Not many people realise that there’s a difference between shedding and losing hair. The reason is that, in either case, you lose hair strands from your scalp.
The truth is that hair shedding is a normal part of life, while hair loss isn’t. Hair shedding is usually temporary and reversible, whereas hair loss may be permanent.
It’s not always easy to tell the difference between the two. So, in this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about hair shedding vs hair loss.
What Is Hair Shedding?
Hair shedding occurs as a part of the natural hair growth cycle. It happens once the hair has finished growing. That can be true for 100 to 150 strands of hair on your head on any given day, so it’s normal to shed that much hair.
Keep in mind that there are usually four phases of the hair growth cycle, which are as follows:
While about 90% of the hair is in the growing, anagen phase, 10% of the hair is in the rest of the phases. For about 2-3 months, hair remains in the resting phase, after which it sheds. Once that happens, you will grow new hair in its place.
The length of your hair growth cycle determines how long it takes for your hair to shed naturally. For instance, if your anagen phase lasts for 8 years, and your hair grows 1 cm per month, your hair will reach 96 cm before ultimately falling out.
Every hair on your scalp is going through this cycle, so it will shed at some point and continue to do so.
Abnormal Hair Shedding
Sometimes, hair shedding can be abnormal. And the most common reason behind that is stress from things such as:
- Weight loss
- Acute medical condition
- Life change
- Discontinuing birth control pills
This results in telogen effluvium, which according to DermNET, can affect as much as 50% of the hair on the scalp. When that happens, you can shed as many as 300 strands of hair per day.
However, it’s important to remember that this kind of hair shedding is usually temporary. Your hair is still growing, but you’ll lose more of it for some time. If it’s acute, it will last for around 2-6 months. But if it’s chronic, it can last for longer than 6 months. It can even last for years in some cases.
Sometimes, shedding may seem abnormal even when it isn’t. For instance, many people complain of losing their hair when showering or brushing their scalp. The reason behind it is that at the end of the growth cycle, the hair needs a tug to be detached from the scalp. And that usually comes from these two activities.
If you stop brushing your hair in fear of losing more hair, keep in mind that the next you brush your hair, you’re going to notice even more shedding. That’s because, with 100-150 strands of hair shed per day, you will have gathered days’ worth of hair.
Also, if you have long hair, just because of the length of your hair, shedding might be more noticeable, even if everything’s normal.
What Is Hair Loss?
Hair loss is when the growth of the hair on your head is interrupted. And until (or unless) the underlying issue is resolved, your hair will not grow. It can happen due to:
- Medication and treatments (like chemotherapy)
- Chronic illness
- Poor nutrition
- Damaging hairstyles
- Harsh hair products
Hair loss is not always permanent, but in many cases, it can be. You might not just lose your hair as a result of it, but the strength of your hair (shaft thickness) may also decrease. This happens in the case of pattern baldness, and it’s irreversible.
On the other hand, if the hair loss is due to a temporary issue, like tight hairstyles, it may reverse once you stop tying your hair too tightly.
Different types of treatments are available depending on the type of hair loss you’re experiencing, but they may not work for everyone.
In any case, it’s important to seek the advice of a medical professional.
Hair Shedding vs Hair Loss: What’s The Difference?
Usually, hair shedding is normal since it’s part of the growth cycle. Sometimes, it may be exacerbated by stress, but it’s temporary and reversible. Hair loss, on the other hand, halts hair growth unless the cause of the problem is resolved.
When it’s just shedding, you’ll notice your hair falling out.
However, when you’re experiencing hair loss, your hair can come out in chunks. Additionally, you’ll have noticeable thinning, with the scalp showing through the hair.
You may also end up with complete bald spots (as happens in the case of alopecia areata).
In case of hair loss, it’s not just the density of your hair that will go down. The thickness of the individual hair shafts might also decrease.
How To Take Care of Your Hair Shedding or Hair Loss?
Whether you’re experiencing hair shedding or hair loss, you need to get in touch with a medical professional.
They’ll determine the cause of the problem and create a treatment plan accordingly.
For instance, if you’re experiencing abnormal hair shedding due to mental stress, you may be recommended techniques to manage that stress. Additionally, you might be prescribed minoxidil.
On your end, you need to eat well and take good care of your hair (gentler products, loose hairstyles, etc.), to make sure that you don’t worsen either.
Here’s a summary of the differences between hair loss and hair shedding.
|Hair Loss||Hair Shedding|
|Cause||Genetics, hormone, illness, medication, trauma, nutrition, ageing, poor hair care||Normal or due to stress (mental and physical)|
|Hair Growth||Stops (hair may not be replaced)||Continues (hair is replaced)|
|Consequences||Chunks of hair can fall out, along with noticeable thinning and formation of bald spots||Normally, 100-150 strands of hair loss but may be up to 300 in case of telogen effluvium|
|Longevity||Temporary or permanent||Temporary|
|Treatment||Usually, medication or surgery||May not be required as it can resolve on its own|
Hair shedding is not the same as hair loss. It’s a normal part of the hair growth cycle. So, each and every hair on your head will experience this.
Sometimes, however, this shedding may be accelerated due to different types of stressors. But even then, it’s usually temporary, and your hair should start to grow back after a few months.
Hair loss, on the other hand, occurs when the growth of the hair stops. Unlike shedding, it’s far more intense and can cause significant thinning and baldness.
Even if you may have an idea of what kind of hair loss you’re experiencing, you should always get in touch with a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.