Long Hair Causes Hair Loss

Woman with hair loss
Photo: Dreamstime
Q: My hair is to my waist. It has become about 40% thinner than it was when I was young. My sister says long hair causes hair loss. Is this true? Do I have to cut it to stop losing it? Thank you and kindest regards.
A: I’m not sure to whom your sister has been listening, but the idea that long hair causes hair loss is news to me. Obviously, longer hair can be more prone to damage and breakage simply because the longer the hair is, the more of it has been around for longer.
For example: since the hair grows about ½ inch a month, if your hair is more than a foot long, the last ½ inch of hair is at least 2 years old. Long hair is typically exposed to longer periods of styling manipulation and daily stress caused by styling is cumulative.
However, what you’re likely experiencing is “normal” levels of hair loss that occurs in someone as they age. You don’t specify any reference points when you say that the hair is 40% thinner than when you were younger, so I have no way of knowing your current age, or how old you mean by “younger”.
Nevertheless, you should remember that at the age of 22 weeks (before birth) a fetus has developed his or her hair follicles, and you never grow any more than that.
There are approximately 5 million hair follicles on the body, 1 million of them being on the head, and of those, approximately a hundred thousand make up the hair of the scalp. The hair will appear less dense as you grow because the skin expands over the skull, but the number of follicles doesn’t increase, they simply get spread outward.
Combine this effect with the normal changes in growth patterns and natural hair loss, and you may simply be dealing with what is “normal” for you.
If your hair is significantly less dense than that of the other women in your family (mother, sisters, aunts, etc.) then you can talk to your doctor about the possibility that the hair loss is abnormal and discuss your options. But, unless you’re seeing a dramatic change in your hair’s density, it is likely to be something that occurs naturally.
See also:
The three stages of human hair growth
How to recognize damaged hair
How can I tell if the short hair I see is new growing hair or broken hair?
Hair problems