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Temporary Hair Loss: Causes and Treatments

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Sian Ferguson

Published 07/20/2021

Updated 05/08/2024

You’ve noticed some extra hairs on your pillowcase or hairbrush. You’re pretty sure your hair is shedding more than usual — but how can you tell whether you’re experiencing temporary hair loss or something more permanent?

The most common form of hair loss in men is male pattern baldness. This is a permanent form of hair loss that gets worse over time without medical treatment. 

Hair loss can be temporary though. And while temporary hair loss can be alarming, it usually resolves on its own. 

Below, we’ve explained why temporary hair loss occurs, the symptoms you may notice if you’re shedding hair, and how to know if hair loss is temporary or permanent.

We’ve also shared science-based treatment options that you can use to stop temporary hair loss and promote sustainable, healthy hair growth.

Most temporary hair loss is categorized as telogen effluvium — a type of hair loss triggered by a severe shock to your system that disrupts your hair growth cycle.

Let’s back up for a second. Your hair growth cycle is made up of three distinct phases: 

  • Anagen phase (growth phase)

  • Catagen phase (transitory phase)

  • Telogen phase (resting phase)

After the telogen phase, your hair falls out. 

Sometimes, a significant stressor interrupts your hair’s growth cycle, causing hairs in the anagen phase to suddenly enter the telogen phase and stop growing. A few months later, these hairs will fall out, causing excessive shedding all over your scalp.

So what counts as a “significant stressor”? It turns out, quite a lot: 

  • Severe emotional stress or trauma. Traumatic or stressful events — like losing a loved one, emigrating or experiencing a natural disaster — can cause stress-related hair loss.

  • Medical conditions. You may develop temporary hair loss after an illness or infection, particularly if the illness causes you to develop a high fever.

  • Surgery. Telogen effluvium can be triggered by a surgical procedure.

  • Rapid weight loss. If you’ve recently lost a significant amount of weight (think: 20 pounds or more) in a short time period, you may notice hair thinning.

  • Metabolic conditions. Some metabolic conditions, such as hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels) may cause you to temporarily lose hair.

  • Nutritional deficiencies. Several nutritional deficiencies, such as iron deficiency or low protein intake, can affect your body’s ability to produce new hairs and cause temporary hair loss.

  • Medication. Certain medications, including beta-blockers, anticoagulants (medications used to prevent blood clots), retinoids and some hormonal medications, may cause you to develop temporary hair loss.

  • Hormonal changes. It’s not uncommon for women to experience telogen effluvium after giving birth, while pregnant or after discontinuing certain forms of hormonal birth control pills.

Other potential temporary hair loss causes include:

  • Alopecia areata. This is an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks your hair follicles, causing patchy hair loss. In some cases, it may occur after a major life event such as trauma, illness or pregnancy.

  • Anagen effluvium. This form of temporary hair loss can develop during treatment with some types of medication, including antimetabolites, alkylating agents and other drugs used in chemotherapy.

  • Tinea capitis. Also referred to as scalp ringworm or scalp fungus, this fungal infection can cause temporary hair shedding. When severe, tinea capitis can lead to permanent hair loss.

  • Trichotillomania. This is a mental health condition where you compulsively pull out your hair, especially during times of stress. 

  • Poor hair care techniques. Certain hair care techniques may damage your hair, causing breakage and hair thinning. Using harsh chemicals, perming your hair or applying heat treatments all fall in this category.

  • Tight hairstyles. Hairstyles that are severely restrictive — like super-tight ponytails or braids — can pull at and damage your hair follicles. This is a type of hair loss called traction alopecia.

Keep in mind that most temporary forms of hair loss can become permanent in certain situations. For example, if you have trichotillomania, your hair will usually grow back — but constant pulling on your hair follicles might permanently damage them, causing permanent hair loss. 

That’s why it’s important to set an appointment with a healthcare professional ASAP. An expert can help you determine the cause of your hair loss and get treatment.

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With so many possible causes, it’s no surprise that the symptoms of temporary hair loss,  aren’t one-size-fits-all. 

If you’re losing hair due to telogen effluvium (a common cause of temporary hair loss), you may notice:

  • Excessive hair shedding. While it’s normal to shed between 50 and 100 hairs per day, people with telogen effluvium often shed much more hair than this. You may find hairs on your pillowcase and bedsheets and in your shower drain in excessive numbers.

  • Diffuse hair loss. Unlike male pattern baldness, which typically causes a bald patch at the crown of the head or a receding hairline, telogen effluvium usually affects your entire scalp — leading to thinning hair and making your scalp more visible than normal. 

  • A sensitive scalp. Sometimes, telogen effluvium causes your scalp to feel tender to the touch. 

Contrary to popular belief, these symptoms usually don’t develop immediately after the specific event that triggers your hair loss. In fact, it’s normal for hair shedding to begin several months later.

Other forms of temporary hair loss can cause different symptoms. For example, alopecia areata often causes small, oval-shaped patches of hair loss to develop on your scalp and other parts of your body.

Because a variety of different health issues can cause temporary hair loss, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider as soon as you notice hair loss symptoms developing. 

Sometimes, hair loss is your body’s way of signaling that it needs some TLC, whether it’s a more nutrient-rich diet, a break from severe stress or treatment for a medical condition. 

Many people mistake temporary forms of hair loss for male pattern baldness — also known as androgenic or androgenetic alopecia. 

While temporary hair loss and male pattern baldness share several common symptoms, they’re very different issues with different root causes. 

Temporary hair loss can occur for a variety of reasons. In most cases, it doesn’t involve any type of permanent damage or change to your hair follicles.

Male pattern baldness, on the other hand, is caused by a combination of genetic factors and the effects of the hormone dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.

Over time, DHT can shrink your hair follicles (a process referred to as miniaturization) and stop them from producing new hairs.

This process usually affects the scalp hairs in a specific pattern — for example, you might have thinning hair on your crown or a receding hairline. This hair loss can spread, eventually causing complete baldness. 

We’ve discussed this process and its effects on your appearance more in our guide to DHT and male hair loss.

Interestingly, women aren’t immune to this cause of hair loss. In women, androgenetic alopecia is often called female pattern baldness or female pattern hair loss. It usually happens after menopause. 

Some treatments for male pattern baldness, such as finasteride, work by reducing DHT levels in your body. Since temporary hair loss isn’t caused by the effects of DHT, finasteride won’t help to stop this type or hair shedding or stimulate new hair growth.

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Can hair loss be temporary? Absolutely — but whether it’s temporary or not, there are certain hair loss treatments you can use to speed up the hair regrowth process. 

The first step is identifying the specific cause of your hair loss, then taking steps to treat the underlying condition. If the cause of hair loss isn’t obvious, your healthcare provider might need to run blood tests to get to the bottom of it

For telogen effluvium, treating the underlying issue could mean:

  • Making changes to your lifestyle to reduce stress

  • Adjusting your diet to include nutrients such as iron or protein

  • Using hair growth vitamins (like our biotin gummies) or other nutritional supplements

  • Taking medication to address a hormonal or metabolic condition

  • Changing from an existing medication to one that doesn’t affect hair growth

When telogen effluvium is caused by surgery or an illness, your hair may start to grow naturally as you recover without any need for active treatment. No need to start saving for a hair transplant — your hair should eventually return to its former glory!

For other forms of temporary hair loss, you may need to use certain medications to control hair shedding and promote hair growth. 

For example: 

  • Alopecia areata is often treated using topical medications, ultraviolet light therapy or steroids that control inflammation.

  • Tinea capitis is treated using oral antifungal medication, topical medication and hair care products such as antifungal shampoo.

  • Traction alopecia can be treated by using gentle hair styling methods and avoiding tight hairstyles.

  • Trichotillomania is a mental health condition that is usually treated through talk therapy and, where necessary, anti-anxiety medications. 

After you’ve treated the underlying cause of your temporary hair loss, hair growth medications like minoxidil can help to stimulate hair regrowth and restore your hair’s normal thickness and density.

Minoxidil, the active ingredient in brand name treatments like Rogaine®, is an FDA-approved over-the-counter hair loss treatment you apply topically to the scalp.

It can help treat most types of hair loss, whether temporary or permanent. We offer minoxidil solution and minoxidil foam online.  

On average, it takes about three to six months of consistent daily use for minoxidil to improve your hair’s density and appearance. 

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Many men deal with hair loss at some point in life. Here’s what’s important to keep in mind:

  • There are many possible causes of hair loss. The most common type of temporary hair loss is called telogen effluvium, which is often triggered by severe stress, illnesses and nutritional deficiencies.

  • But there are other potential causes of temporary hair loss, including scalp infections, rough styling techniques and autoimmune disorders.  

  • Temporary hair loss can be treated. If you treat the underlying cause, your hair will eventually grow back on its own. 

To stimulate or speed up hair growth, you may want to use medications like minoxidil or hair care products such as those found in our Non-Prescription Hair Kit.

Since temporary hair loss has several potential causes, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider to get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. Take our survey and we’ll help you take action. 

6 Sources

  1. Hughes, E.C. & Saleh, D. (2020, June 9). Telogen Effluvium. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430848/
  2. Do You Have Hair Loss or Hair Shedding? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/shedding
  3. Alopecia areata. (2020, November 4). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001450.htm
  4. Saleh, D., Nassereddin, A. & Cook, C. (2020, August 12). Anagen Effluvium. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482293/
  5. Al Aboud, A.M. & Crane, J.S. (2020, August 10). Tinea Capitis. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536909/
  6. Ho, C.H., Sood, T. & Zito, P.M. (2021, May 5). Androgenetic Alopecia. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/
Editorial Standards

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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