With an average of two hairs or fewer pulled from the scalp when confirming telogen, a hair pull test is a pretty painless procedure. So, if you have been postponing that trip to a dermatologist, it’s time to make an appointment.
A hair pull test will be necessary if your hair strands have started looking sparse. This is usually a sign of telogen effluvium, a type of temporary hair loss. The condition occurs on the scalp and may be caused by stress, a traumatic event, or a shock. Hair usually grows back with treatment.
As you schedule your appointment, the dermatologist will mention something known as a hair pull test. What does this test mean, and what should you expect from it?
What Exactly is a Hair Pull Test?
Your dermatologist will start with identifying the actual cause of your hair loss before recommending treatment. And the best way to do that is using the hair pull test.
Generally, a hair pull test is a clinical test that involves pulling out strands of hair. A board-certified dermatologist will do this if they suspect you have telogen effluvium.
Can You Perform the Test at Home?
It’s not wise to perform the hair pull test at home. This is because you’re likely to run into many problems when doing so. Without dermatology training, it’s difficult for you to know how much hair needs to be pulled.
There are also high chances that you may end up with inaccurate results. You might also assume that the shedding is caused by another condition other than telogen effluvium. And even go as far as purchasing over-the-counter medication to treat the wrong condition.
A misdiagnosis can make the problem worse. You may end up shedding more hair without professional help. While the Internet is a great source for self-help information, you shouldn’t count on it to do the test.
Preparing for the Test
Your dermatologist will schedule you for the test if they suspect acute or chronic hair loss. But before they carry out the procedure, some preparation will be needed on your end.
You’ll be advised not to wash your hair five days before going for the appointment. This is to ensure that the results of the test aren’t compromised in any way.
How the Test is Performed
During the test, the dermatologist will pull four bundles of hair from your scalp. The strands will come from your occipital area (the back of the head) and parietal areas (above the ears on each side of the head). Also, they will be pulled from your vertex or crown (the highest point of the scalp).
The doctor will pull out about 40 to 60 hair strands from each section of the scalp. While doing this, they will gather a section that’s close to the hair root and gently hold it in their fingers. Expect the doctor to pull the hair down the entire length painlessly.
After pulling out hair from each section of your scalp, the dermatologist will count the strands. They will also check the tip of the hair to determine if it was plucked from the root. If that’s the case, the doctor will discard the hair strands from the rest.
The dermatologist will slightly pull your scalp, causing some discomfort. The good thing is that you won’t experience any pain during the procedure.
Interpreting the Test Results
The hair loss shouldn’t be less than 10 percent from each bundle. If the test reveals that you shed 4 to 6 hair strands, your hair loss will be considered normal. And this will be referred to as a negative hair pull test.
On the other hand, if the test reveals that you lost more than 10 percent of hair from a single bundle, it’ll suggest active hair loss. And diagnosis will be considered a positive hair pull test.
If you have a positive test result in more than one bundle, the doctor will diagnose you with telogen effluvium. At this point, they will recommend appropriate hair loss treatment. Your hair will only start growing back if you follow your doctor’s advice.
Accuracy of the Hair Pull Test
The dermatologist may perform other tests to diagnose a hair loss condition. But the test alone is adequate to single out telogen effluvium.
Provided the doctor is board-certified, you won’t have to worry about the accuracy of the results. This is because board-certified dermatologists observe high professional standards in their work.
Other Hair Tests Done to Supplement the Hair Pull Test
Besides the hair pull test, your dermatologist will perform other tests. These are done in conjunction with the hair pull test to look for signs of hair loss. The procedures include the wash test, tug test, and card test.
For the wash test, your doctor will advise you not to wash your hair for up to five days. They will then wash your hair in a basin with a drain hole covered with a mesh. The mesh on the drain hole helps collect strands of broken hair, which are then counted to diagnose hair loss.
In a tug test, the doctor will hold a hair bundle at its root and tug it. This procedure helps them examine the strength of your hair shaft.
And in a card test, your doctor will part your hair strands and place a small card against the scalp. The card is usually a different color from your hair color for visibility.
The dermatologist will supplement these tests with biopsy or blood tests if needed. Either way, they will ask for your consent before carrying out any procedures.
Looking for a Solution for Thinning Hair?
All-in-all, a hair pull test is a simple yet painless procedure used to check for hair loss on your scalp. It is also one of the most effective tests done to confirm telogen effluvium. We hope that this guide helped address any worries you had about the test.
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