number of hairs, which may naturally be above this number. Other factors such as stress or a recent pregnancy can also result in a higher than average number.
Completing a comb test regularly can help you to familiarize yourself with what number is normal for you, and with what circumstances are impacting the effectiveness of your hair loss treatment.
5. Pillow Test
The pillow test can be incorporated into your daily routine with nothing more than an extra glance at your pillow in the morning. Sleep puts an increased strain on hair that can be a great indicator of hair loss treatment results. Friction through tossing, turning, the pillow case, and wet hair can be particularly damaging, and can leave your pillow covered.
How Do I Do a Pillow Test?
Pick a pillowcase that will best contrast with your hair color. For darker hair, this will be a white pillowcase, while lighter hair may appear more distinctly on a darker pillowcase. When you wake in the morning, take a look at your pillowcase to see how many hairs you lost during the night. Make sure that after you take note of this number and record your findings, you clean off your pillowcase so that you can repeat the test the following night.
When to Be Concerned
If hair is falling out in clumps on your pillow, this is a clear sign that you are actively losing hair and should adjust your treatment. If the hair is in individual strands, there are several factors that influence what number you should see.
· Age and condition: more hair will fall out as you age
· Showering habits: wet hair is weaker than dry hair, so those who shower at night will see an increased number of strands
· Pillowcase material: satin pillowcases cause less friction, leading to less hair loss
· Sleep Quality: restless sleepers who toss and turn will see higher numbers of hair
· Position: those who sleep on their stomach can potentially see less hair
If hair is consistently covering your pillow, it may be time to consult with a dermatologist or doctor, but remember that hair loss is more prominent here than it is throughout the day, and is no immediate cause for concern.