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Is Brushing The Cause of Your Hair Loss?

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Steph Coelho

Published 04/02/2023

Updated 04/03/2024

You can expect some degree of daily hair loss. But is it normal to lose hair when brushing? And can you brush your hair too much?

Combing or brushing can dislodge some of the hairs you shed every day — some daily shedding is normal. However, if you’re noticing big clumps of hair coming out as you brush, you may be dealing with hair loss.

Okay, but does combing hair cause hair loss? What about brushing?

Combing or brushing the wrong way, like being too rough and pulling on your strands, can contribute to breakage and excess shedding.

Below, we’ll dig deeper into brushing-related hair loss and other possible behavior-related hair loss triggers. We’ll also go over how to treat this type of excess shedding.

Gently brushing your hair when needed is unlikely to be an issue. But vigorously over-brushing hair can cause breakage and speed up shedding.

A bit of hair loss each day is totally normal. The average person loses 50 to 100 hairs a day.

If you notice much more than that, you could be dealing with female or male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia), and it’s worth investigating the cause.

How Brushing Your Hair Might Cause Shedding

Brushing the wrong way could be a hair-loss trigger. Going too hard can tug on your hair and weaken strands, making them more prone to breakage.

Specific haircare habits that may lead to brushing hair loss include:

  • Brushing when hair is wet. Strands are weaker when they’re wet. If you’re yanking a brush through wet hair to untangle it, it might result in breakage.

  • Over-brushing. Have you heard you should brush your hair 100 strokes per day? It’s a total myth. This kind of excessive brushing could actually cause hair strands to weaken or break. One very small study with 14 participants looked at women who brushed frequently versus those who didn’t. Researchers concluded that the women who didn’t brush as frequently had less hair loss.

  • Getting rough. We get it — sometimes, you’re in a hurry. But quickly tugging a brush or comb through your hair might do more harm than good. The bristles or teeth can snag on tangles and rip out your hair.

  • Using a hot tool. Hair dryer brushes let you blow dry and style your hair at the same time. But using hot tools too often — including a blow dryer with a round brush, a dryer brush or a curling iron — can cause hair damage. Damaged hair is more likely to break and shed.

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Actually, yes. Over-brushing or brushing too hard might do more harm than good. As noted, frequent, excessive brushing might weaken, break or rip out your strands. Combing after the shower and detangling as needed is fine, but try not to overdo it.

How Often Should You Brush Your Hair?

It depends on your hair type and how often you get your hair wet. But for most people, once or twice a day is plenty.

As mentioned, you can carefully comb your hair after showering. Those with very long hair, thick hair or curly hair might want to gently brush or comb before shampooing. And you might need to occasionally work out some tangles.

While we’re on the subject of bad hair habits, it’s worth discussing other habits that can lead to hair loss.

Other common habits that may contribute to hair loss are:

  • Coloring, perming or relaxing your hair. These can be especially harsh on your hair. Frequent chemical treatments can make your hair even more prone to damage and hair loss.

  • Wearing too-tight hairstyles. A ponytail or bun that tugs on your scalp can lead to a type of hair loss called traction alopecia. In some cases, it may even lead to permanent hair loss. Opt for loose hairstyles when possible if hair loss is an issue.

  • Skipping conditioner. Lack of moisture can make your hair brittle and difficult to brush, causing brush bristles to snag more easily.

  • Using certain hair products. Frequently using gels and hairsprays that promise long-lasting hold can be bad for your hair because the glue-like formulas are hard to remove without pulling out some hairs.

  • Wearing weaves and hair extensions. If your weave or hair extensions are too heavy, they can tug on your scalp and cause your hair to fall out.

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If you notice hair loss when brushing, don’t stress. Treatment can help prevent further hair loss and even encourage regrowth.

Consider one of the following treatments or try a combination of approaches to encourage healthy hair regrowth.

Practice Smart Brushing

How can I stop hair from falling out when brushing? Good brushing habits can help mitigate hair shedding and damage.

Here are a few tips for brushing your hair the right way:

  • Avoid brushing soaking-wet hair. Whether you have more of a fine, straight hair type or natural hair with textured coils, let hair dry slightly so it’s just damp, then use a wide-tooth comb to get out tangles.

  • Don’t over-brush your hair. Only brush it when you need to style it.

  • When dealing with tangled hair, be gentle. A wide-tooth comb can help you carefully detangle thick hair. Still having trouble? A leave-in conditioner spray can lubricate your hair and help remove knots.

Choose the Right Brush

Using the right tool on your hair can make all the difference.

Here’s a quick rundown of the best brushes for brushing and detangling:

  • Boar-bristle brush. This is the Rolls Royce of detanglers. Whether it’s a paddle brush or a round drying brush, these natural bristles are gentle enough to effectively detangle and distribute natural oils throughout your strands.

  • Wide-tooth comb. This should be your tool of choice for detangling wet strands. A wide-tooth comb is especially helpful for curly hair. Just make sure to use conditioner or a detangling product before digging the comb through tangled hair.

  • Wet brush. If you’re looking for a versatile brush that can handle wet strands, consider a wet brush. These tools are designed specifically for tackling freshly washed strands and preventing frizzy hair.

Try a Topical Medication

Topical minoxidil (aka Rogaine®) is an FDA-approved medication that can help treat various types of hair loss. It’s available in a 2% liquid solution or 5% foam and doesn’t require a prescription.

Minoxidil is thought to work by opening blood vessels. This increases blood flow to your scalp and allows more nutrients and oxygen to get to your hair follicles.

It also lengthens the hair growth cycle, meaning more follicles are created to replace the hairs you lose.

Another option is finasteride (the generic version of Propecia®), a daily pill clinically proven to promote hair regrowth and limit hair loss. It’s also available as a topical product.

Use a Hair Loss Shampoo and Conditioner

Given that damaged, dry hair is more likely to break, boosting hydration can help.

One way to keep your hair hydrated is to apply volumizing conditioner after lathering up with volumizing shampoo. This will add moisture, prevent tangles and make brushing easier.

To bring even more moisture to your strands, apply a hair mask once a week.

Using a shampoo with saw palmetto or dandruff shampoo may also help improve your scalp and hair health.

Consider Supplements

If you’re on a mission to keep your hair healthy, consider hair-boosting supplements, like biotin, a B vitamin with a reputation for encouraging thicker hair growth.

One study concluded that taking a biotin supplement, like a biotin gummy, may produce faster hair growth in people with thinning hair.

That said, more research needs to be done to confirm biotin supplementation’s role in promoting hair growth.

If supplements aren’t your thing, you can also increase your biotin intake with food. Eggs, milk and bananas are all solid sources of biotin.

Another supplement that may be good for hair health is collagen. You can find collagen supplements in gummy, capsule and powder form. Research on collagen as an option for hair growth is limited, but there are some small studies that suggest it may help.

One small study looked at the effects of a collagen supplement in 15 women with thinning hair. Researchers found that those who took a collagen supplement twice a day for six months had shinier hair by the end of the study compared to the placebo group.

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Can you brush your hair too much? As it turns out, you can.

If you’re wondering how to stop hair from falling out when brushing, it’s not too complicated. As long as you do it gently, brushing is unlikely to trigger hair loss — and it’s normal for your brush to collect some hairs each time you use it.

Here’s what you need to know about the connection between hair loss and brushing:

  • Bad brushing habits can lead to hair loss. Yanking a hairbrush through wet strands, brushing too often, using the wrong type of brush to detangle hair or excessive brushing may lead to hair loss.

  • Other hair habits can cause damage too. Bad brushing habits aren’t the only thing that can lead to hair thinning or hair breakage. Tight hairstyles can cause tension and tug hair out at the scalp. Not using a conditioner can lead to dry, brittle hair strands. Using certain styling products (like hair gel) can also cause damage.

  • Treatments are available. Being more careful about how you brush and practicing other good hair habits can encourage healthy growth and help you avoid excess shedding. If hair loss happens, topical minoxidil and certain supplements may help treat different forms of hair loss.

Over-brushing isn’t the only potential hair loss trigger. To learn about other reasons you may be excessively shedding hair, read our guide to female hair loss. You can also learn about hair loss treatments in our guide to treating hair loss.

And remember, you’re not alone. If you need help navigating potential hair loss causes and treatments, make a virtual appointment with a healthcare professional today.

9 Sources

  1. Do you have hair loss or hair shedding? (n.d.). American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/shedding
  2. How to stop damaging your hair. (n.d.). American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/stop-damage
  3. The effect of brushing on hair loss in women. (n.d.). PubMed. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19016066/
  4. Traction Alopecia - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf. (2022, August 8). NCBI. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470434/
  5. Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. (2019, August 9). NCBI. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/
  6. How to stop damaging your hair. (n.d.). American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/stop-damage
  7. Biotin. (n.d.). MedlinePlus. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/313.html
  8. Fabian, C. J. (n.d.). How I Treat Vitamin D Deficiency - PMC. NCBI. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2835491/
  9. Glynis, A. (n.d.). A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair. NCBI. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3509882/
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Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

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