Differences Between Hair Shedding and Hair Loss

Anjali specializes in hairstyles and hair and skin care and has written over 200 articles in these domains. Her philosophy about hair and skin care is simple: if you love and care for it, it will be h... more

Noticing more hair on your comb every day can be a cause for concern. While shedding 50 to 100 hair strands in a day is normal, anything beyond that may make you wonder if you have hair loss. But what is the difference between hair shedding and hair loss? Irrespective of one’s hair length and thickness, everyone may experience these hair conditions (1).

  • What Is Hair Shedding?
  • How Hair Loss Differs From Hair Shedding – A Brief
  • What Causes Excessive Hair Shedding?
  • What Causes Hair Loss?
  • How To Check If Your Hair Fall Is Normal
  • The Hair Growth Cycle
  • Tips To Counter Excessive Hair Shedding Or Loss
  • Conclusion

What Is Hair Shedding?

Hair shedding is a normal process and is medically called telogen effluvium (30848/' target='_blank' rel='noopener noreferrer' >2). An individual sheds 50-100 hairs per day on average, which accounts for less than 1% of our total hair strands (3). The extent to which hair sheds depends on one’s hair thickness and pattern (1).

Hair shedding is often reversible. However, this may not be the case with hair loss. We discuss the differences between the two in the following section.

How Hair Loss Differs From Hair Shedding – A Brief

Hair loss is medically known as anagen effluvium. It is characterized by abnormal hair loss in the growing phase (anagen) of the hair growth cycle. It often leads to male- or female-pattern alopecia (baldness) (4).

Hair shedding, on the other hand, occurs in the resting phase (telogen) of the hair growth cycle. It may be caused due to external stressors and can be reversed if the trigger factors are reduced. This may not be the case with hair loss. It most often leads to balding.

In the upcoming sections, we discuss the causes of hair shedding and hair loss, which can shed more light on their differences.

What Causes Excessive Hair Shedding?

Hair shedding is a normal phenomenon often experienced by both men and women. But excessive hair shedding may have the following causes:

Rapid weight loss of 20 lbs or more in a short period may result in excessive hair shedding. Gastric bypass surgery or other methods of rapid weight loss may result in hair shedding within 3-6 months. Nutritional deficiencies may also impact the growth stage of the hair cycle (5).

641750249' target='_blank' rel='noopener noreferrer' >Postpartum hair fall is thought to be associated with the psychological/ physiological stress a woman undergoes after childbirth. However, more research is warranted to further understand this condition (6).

Anxiety and stress can inhibit hair growth and also cause hair damage (7).

Using harsh hair products may cause temporary hair shedding. Sometimes, the high levels of peroxide and ammonia in the hair dyes can damage hair proteins and lead to hair shedding. Such chemicals also may cause scalp inflammation.

The telogen phase (resting phase) is more pronounced in summers and reduces in late winters (8).

Heat styling tools like dryers, wands, and straighteners may also cause hair shedding. These tools can dry out the hair shaft. Using a tight hairband can pull your hair at the roots and lead to shedding.

What Causes Hair Loss?

Patches on your head with visibly thinner hair than normal or bald spots may mean hair loss.

Hair loss is also called male- or female-pattern baldness. It usually runs in the family. One may experience it if they have inherited the genes that cause their hair follicles to shrink. Hair loss in women is characterized by the overall thinning of scalp hair, while in men, it manifests as a receding hairline or a bald spot at the top of the head.

    Age

Most people show slow hair growth and hair loss with age due to decreased hair protein synthesis.

Overreaction of the immune system results in hair loss, medically known as alopecia areata. It is an autoimmune disorder characterized by non-scarring hair loss. It affects nearly 2% of the population during their lifetime (9).

Hormonal imbalances increase the sensitivity of hair follicles, weaken the hair roots, and cause hair loss. Such hair loss is medically termed as androgenic alopecia and may affect both men and women. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is the major cause of male- and female-pattern baldness. Abnormal hormonal changes decrease the duration of anagen and increase the percentage of hair follicles in the telogen phase, resulting in hair loss (10).

Fungal or bacterial scalp infections can result in seborrhoeic dermatitis, which can weaken the hair roots and damage hair follicles.

Certain medical treatments, like chemotherapy or surgery, often lead to hair loss (11). Medications for thyroid, anxiety, stress, endocrinal (hormonal) disorders, and epilepsy may also lead to hair loss (12).

Have you been experiencing hair fall lately? Is it normal, or does it warrant medical intervention? A couple of simple tests can help you determine the same.

How To Check If Your Hair Fall Is Normal

Let us briefly look into the hair growth cycle in the following section.

The Hair Growth Cycle

Hair growth (and hair loss) naturally happens in 4 phases (14).

Hair fall (hair shedding or hair loss) is a common problem. The following section discusses certain tips that may help combat this issue.

Conclusion

Hair shedding and hair loss have different symptoms and causes. Understanding the differences helps you take the right treatment or preventive measures. Hair shedding is most often reversible, while hair loss may not be. Focus on a proper hair care routine, healthy eating habits, and proper supplementation and exercise. More importantly, maintain an upbeat attitude and do not take unnecessary stress.

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