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Hair Shedding vs Hair Loss: The Differences

A healthy head of hair is often considered a symbol of vitality and beauty, so when concerns arise with its condition, it can worry people of all ages and genders....

A healthy head of hair is often considered a symbol of vitality and beauty, so when concerns arise with its condition, it can worry people of all ages and genders. It’s normal to experience hair-related issues throughout our lives due to our lifestyle or genetics. Two main hair-related worries are hair shedding and hair loss; understanding the difference between the two is vital. 

The main difference between hair shedding and hair loss is their severity and patterns. Hair shedding is when your hair is still growing, but more hairs than usual continuously fall out. Hair loss is when the hair on your head stops growing altogether and it’s usually a more prominent and long-term issue. 

Hair shedding and hair loss also differ in their causes, as hair shedding is a natural cycle that involves hair falling out to allow new hairs to grow. Hair loss is usually a sign of an underlying medical condition or external factors like an illness or a side effect of medication. 

Hair Shedding vs Hair Loss

Understanding the differences is essential because it can determine the steps to take to overcome the condition and concern. To gain a deeper understanding of the two hair-loss-related issues, let’s dive deeper into the causes, differences, similarities and what to do if you’re experiencing hair shedding.

Let’s get into it:

What is hair shedding?

Hair shedding is when hair strands fall out to let others grow. Generally, it’s normal to shed between 50-100 hairs per day. There are about 100,000 follicles on our heads, so some shedding is considered normal and not a cause for concern. According to trichologist Dr Dominic Burg, “the follicles cycle asynchronously, meaning they each do their own thing in their own time, and this results in about 100 hairs per day entering the falling phase.”

hair shedding

However, shedding excessive amounts can cause concern and distress. Hair shedding can impact self-esteem, especially if the hair looks noticeably thinner. The medical term for shedding is telogen effluvium.

While some hair shedding is natural, too much could indicate an underlying cause. If you notice excessive or unusual amounts of hair falling out, you may need to look into the causes of what’s making it shed. 

Causes of hair shedding

There are numerous reasons why you could experience hair shedding. Understanding the causes is crucial as you can take the proper steps to address the issue. 

Here are some common causes of hair shedding:

  • Hormonal changes like menopause, pregnancy, or coming off birth control.
  • Emotional stress, trauma, or anxiety.
  • Rapid weight loss.
  • Nutritional deficiencies.
  • Hormonal imbalances like thyroid problems or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
  • Medical conditions like alopecia areata or skin disorders.
  • Medications like chemotherapy drugs or antidepressants.
  • Excessive hair styling or the use of heat tools.
  • Age, as hair naturally sheds as a person grows older. 

Interestingly, season changes can also cause hair shedding. According to the study “Seasonality of hair shedding in healthy women complaining of hair loss”, which tested the impact of seasonal change on hair loss in 823 women over six years, less hair was shed in late winter compared to summer.  

Furthermore, according to Dr Huang, co-director of the Hair Loss Clinic at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, shedding “might happen after you’ve had a high fever, a urinary tract infection, or surgery. Shedding can also occur as a reaction to an underlying medical condition or from taking a new medication.”

There are many reasons why your hair may begin to shed. It’s essential to explore your situation to receive the proper treatment to take steps to overcome it. If you notice your hair is thinning, it could be an early sign of hair loss.

What is hair loss?

The medical term for hair loss is anagen effluvium, which occurs when an underlying condition stops hair from growing altogether. Hair loss is often a more persistent and prolonged issue. Over time, hair loss can cause severe thinning and bald patches. 

hair loss

According to the study “An overview of the genetic aspects of hair loss and its connection with nutrition,” “hair loss is a widespread concern in dermatology clinics, affecting both men’s and women’s quality of life,” suggesting the condition’s severity. 

Here are some signs of hair loss to look out for:

  • Noticeable thinning on the top of your head. 
  • Bald patches or circular spots without hair. 
  • Loosening or thinning of hair. 
  • A receding hairline. 

Here are some of the causes of hair loss:

  • Family history.  
  • Hormonal imbalances like thyroid problems or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). 
  • Alopecia areata, which will show up as a small bald circle and may impact a person’s beard or eyebrows
  • Telogen effluvium. This is reversible but could be caused by new medication or a stressful event.
  • Nutritional deficiency. 
  • Weight loss. 

Hair loss can affect people of all ages and all genders. Some types of hair loss may be reversible, whereas others will continue until the problem causing the issue is stopped. If you’re experiencing hair loss symptoms, consider speaking to a professional or dermatologist. 

The differences between hair shedding and hair loss

While hair shedding and hair loss share some of the same features, they’re two conditions with differences that set them apart. Understanding their differences is crucial for determining whether you’re experiencing the normal hair growth cycle or a more significant issue.

Let’s take a look at the differences between hair shedding and hair loss:

The causes:

Hair shedding:

  • Natural hair growth cycle. Hair shedding is a natural part of the hair growth cycle, as hair falls out to allow more hair to grow. 
  • Seasonal changes. Evidence suggests that seasonal changes bring about hair shedding. 
  • Stress. Excessive stress plays a prominent role in hair shedding. It can lead to telogen effluvium, which makes hair follicles move into the resting phase prematurely. 
  • Diet and nutrition. If you’re lacking certain nutrients, you could experience temporary shedding. 
  • Hormonal changes. If you’re pregnant or going through menopause, you could experience hair shedding as the hair growth balance is disrupted. 
  • Ageing. It’s natural for hair to shed as people age and the growth cycle slows down. 

Hair loss:

  • Medical conditions. Alopecia areata, scalp conditions and thyroid conditions can lead to hair loss.
  • Medication. Certain medications like chemotherapy or certain types of antidepressants can cause hair loss. 
  • Tinea capitis. This is a fungal infection on your scalp that can cause hair loss.
  • Genetics. Hair loss can be hereditary, mainly male or female pattern hair loss.

The patterns:

Hair shedding: 

  • Even shedding. The distribution of hair is often even when shedding. Unlike hair loss, there are usually no specific bald spots or patches. 
  • Individual hairs. When hairs shed, the hairs come out individually rather than in clumps. You may find hairs on your pillow or your hairbrush, but they’re usually not all connected to a certain area of your head. 
  • Natural hair growth cycle. If your hair is shedding due to the seasonal change or it’s going through the natural hair growth cycle, it’ll typically follow the pattern and you’ll grow more eventually. 

Hair loss:

  • Follows a pattern. Sometimes, hair loss follows a pattern that starts with a receding hairline and thinning on the top of your head. In women, it usually begins with hair thinning. 
  • Specific area of baldness. Usually, conditions like alopecia areata create localised circular bald spots. 
  • Progressive and consistent. Hair loss is more advanced and consistent, and as it happens, you may notice a reduction in your hair that looks pronounced and more obvious. 
  • Enhanced scalp visibility. In cases like male pattern baldness, the scalp may be more evident through the hair that remains. 


Hair shedding: 

  • Usually temporary. Hair shedding is usually a temporary concern, and even if it looks more noticeable during periods, it’ll usually correct itself eventually.
  • Lack of bald spots. Even though hair is lost, it’s usually distributed across the scalp without noticeable bald spots.  
  • Untouched hairline. Hair shedding doesn’t tend to affect your hairline. 

Hair loss:

  • Progressive. Hair loss usually has a progressive nature, leading to noticeable changes in the coverage and density of your hair. 
  • Long-term and persistent condition. Hair loss can create concern as it’s usually an ongoing condition. 
  • Visible baldness. Unlike hair shedding, hair loss can cause bald patches that may be noticeable.
  • Affected hairline. Male pattern baldness can cause a receding hairline.

While both conditions cause hair loss, they have differences that set them apart. Hair shedding is usually more treatable and less severe and hair loss is more progressive and visible. However, they do have some aspects in common.  


The similarities between hair shedding and hair loss

Despite the many differences, hair shedding and hair loss also have similarities. Let’s take a look at some of the factors the two phenomena have in common:

  • Psychological impact. Both hair shedding and hair loss can impact a person’s confidence and emotional well-being. Even temporary hair shedding can affect a person’s life and cause anxiety. Hair loss can also be emotionally distressing and affect a person’s self-image and self-esteem. 

  • The influence of hormones. Hormones play a large part in both hair shedding and hair loss. Whether it’s menopause, pregnancy, or medical conditions, hair shedding and loss can occur. 

  • Treatment options. There may be some instances where similar treatments are required. For example, you could improve nutritional deficiencies with hair vitamins and supplements or change your diet. 

Hair shedding and thinning have in common their role in self-confidence and positivity. The study “Advances in hair growth” states that as “a deeply rooted component of identity and culture, the role of hair extends far beyond function, while hair disorders can significantly impact well-being and quality of life,” suggesting the adverse impact that shedding and hair loss can have.

Even though there are some similarities, it’s important to understand that hair shedding and hair loss have distinct features that generally require different treatments. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms, it’s a good idea to get suitable advice by speaking to a professional. 

How do you know if your hair is shedding?

Some hair shedding is normal, but if you notice more hair on your pillow or hairbrush, you may be experiencing excessive shedding. Hair growth patterns are different for everyone, but consult a professional if you notice a change or a sudden increase in thinning hair. 

Here are some ways to know if you’re shedding:

  • You find large amounts of hair on your pillow.
  • You notice large quantities in the drain after washing your hair.
  • You see a sudden change in your hair’s thickness.

If you’ve noticed excessive hair shedding and you feel like your hair is suddenly thinner, talking to a professional could help you understand the root cause. From there, you can devise a treatment plan to improve its health and condition. 

What to do if your hair is shedding?

Hair shedding can be distressing and can impact our day-to-day life. Even though it’s a natural part of the hair growth cycle, large amounts of shedding could indicate an underlying cause. 

If you’re experiencing excessive concern, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Identify the cause. For both men and women, identifying the cause of hair shedding will help determine the steps you need to take. For example, if medication is causing your hair to shed, you’ll know that stopping it will improve the situation.
  2. Talk to a professional. If you’re unsure what the underlying cause is, a professional will help you find out. Through an evaluation, they can provide you with the right treatment plan to improve your condition. 
  3. Maintain a balanced diet. Eat foods that support hair health, like eggs and leafy greens. These foods are packed with nutrients like protein, iron and biotin that promote hair growth. 
  4. Opt for hair vitamins. Bloommies are food supplements packed with high-dose biotin, zinc, vitamins and minerals needed for hair growth alongside a balanced diet. If you’re deficient in these nutrients, Bloommies are fruity gummies that help maintain hair growth by providing you with everything you need. These vitamins also support your existing hair, keeping it strong, shiny and less prone to breakage.  
  5. Choose suitable hair care products. Use mild shampoos and conditioners that will enhance the natural oils. Certain products are designed to reduce shedding, so consider switching to them for stronger hair. Try to reduce your styling to keep your hair in good condition. 
  6. Talk to someone. Excessive hair shedding can be distressing for both men and women, so contact someone for emotional support or seek professional help if you’re concerned. 

Taking the proper steps is essential to prevent the worsening of hair shedding. You’re taking a positive step in overcoming the issue by recognizing the signs, identifying the causes, and addressing the situation. Knowing the difference between hair shedding and loss is essential, as you can face your options effectively. 

Early intervention is key to hair shedding and loss, so try to stay as positive as possible and take the appropriate steps before it progresses.


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