For months, you’ve been putting off that trip to the dermatologist, despite noticing (and likely stressing out over) the fact that your strands are starting to look a bit more sparse. You tell yourself that it's not that big of a deal — just a few extra hairs on the pillowcase each morning. But when you find a shocking clump of hair in your shower drain, you finally panic and dial-up your dermatologist. 

When you book your appointment, you find out it involves something called a hair pull test. So, what exactly does that mean? Read on to learn how the hair pull test works, and how these results may help you restore your hair health.

Help for Hair Loss 

Let’s face it: Our hair is often the first impression we make, playing a starring role in our overall appearance. And while beautiful, luscious locks are glorious to display, thinning hair can make you feel compelled to hide your head under the biggest hat you can find. 

If activities like hair brushing and shampoo are suddenly causing more hair loss than ever before, you’re not alone. Almost 50% of people (with all hair types) will deal with a hair loss disorder at some point in their life. The good news is that seeing your dermatologist for a hair pull test can help.

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What Is a Hair Pull Test?

According to The American Academy of Dermatology, the first step in finding an effective hair loss treatment starts with discovering what's causing your hair loss. Board-certified dermatologists can potentially pinpoint the causes of hair loss by utilizing the hair pull test.

The hair pull test, aka hair traction test, is as simple as its name: A dermatologist will grasp small sections of your hair from different parts of the scalp and gently pull on it. The severity of hair loss is determined by the number of hairs that come out when pulled.

This gentle pulling on the hair allows your dermatologist to diagnose the condition of your hair, including how well — or not — your hair is growing, your hair density and whether your tresses are prone to breakage that goes beyond normal hair shedding. The hair test can also reveal if there are underlying medical issues present.

Read: What Causes Hair Loss? Every Trigger Explained

Prep Steps: What To Expect From a Hair Pull Test

“The hair pull test is performed when acute or chronic hair loss is suspected. A dermatologist or other provider will gently pull different sections of hair to see if six or more strands fall out at a time,” said Jennifer Kennedy, director of skincare and registered nurse, at PFRANKMD by Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank. “It is done to determine if there is active hair shedding occurring. It is done usually at the dermatologist to diagnose hair loss and [determine] whether it’s alopecia areata, telogen effluvium, anagen effluvium, androgenetic alopecia or loose anagen syndrome. The sad thing is most people seek help when they’ve already lost 50% of their hair. If positive, it means that there is most likely an active hair loss process going on.”

Dermatology and medical experts often give pretest guidelines to follow before a patient's appointment, such as no pretest hair washing beginning five days before the appointment. And if the thought of attending your appointment with greasy, unwashed roots gives you even more anxiety, try GRO Dry Shampoo. A light spritz of the plant-based formula will make your hair look and smell refreshed without the harsh friction of a traditional shampoo, meaning you can be sure your hair pull test results won't be compromised.

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Hair Tests, Results and What They Mean

Now that you know, in general, what a hair pull test is, it's time to find out more. Medical professionals use different types of tests, in addition to a hair pull test, to help pinpoint the causes of hair loss. Here are explanations of each one.

Hair Pull Test

In the simple hair pull test, the dermatologist grasps small sections of about 40 hair strands, gently tugging at them with the index finger and thumb. This test indicates that if six or more strands fall out, you have what’s known as active hair loss.

Types of active hair loss include:

  • Telogen effluvium: Thinning or hair shedding all over the scalp due to an interruption in the cycle of hair production.
  • Alopecia areata: A general medical term for coin-sized patches of hair loss.
  • Anagen effluvium: A nonscarring alopecia typically caused by autoimmune disorders or chemotherapy drugs.
  • Loose anagen syndrome: This most commonly develops in young children and occurs when hair is not firmly rooted in the hair follicles.
  • Androgenetic alopecia: Commonly known as “male pattern hair loss” or “female pattern hair loss.”
  • Traction alopecia: Hair loss due to tension. For example, TA can be caused due to long-term use of hairstyles that stress the scalp such as tight buns and braids.

Tug Test

A tug test is one in which the dermatologist grasps a section of hair and holds it with two hands, one near the root and one near the tip, tugging to see if any of the hair breaks in the middle. This test measures the brittleness or fragility of your hair texture. It is used to determine a hair shaft abnormality that may cause hair to begin to become thin, weaken and potentially break.

Card Test

A card test can also be used to examine hair shaft health, as well as to evaluate the number of hairs that are newly growing. In this procedure, the dermatologist creates a part in the hair, holding a small rectangular card covered in a soft felt that contrasts with hair color against a section of the scalp. This way, any new strands, even small or broken ones, are visible, making them able to be counted. Short strands with broken tips may be a sign of an abnormality in the hair shaft, while very thin strands can be a marker of telogen effluvium.

Reasons for Hair Loss

If your hair pull test values indicate that active hair loss is present, the next steps are to uncover what is causing it. In some cases, hair loss can be tied to underlying conditions and may require blood tests to make a proper diagnosis.

These conditions may include: 

  • Medical conditions, such as disease or infections
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Hereditary factors 

"We are also seeing a ton of hair loss during Covid, some stress-induced, some with a direct link to those who’ve had COVID," said Kennedy. "Seek a proper evaluation as soon as you notice an increase in hair shedding."

Swap Stress for Wellness Practices

Stress is obviously not ideal for your health and has also been connected to hair loss. Elevate your overall wellness and minimize the loss of your hair by practicing healthy habits. Kennedy recommends reducing stress levels with exercise and mediation. For an added calming and relaxing effect, try VEGAMOUR's GRO+ Advanced Hair Care Gummies with full-spectrum CBD, formulated with 20mg of CBD per gummy.

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Take a Whole-Body Approach to Hair Wellness

Reducing stress isn't the only way to combat hair loss. Here's how to take a whole-body approach to amp up the health of your scalp and hair.

No one habit, product or doctor's visit will solve your hair problems. It takes consistent effort and patience on your part day in and day out. We know that isn't the easy answer — but it's the truth. And VEGAMOUR is here with you every step of the way. 

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Photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

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