Hair Shedding Vs. Hair Loss: What's Normal & What's Not

UPGUYS > Blog > Hair > Hair Shedding Vs. Hair Loss: What's Normal & What's Not

January 31, 2022

Hair loss is seemingly one of the most important cosmetic issues worldwide. The psychological consequences of hair loss can undermine the self-esteem of the person who is experiencing it. 

However, hair loss is often mistaken for hair shedding — a natural stage of the hair growth process. A certain amount of hair is normally shed each day. Hair shedding may also be a temporary result of daily stressful experiences and encounters. 

Despite some basic differences between hair loss vs. hair shedding, the best course of action is to visit a doctor to distinguish whether your hair shedding is normal or it’s hair loss.

Read more: How To Prevent Hair Loss: 20 Common Causes Reviewed


In the following you will find:

- What is hair loss?

- What is hair shedding?

- Does long hair shed more?

- How much shedding is normal, and what is the difference between hair shedding vs. hair loss?

- What to do to stop excessive hair shedding?

- Hair shedding and covid-19

- How to have healthy hair?


What is hair loss?

Hair loss happens when the hair stops growing due to an underlying disorder or genetics. In this situation, the hair continues falling until bald patches emerge on the scalp. The fallen hair cannot regrow unless the primary cause is treated.


What causes hair loss?

These are the main causes of hair loss.

- Diet

- Hereditary

- Immune system problems

- Drugs

- Hairstyles

Read more: Treating Hair Loss Once And For All


What is hair shedding?

Hair shedding —also called the telogen effluvium— is a normal sequence of the hair growth process. The hair growth cycle consists of three main phases; 

- Anagen: the growth phase 

- Catagen: the transition and shrinkage phase

- Telogen: the resting and shedding phase

When the hair enters the resting phase, shedding starts two or three months later. The excessive shedding may also originate from a specific stressor. The good news is the hair shedding is not permanent and returns to the normal level over time. The contributing factors in hair shedding are:

Losing up to a hundred hair strands a day is considered normal, so if you want to know what does 100 hairs look like, take a look.


What causes excessive hair shedding?

1- Stress

Stress and anxiety can affect our mental and physical health. Prolonged stress causes hair shedding. In fact, stress and anxiety cause the hair to enter the telogen phase and fall out more easily. Common stressors include emotional stress, surgery, significant weight loss, severe diseases, etc.

2- Hormonal effects

Some hormones act in the hair follicles and play essential roles in the hair growth cycle. Hormonal or metabolic imbalance impairs the hair follicle generation and causes hair shedding. Prolactin, for instance, can cause a premature catagen phase. Thyroid disorders (hyperthyroid and hypothyroid) cause hair fall by disrupting the growth cycle.

3- Age 

Aging is associated with DNA damage and cell loss. As we get older, the body’s ability to regenerate hair follicles diminishes. It decreases the number of cells required for hair growth (dermal papilla) and impairs the hair follicle regeneration cycle. As a result, the hair starts shedding. Another consequence of aging is the hormone composition changes and hair follicle size reduction.


Does long hair shed more?

َAs hair gets longer; it inevitably gets heavier. More hair weight causes more tension on the roots during hair washing, brushing, or styling. This puts the hair at a higher risk for shedding. Moreover, long hair is more likely to get tangled up and undergoes more stress while being untangled. It ultimately leads to more hair shedding. 


How much shedding is normal, and what is the difference between hair shedding with hair loss?

Generally, losing 50-150 strands per day is normal hair shedding. Hair shedding, caused by illness and stress, is temporary and subsides a couple of months after the stressor is removed. It can usually be diagnosed based on a detailed history.

However, hair loss is diagnosed when the hair falls out in clumps or bald spots are formed on the scalp. It often lasts for an extended period (more than six months) and may progress to baldness of the entire scalp.

In hair loss, unlike hair shedding, the hair does not regrow unless the underlying disorder is addressed. A doctor can better distinguish between hair shedding vs. hair loss based on the history of the patient, physical examination, and hair pull test.

When your doctor The hair pull test takes 60 hairs between the thumb and forefinger and slides the fingers along the hairs, if less than 10 percent of the hairs shed, it can be considered normal, while falling more than 10 percent of hairs is abnormal.


What to do to stop excessive hair shedding?

Many lifestyle habits can affect the hair growth cycle and cause hair shedding a lot. These habits are mainly related to diet, stress, hair care, and styling habits. The following tips can help control the excessive hair fall:

Read more: Five Common Types Of Hair Loss

1- Have a balanced intake of nutritious food

Poor diet and insufficient intake of protein and micronutrients weaken the body’s ability to build hair follicles and can cause hair shedding causes. Make sure that you follow a healthy, balanced diet and take supplements under the supervision of a doctor.

2- Get enough sleep

During sleep, the body produces growth hormones, which promote the activities of hair stem cells. Lack of restful sleep leads to a lack of growth hormones and follicle development. It can cause stress or be a result of stress.

3- Control your stress

Stress and anxiety push the follicles to an extended resting phase. In this phase, the stem cells, which divide to regenerate hair in the growth phase, become inactive and stop producing new hair. Over time, hair strands fall out more easily. Therapy, mindfulness practicing, exercising, and gratitude journaling are well-proved treatments of chronic stress.

4- Stop smoking

Smoke induces damage to the DNA of hair follicles and causes impaired blood circulation. Cigarette smoke contains thousands of harmful chemicals that contaminate the bloodstream and deprive the hair cells of fresh nutrients.

5- Take time when choosing hair care products

You may use hair products for cleansing, moisturizing, or styling your hair. These products add moisture and protein to your hair and are vital to hair elasticity and smoothness. However, it is important to use the right hair care products based on your hair texture, oiliness, and shape. Inappropriate products lead to excessive dryness, stiffness, and ultimately breakage and hair loss.

6- See a specialist if the hair shedding is not normal

If you are losing an abnormal volume of hair despite following the aforementioned tips, it might be a sign of a serious medical disorder. The best method is to talk to a professional for required treatments.


Hair shedding and covid-19

Many people have experienced hair loss after recovering from COVID 19. The studies show that COVID infection results in hair shedding by extending the telogen phase and forcing the hair to shed more easily. As it may be a source of concern, the experts reassure the patients that the problem is not a side-effect of the virus itself but a common result of stress and illness, which recovers over time. 


How to have healthy hair?

Having healthy hair does not happen overnight. For this goal, you should first have a healthy body. This means the factors that threaten the well-being of your body can threaten the quality of hair growth. Consistent health care by following these main rules help you maintain healthy hair:

- Stick to a rich, balanced diet

- Stop smoking

- Manage stress

- Follow a healthy hair care routine

- Use the right hair products


Conclusion

In a nutshell, hair loss vs. hair shedding differs in symptoms and treatments. Hair loss is often hereditary or caused by a pathogenic process, while hair shedding is an aftereffect of stress and subsides on its own. However, they are often mistaken for each other and may be difficult to distinguish at the beginning stages.


Disclaimer
This article is written for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information provided in the articles cannot and should not replace advice from a healthcare professional. Talk to your healthcare provider about any physical or mental health concerns or the risks and benefits of any treatment or medication.