Every strand of hair on your head has a lifespan of somewhere between two and five years. Hair follicles have a cycle of active growth, transition, and rest. There are circumstances and lifestyle factors that can bring more of your hair into the rest cycle, during which it falls out. This is called telogen effluvium.

Telogen effluvium can be a symptom of stress, or it can happen after pregnancy, as a side effect of medication, or as a result of an underlying health condition. If you’re experiencing hair loss that leads to bald spots, patchiness, or large clumps of hair coming out, you should see your primary care physician or a dermatologist for a diagnosis.

Whether the hair loss you have is a result of a chronic or short-term health condition, there are things that you can do to protect the hair that you do have. Keep reading for tips on keeping hair healthy and strong.

You can follow a few hair hygiene tips to make your hair less likely to fall out.

Avoid hairstyles that pull on the hair

Hair is flexible, but research shows that your hair can only be stretched so much before becoming permanently damaged. Hairstyles like cornrows, tight braids, and ponytails can pull your hair away from your scalp and loosen the bond between your hair and scalp over time.

Avoid high-heat hair styling tools

Using heat to style your hair leaves your hair follicle dehydrated and vulnerable to damage. Hair dryers, hair straighteners, and curling irons can all damage your hair over time.

Don’t chemically treat or bleach your hair

Hair treatment chemicals cause sudden and irrevocable damage to hair follicles. If you’re concerned about hair loss, limit your use of dyes, highlights, peroxide treatments, and perms.

Use a shampoo that’s mild and suited for your hair

The purpose of shampoo is to cleanse your hair of dirt and excess oil. But many commercial shampoos contain harsh ingredients. After just one use, they can strip your hair of the natural oil and fatty acids that make it strong and supple. Read the ingredients of your shampoo and purchase one that’s as close to all-natural as possible. Try switching up products if you’ve been losing excess hair.

Use a soft brush made from natural fibers

Using a soft brush with fibers that are natural will promote healthy sebum (oil) levels on your hair. The keratin proteins in your hair are stacked like shingles on a roof, so brushing them gently in one direction, starting at the top and continuing through to the ends, will help smooth and condition your hair cuticle on a molecular level. Brushing hair daily can also help you avoid seeing hair clumps in your shower drain.

Try low-level light therapy

Low-level light therapy promotes cell growth and repair. It’s been shown to promote hair growth in people with alopecia. This therapy can be prescribed by your doctor.

Hair loss in women is typically caused by genetic female pattern hair loss, androgenetic alopecia, thyroid disease, aging, or other hormonal conditions. About one-third of women will experience hair loss in their lifetime. If you are losing your hair, your doctor may recommend some of the following treatments to prevent further hair loss.

Women who have reached menopause may also consider hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as a way to treat their hair loss and other symptoms.

Hair loss in men is more common than in women. According to the American Hair Loss Association, about 85 percent of men have thinning hair by the time they reach 50. Hair loss in men is typically caused by genetic male pattern hair loss, androgenetic alopecia, aging, or low testosterone levels. If you’re concerned about hair loss, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

  • Rogaine (minoxidil)
  • Propecia or Proscar (finasteride)
  • follicular unit transplantation (hair transplant with underlying tissue)
  • follicular unit extraction (hair transplant with only follicles, no connecting tissue used)

If you’re concerned about hair loss, you may want to try a home remedy to see if you can stop your hair from falling out. It’s important to get diagnosed and find the underlying cause of your hair loss, so that you can treat it appropriately.

Supplements

Nutritional deficiencies can cause hair loss. Iron, zinc, niacin, selenium, vitamin D, and vitamin B-12 supplements can help your body produce hair that’s strong and healthy. Remember to only buy supplements from trusted sources, as they aren’t vetted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Essential oils

Essential oils are aqueous extracts of powerful botanical ingredients. Essential oils can be mixed with carrier oils, like jojoba and almond oil, to create a treatment to stimulate hair growth. Some essential oils might make your hair grow stronger. Research on these essential oils is mostly anecdotal, but we are learning more about how they work. Essential oils for hair growth include:

Scalp massage

Scalp massage has been shown to promote hair growth. By promoting circulation in the area of growth, your hair may grow more quickly if you gently massage your scalp every time you wash your hair.

Diet

Your diet can have an effect on hair loss. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants can help fight the signs of oxidative stress — environmental factors that damage hair follicles. Strawberries, blueberries, beans and legumes, spinach, and kale are all sources of antioxidants.

Sugar, processed fats, preservatives, and alcohol can all contribute to oxidative stress. Keep this in mind if you’re looking to stop your hair from falling out.

Quit smoking

Smoking can prematurely age your hair cells, making your hair follicles brittle and easy to damage. Speak to your doctor to come up with a smoking cessation plan right for you.

Many women experience dehydration, fatigue, stress, and falling estrogen levels as their body adjusts to life after pregnancy. This causes increased sensitivity in hair follicles, which can lead to a period of increased hair loss. Some of this hair loss is often related to the stress and exhaustion of having a baby. This condition is temporary and should resolve within a year after the pregnancy has ended.

You can try to minimize hair loss after pregnancy by continuing to take your prenatal vitamins if you are breastfeeding, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding tight hairstyles that pull hair away from the scalp. Dermatologists recommend using lightweight shampoos and conditioners and seeing a stylist to make hair loss appear less obvious until your hair shedding slows down.

Chemotherapy works by attacking cancer cells in your body. As a side effect, chemotherapy kills the cells that make your hair grow. Hair usually begins falling out within two to four weeks after treatment.

Some people choose to prepare for this side effect by shaving their hair off before treatment starts. Many people are more comfortable with this choice. But not everyone who undergoes chemotherapy will lose all of their hair as a result. Sometimes hair simply thins out or recedes.

You may also ask your doctor about a scalp cooling cap. These caps slow blood flow to your scalp during treatments. While it’s not completely effective, scalp cooling caps can help you retain more of your hair.

If you’re concerned that your hair loss goes beyond normal shedding or temporary telogen effluvium, you should speak to your doctor. Hair that’s coming out in clumps and leaving bald spots, and hair that’s growing in patches, could be symptoms of an underlying health issue. Speak to your dermatologist or primary care physician and describe your symptoms if you need more guidance.

Hair loss is a common symptom of many health conditions. For many people experiencing hair loss, there are treatments that will stop hair loss and even help you regrow some of your hair. Home remedies, lifestyle and dietary changes, and over-the-counter medication can improve the appearance of thinning hair.