Telogen effluvium: How to treat sudden hair loss

There are ways you can encourage hair growth.

Written by
Sophie Overett
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
April 22, 2024
min read
Telogen effluvium: How to treat sudden hair loss
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Hair loss can be a hard thing to miss, even before it starts to noticeably thin.

You might instead see a clump clogging your shower drain, or tumbling out as you empty your vacuum cleaner, or maybe even a few extra strands caught up on the inside of your swimming cap or bike helmet.

No matter how you discover hair shedding though, it tends to inspire the same sort of anxiety. After all, whether you're a woman or a man, hair often plays a crucial part in our self-confidence and to feel like we're losing more than what's normal can be confronting.

While there are many causes of hair loss, telogen effluvium is one of the most common, and luckily it's one that's rarely permanent.

But what is telogen effluvium? And how do you navigate it to encourage hair growth and ensure your hair stays healthy and thick? To understand both, we first need to understand the hair cycle.

What does a normal hair cycle look like?

All hair across your body has a 3 phase life cycle [1], which takes it from the hair follicles below the skin to the air outside of it. These 3 phases are:

  1. The anagen phase, which is also known as the growth phase. This phase lasts between 3 and 10 years and sees hair growth through a process of rapid cell division.
  2. The catagen phase lasts just 2-3 weeks and is notable as the phase where cell division stops and your body stops producing pigment [3].
  3. And finally, the telogen phase, also known as the resting phase, which lasts 3-5 months and marks the period when the hair itself is now dead. It matures into club hair which will see it shed from the hair follicle so that new hair may grow in its place [1].

What is telogen effluvium?

One of the most common causes of alopecia areata, telogen effluvium is a scalp disorder that results in diffuse hair loss. It's understood to be caused by an abnormality in the hair cycle which impacts the hair follicle and results in more hairs going into the telogen phase than normally would.

Research indicates that there are 5 possible causes of telogen effluvium:

Immediate anagen release

This occurs when the anagen phase is drastically shortened and the hair enters the telogen phase prematurely.

Delayed anagen release

This occurs when the anagen hair phase is prolonged, resulting in heavy shedding.

Short anagen syndrome

The cause of most cases of chronic telogen effluvium (more on that later), this is a persistent shortened anagen hair phase.

Immediate telogen release

This occurs due to a shortened telogen phase resulting in a large release of club hair, otherwise known as telogen hair.

Delayed telogen release

Prolonged telogen phase and a delayed transition to the anagen phase [1].

All of these have different trigger points, but the result is the same: hair shedding and hair loss. What causes these abnormalities in the hair cycle varies, but it's generally understood to be due to physical, mental or chemical changes.

This can be due to other medical treatments or medications, trauma, emotional and psychological stress, as well as childbirth, which is one of the leading causes of the condition in women [2].

The difference between acute telogen effluvium and chronic telogen effluvium

The biggest difference between acute telogen effluvium and chronic telogen effluvium is ultimately in the length of time you suffer from the condition. Acute telogen effluvium lasts less than 6 months, while chronic telogen effluvium lasts for longer [1].

Many studies have also found that chronic telogen effluvium is more likely to have multiple and repetitive triggers such as nutritional deficiencies, severe stress, thyroid disease, drastic weight loss, systemic illness or infection [2].

Telogen effluvium symptoms

The primary symptom of telogen effluvium is scalp hair loss and hair thinning; however, people experiencing telogen effluvium may also find themselves with trichodynia.

Trichodynia is a tender spot on the scalp where you may start to shed hair. It's often felt as a painful, itchy or stinging spot, and can cause a lot of discomfort prior to and during hair shedding [1].

How long does telogen effluvium last?

Ultimately, the hair loss associated with telogen effluvium will depend on your reason for contracting the condition.

Acute telogen effluvium will last less than 6 months, and in many cases, it tends to last between 2 and 3 months. It's often triggered by circumstantial conditions such as stress or medical conditions such as psoriasis, and addressing those will see you putting a stop to that thinning hair sooner rather than later [2].

Chronic telogen effluvium will last for longer than 6 months and can be a lot harder to treat. Regardless of the level of hair loss, if you find your hair shedding consistently more than it used to, seeking out a medical professional for a diagnosis is important to ensure proper treatment.

How is telogen effluvium diagnosed?

There are many ways to diagnose telogen effluvium, but it should always be done by doctors and will involve a clinical assessment. Following a look at one's health history, you may also undergo a few tests to get to the root of the problem.

In some cases, these tests can include:

Hair wash test and loss count

In this procedure, you would avoid washing your hair for 5 days, and then wash and rinse your hair in a sink covered with gauze, collect the hair, let them dry and put them in an envelope.

This collected hair would be then taken to a doctor for counting and diagnosis.

  • Less than 100 shed hairs and more than 10% vellus would be a telogen effluvium diagnosis
  • More than 100 shed hair and more than 10% vellus would be more likely to be androgenetic alopecia


A trichogram is an alternative diagnostic tool and involves the plucking of hair in a defined area for assessment.


This is another method that involves trimming the hair in a small patch and taking pictures on different days to compare hair density, growth and rate of shedding.


This is a magnifying tool that allows the examination of the scalp, skin and hair [4].

Scalp biopsy

Scalp biopsies are recommended in cases where excessive hair shedding lasts longer than 6 months.

How to treat telogen effluvium

It's one thing to diagnose telogen effluvium, treating it can feel like quite another, particularly if you have underlying conditions that impact your hair health such as androgenic alopecia.

In that sense, you should start to treat thinning hair by:

Identifying triggers

As hair loss can be triggered by everything from stress to helmets to sudden weight loss, paying attention to what's happening in your life can help you to figure out what may be causing you to lose scalp hair and what might encourage hair growth.

Keeping a journal of your diet, habits and lifestyle, along with any hair thinning or hair loss you notice, can be a way to really understand the patterns and abnormalities in your own unique hair cycle.

Correcting any deficiencies

Talking to your doctor about any nutritional deficiencies and focusing on a balanced diet and maintaining a stable body weight may improve your hair health and encourage hair regrowth.

Some supplements have also been found to make a difference, especially ingredients like biotin and saw palmetto.

Pilot's Hair Growth Booster Kit is a 4-step system that is formulated with these ingredients as well as zinc and niacinamide for scalp health and to encourage hair growth.

Our Biotin Hair Gummies help to support the fibres your follicles need to grow strong strands of hair, while our Hair Growth Shampoo & Conditioner give fledgling follicles the best possible start at life.

Rounding out the kit is our Derma Roller, which uses hundreds of tiny (1mm) needles, also known as microneedling, to target hair loss.

By gently rolling the Derma Roller over your scalp, these tiny needles rupture the outer layer of the dermis, creating blood flow to the area, and triggering a healing reaction in the scalp. By activating the scalp’s stem cells, surrounding follicles are stimulated, resulting in hair growth.

Clinical treatments

Men who treat hair loss in the early stages can prevent further balding and have a better chance of regrowing their hair. And, there are clinical-strength ingredients that can help stop hair loss and even encourage hair growth.

At Pilot, we believe in treating each person with an individualised approach to their hair loss. When it comes to hair loss, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. You need the right treatments, in the right dosages, tailored just for you.

Our hair treatment plans have been developed by Dr. Russell Knudsen, a hair loss expert with over 35 years of experience. Using a combination of lifestyle changes and clinical treatments, we're happy to report that over 80% of our patients are able to retain their hair.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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