Everyone loses at least a few hairs every day, whether it is in their hairbrush or shower drain. Seeing these hairs can be very worrisome and can raise the question: What is hair shedding vs. hair loss?
Normal loss of hair is called hair shedding, and it is your hair entering the phase where it is supposed to fall out. Hair loss is where your hair either doesn’t grow back at all or is growing at a slower rate than you are losing it.
I know that information doesn’t help you tell which one you might have. Because of this, I researched both to share with you what these are in simple terms. Let’s review a few more differences between hair shedding and hair loss to see if you need to be concerned about your hair fall.
What Causes It
The short answer is that hair shedding is caused by natural cycles in your body. Meanwhile, hair loss is caused by something that damages your hair follicles or breaks that cycle.
It is your hair follicle’s sole job to put molecules together to make the hair strand. Your hair follicles do need to rest sometimes, though, which they do in a cycle. When your follicles leave their active phase, your strand of hair will detach from the follicle.
The strand doesn’t always fall out right away, but any tugging on it will make it come out. To avoid causing baldness each time your follicles need to enter their rest cycle, each follicle is on a different schedule.
This means that every day some of your follicles are shifting to the next stage. The average person has around 100,000 hairs on their head. Around a hundred of these a day are moving into the part of the cycle where you lose your hair.
Unfortunately, your follicles can be forced into their shedding cycle by things like stress. Also, damaged hair follicles or ones not getting the nutrients they need become exhausted faster.
Some causes of this are:
- Poor diet – your follicles can’t use nutrients your body doesn’t have.
- DHT – attaches itself to your follicles and essentially strangles them.
- Certain fungal or bacterial infections – these can either directly attack your follicles or can cause scarring that damages them.
- Medical conditions and treatments – though chemo is the most well-known treatment for causing hair loss, other medications can cause it too.
Any of these make new hair growth slower, the growth cycle shorter, and the resting phase longer. This throws the cycles off balance, causing you to lose more hair than you are growing.
The Amount And Placement Of The Hair Coming Out
Hair shedding is usually steady, thanks to the fact that it is a natural process. So, if you are losing roughly the same amount of hair every day and your hair seems to be retaining its thickness, then you are probably just experiencing normal shedding.
That said, some days you may have a little more shedding than normal. This is why the average daily hair loss, according to Medical News Today, is a range of 50 to 100 hairs.
Stress can cause hair loss, with small amounts of it only temporarily increasing your shedding. This hair will grow back as soon as the stressful time or event is over. Still, continuous stress may cause hair loss that doesn’t grow back.
In short, losing a little over 100 hairs a day for a week or two and then going back down to your normal hair shedding amount might not be worth being concerned about. Losing double or triple that number of hairs a day or for longer than that should definitely make you worry about hair loss.
As for placement, hair shedding takes place evenly over your whole scalp. While some types of hair loss are the same, it is more common in specific areas. For male pattern baldness, this is at your hairline. Female pattern baldness is more noticeable at a woman’s part line.
Meanwhile, alopecia areata is where your hair comes out in clumps. This leaves bald spots with the rest of your hair staying almost as thick as it was before.
What To Do About It
As mentioned, it is important to know how much hair shedding is normal for you. One of the most important things you can do to treat hair loss is to catch it as early as possible. Another is to identify the cause of your hair loss.
You can assume your hair loss is due to a vitamin deficiency and take hair growth vitamins for it. Unfortunately, this will do you no good if your hair loss is caused by an autoimmune disease attacking your follicles.
You can employ trial and error to see what helps your hair by trying one approach at a time. But, it is much more efficient to go to a doctor, who can do tests to find out what is wrong. Also, you may be experiencing hair loss due to a medication you must take to treat a medical condition you have.
Once you know the cause of your hair loss, you should then research and talk to your doctor further about what you can do about it. There are hair loss treatments you can only get with a prescription or through a dermatologist’s office. This is another reason why setting up an appointment is important.
A few hair loss treatments include:
- Laser light therapy
- Hair transplants
- Hair growth supplements
- Hair serums, foams, and liquid drops (both prescription and over-the-counter options)
Any one of these can help most people achieve hair regrowth. You can even try a combination of a few different treatments.
Unfortunately, there is no universal treatment that is successful on 100% of the people who use it. Thus, you may have to try more than one before finding the hair loss treatment that works for you.
How To Prevent It
Hair shedding is not something the average person needs to prevent. Those trying to grow their hair as long as possible will want to keep their hair in its growing phase to achieve their desired length.
While you can’t force your follicles to do this, there are ways to help encourage it. A few of them are:
- Making sure you get more than enough vitamins.
- Trying to avoid sicknesses, infections, or injuries that can tax your body.
- Keeping your scalp clean to avoid buildup.
- Using hair masks, hair oils, and other products that encourage hair growth.
- Cutting back on styling products, shampoos, and conditioners that have harmful chemicals in them.
- Avoiding stress as much as possible. You can also find a relaxation method that works for you, such as yoga, reading, scented candles, crossword puzzles, etc.
Each of those helps with both hair shedding and hair loss. There are more preventative measures you can take specifically for hair loss. For example, male pattern baldness may be a concern for you if it runs in your family. In this case, it’s a good idea to use DHT blockers before you start experiencing problems.
You can use something mild like a hair growth supplement that has one or two herbal DHT blockers in it. Or, if you are really worried about DHT, you can use something stronger like DHT blocking serum you apply daily.
Though hair shedding is normal, it can be hard to determine the difference between hair shedding vs. hair loss. Some people have hair loss that happens so slowly that they don’t know it is anything other than normal hair fall. It is only when someone points out their hairline wasn’t as far back a year or so ago that they realize they have lost hair.
To avoid hair loss sneaking up on you, it is important to document what your hair looks like every once and a while. If you know of any other tips on how to catch hair loss or any other differences I missed, let me know!