When it comes to things that make you panic hard, hair falling out in clumps has got to be up there. But why are your beautiful locks tumbling to the ground?

Why is my hair falling out in clumps?

The most common causes of hair loss include:

  • male and female pattern baldness
  • stress (both physical and mental)
  • a lack of certain vitamins and minerals in your diet
  • alopecia areata
  • thyroid disorders
  • certain autoimmune conditions, such as lupus
  • chemotherapy treatments or even certain medications, such as beta-blockers and antidepressants
  • weight loss

From this list, only alopecia areata causes hair loss in clumps. The others can cause diffuse shedding and thinning.

But rejoice! Treatments are available for your hair woes. You might be able to try:

  • eating a balanced, protein-rich diet
  • laying off the blow-drying, straightening, and dyeing
  • taking a medication such as Rogaine or Propecia
  • getting steroid injections or using steroid creams
  • undergoing ultraviolet treatments
Was this helpful?

We know it’s hard, but you can leave that panic button alone. It’s not anything immediately life threatening. Phew. So let’s check out the causes and explain what you can do about unnerving but manageable hair scares.

To start, think of hair growth as happening in four phases:

  • Phase 1 = anagen: Come through! Your hair is growing!
  • Phase 2 = catagen: Your hair growth “slows its roll” and is coming to a close.
  • Phase 3 = telogen: Your hair is unbothered and resting.
  • Phase 4 = exogen: Your hair says, “I’m out” and sheds itself.

Up to 90% of your hair is in phase 1 right now — anagen-style. It’s growing and doing its thing. Then, the catagen stage slows it down for a couple of weeks. Next, your hair is on chill resting for a few months while in telogen. But eventually it gets bored of hanging around on your head and drops off (thanks to the exogen phase).

So, what’s a healthy amount of hair to lose in a day? Well, the average person has about 100 hairs dive-bombing to the floor each day. But the empty hair follicles return to the anagen stage and start growing hair again.

Hair loss can happen when there’s an imbalance in your health or your hormone levels or when you experience too much stress. During imbalances, more of your hair can fall out in clumps. But once you restore balance, you’ll enter the anagen stage once more. Ready, get set …

Everyone’s different, but if you can pinpoint the most likely cause of your hair loss, you’ll know whether a visit to the doctor is truly necessary. You may just need to make a few nonmedical adjustments and let your hair grow back with time. Sometimes, it’s just Mother Nature and your genetics taking their course.

Here are some likely culprits.

Male and female pattern baldness

We’ll start with the cause that you can do the least about.

Male and female pattern baldness is also called androgenetic alopecia. This possible cause for your hair loss is just in your DNA.

Do you have a grandparent or parent with a shiny scalp? If so, you’re more likely to experience hair loss yourself as your hormones change and cause hair follicles to shrink — eventually to the point that they don’t produce new hairs.

And you’re not alone. In one 2019 study, 37.7% of people (in a sample of 2,835 people) had androgenetic alopecia.

Men notice it mostly with hair loss in large patches on the top of their head or a receding hairline, while women tend to experience thinning on their crown, especially after menopause.


If you’ve gone through a stressful life event (hello, pandemic), lived through a health issue (including surgery), or been pregnant, it can take one heck of a toll on your body. As a result, you may well shed a crapload of hair, which might scare you even more. Gee, thanks, body!

So think back to 2–5 months ago. Did you have any severe illnesses? Fever? Infections? Malnutrition? Any of those things could have triggered temporary hair loss.

But hair loss due to stress usually rights itself within 2–6 months. This means all you’ll need to do is take it easy for a while (if that’s possible). If that underlying stress stays in your life, so will your unwanted hair loss.


If you eat foods that lack yummy vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, and vitamins B12 and D, you may well experience excessive hair loss. All these nutrients seem to help your body produce hair, and if you don’t get enough of them, your scalp may simply go on strike.

But be careful: Studies also suggest that getting too much vitamin A or selenium can actually contribute to hair loss. So go easy on those, ’kay?

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is a condition that can cause complete baldness. Your immune system can trigger it, ordering inflammatory cells to attack your hair follicles. This blocks the follicles’ ability to produce hair. Some people have this condition for their entire lives, while others experience it temporarily.

But statistically, you’re fairly unlikely to develop alopecia. The lifetime risk of developing it is a mere 2%, and it tends to happen before age 40.

There are also varying degrees of alopecia, and you’re far more likely to develop bald patches than lose your hair entirely.

Thyroid disorder

Your thyroid is another factor that can make your hair go AWOL. Overactive thyroid? Hair loss. Underactive thyroid? Hair loss.

Thyroid problems tend to run in families, so if that’s ringing a bell and you’re experiencing the loss of your locks, you might want to make an appointment with your doctor.

This is especially important because if you leave the condition untreated, your hair follicles will get used to the hormonal changes and stop producing hair.

Other conditions

Some other health problems can have your hair falling out, including autoimmune diseases (like lupus) and chronic infections.

Certain medications and treatments can also trigger hair loss. Chemotherapy is well known for causing hair loss, but retinoids, beta-blockers, and antidepressants can also contribute.

Still, when you finish the treatment or course of medication, your hair should bounce back to its former glory.

A lot of the time, hair loss is temporary and your locks will naturally replace themselves. But there are a few things you can try to move the process along:

Diet changes

Hair loss can happen due to a nutritional imbalance or a deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals. So, every day, try to make sure you consume enough of the following nutrients:

  • Iron: 8 grams (g) for males and 18 g for females
  • Zinc: 11 milligrams (mg) for males and 8 mg for females
  • Vitamin B12: 2.4 micrograms
  • Vitamin D: 600 international units
  • Protein: 46 g for females and 52–56 grams for males (depending on age)

These figures are for folks ages 19 years and older, but recommendations vary by age and sex. Check out the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for info that’s more specific to your sex and age group.

Plus, if you have a deficiency of a specific nutrient (such as iron deficiency anemia), you may need larger helpings to balance your bod. If you’re in doubt, it might be useful to speak with a registered dietitian and work out the best route to nutritional harmony.

Your hair will thank you for getting enough nutrients.

Less styling

Curling irons, straightening irons, and hair dye are no bueno when you’re trying to preserve your hair. Consider going a bit more natural until your hair has stopped falling out in clumps.


Finasteride (aka Propecia) is an FDA-approved medication for treating androgenetic hair loss that reduces levels of a particular hormone and stimulates that sweet, sweet hair growth.

But it can have a negative effect on your libido and your ability to, erm, keep things looking up.

If you’re worried about changing your diet without any results or you’re finding that your hair treatments aren’t working, it might be time to consult a doctor.

And on that note, if you notice severe hair loss or bald patches, get yourself to a doctor now. They’ll be able to identify the causes and recommend the most appropriate treatment, which can be helpful if the cause is an underlying autoimmune or inflammatory condition. Cheers, doc!

Hair treatments

If you’re experiencing pattern baldness, you might want to give minoxidil (Rogaine) a try. But beware — results aren’t guaranteed. Plus, you have to keep using it to maintain the effectiveness, or else you’ll lose all your hair’s hard work.

But on the whole, it works pretty well, with very few reported side effects (aside from some scalp itching), and it’s available over the counter.

A 2023 research review suggests that rosemary essential oil might be helpful for stopping hair loss. Further research is definitely necessary before we can tout rosemary oil as a full replacement for Rogaine — but it looks promising.

OK, these treatments are all well and good, but is there a way to prevent hair loss?

Sometimes, there’s just not a darn thing you can do about it. Male or female pattern baldness might just be in your DNA. And while there are treatments available, there’s nothing you can do to prevent it in advance. We know — it sucks.

For the other possible causes of hair loss, the main things you can do are:

All these things help keep your hair in that lovely anagen phase rather than plunging to the floor in despair.

And yeah, lay off the curling and straightening irons as much as you can. Do you really need to style your hair every single day? If you can give your locks an occasional break, they’ll gratefully cling to your head — and beautifully straight hair or glorious, bouncy curls serve no purpose on your bathroom floor.

The following sections provide answers to some frequently asked questions.

Does hair loss affect curly or straight hair more?

Studies haven’t really taken place that give us an idea either way. The only research on curly hair and hair loss seems to revolve around race rather than the structure or curliness of the hair itself.

But what if you artificially curl your hair? Well, bad news. The heat from a curling (or straightening) iron doesn’t do it much good. It causes “bubble hair,” which is not a mermaid thing but instead a deformity of the hair shaft that contributes to hair loss. Yikes.

Does dyeing your hair make it fall out?

More bad news — dyeing your hair does indeed make you more likely to experience some hair loss.

Remember telogen, your “unbothered” phase of hair growth? Dyeing is so rough on your hair that hairs have an emergency evacuation, getting the heck out of Dodge pretty darn quickly.

In addition, the dye weakens the rest of your hair, especially if you’re going blonde — the peroxide strips pigments from your hair and makes them more prone to breakage. Noooo!

How much hair loss is normal in the shower?

The last phase of the hair cycle (exogen) can have you seeing around 100 strands on the shower floor. Maybe a hair catcher (aka drain cover) might be useful after all.

When does hair loss become concerning?

If you’re noticing other changes (brittle nails, eye irritation, a tingling or burning scalp, etc.) in addition to losing hair from your head, it might be a cause for concern. A doctor can help you get to the bottom of what might be happening.

The main thing to remember is that hair loss isn’t usually a symptom of anything serious (excluding things like chemotherapy treatments that you’ll already be aware of). Once you sort out the root imbalance, your hair loss will right itself again.

In fact, hair loss has a variety of potential causes — everything from male and female pattern baldness to dietary deficiencies, traumatic events, periods of illness, and simple stress. It’s often the result of something putting a strain on your body, which disrupts your hair’s natural growth cycle.

But there are plenty of treatments available, and one of the best prevention methods is simply taking care of yourself. Love your hair? Love yourself, and your luscious locks will follow suit.