Have you ever wondered about the distinctions between hair shedding vs hair loss? Or maybe you thought of them as one and the same? Hair shedding and hair loss are two completely different medical disorders or diagnoses. While it is perfectly normal to shed between 50 to 100 hairs per day, excessive shedding more than that can actually be caused by an underlying or precipitating event.
On a personal level, what is the significance of this information to you? Let’s have a look at what you need to know about the difference between hair shedding and hair loss and what actions you might want to consider taking.
Hair Shedding vs Hair Loss: What Are The Differences?
To the patient, there is indeed a difference between the two medical conditions. The medical term used by hair specialists for hair shedding is telogen effluvium. The most common form of hair loss on the other hand is called androgenetic alopecia.
Nonetheless, to understand the difference between hair shedding and hair loss, we need to go back. Back, to the beginning of a hair’s life cycle.
The Natural Hair Growth Cycle
Natural hair growth occurs in a cyclical process as shown in the illustration below.
The hair follicle cycle can be divided into three distinct phases:
- Anagen phase: When the hair follicle starts growing from the follicle root, a part of the hair structure known as the dermal papilla (DP), it is in the so-called anagen phase. This phase can last anywhere between four to seven years and is clinically diagnosed or appreciated when emerging hairs are growing through the scalp.
- Catagen phase: After the anagen phase, the hair follicle then enters the catagen phase which can be described as the “death” phase. Here the hair gets detached from the DP and goes into predetermined regression by perhaps “cell-to-cell” chemical signaling. This phase lasts approximately 2 weeks and is noted by the complete separation of the DP from the regressing hair shaft and surrounding follicular structure.
- Telogen phase: The hair follicle then follows the cycle into the telogen phase which is also known as the resting phase. This phase is defined by the hair shaft separating from the follicle which remains dormant for 4-6 months. Following this time period the follicle cycles back to the growth phase or anagen phase.
High stress levels, unbalanced diets, or too strong hair care can influence the hair growth cycle. Additionally, hair tends to grow thinner with age, since the anagen phase shortens.
Telogen Effluvium: Why is My Hair Shedding?
Simply put, hair shedding is part of a hair’s normal life cycle. This means that every person sheds between 50-100 hairs daily. Hair shedding is usually temporary. Excessive hair shedding can be caused by different factors:
- Losing a lot of weight in a short period
- Nutritional deficiency
- After giving birth or stopping oral contraceptives
- Experiencing a high fever or systemic illness
- Undergoing surgery
- Traumatic emotional and physical trauma
Also, high amounts of stress or anxiety can be a cause of excessive hair shedding or even hair loss. We explained how stress and anxiety are related to hair loss in our last article and demonstrated 5 methods to reduce stress in your life.
Also, excessive use of hair care products can play a vital role in how much hair you shed. Washing, combing, or styling your hair with or without heat can all cause your hair to shed in the telogen phase.
The good news and prognosis is hair shedding is usually reversible. Once properly diagnosed and treated, patients can expect hair to start growing back within 6 to 12 months after discovering and managing their triggers and underlying conditions.
Androgenetic Alopecia: When does it become Hair Loss?
Whereas hair shedding is part of the normal hair growth cycle, hair loss occurs when hair “stops” growing as observed by genetic hair loss.
In a normal hair growth cycle, the hair grows for around 4-7 years and enters into a resting phase thereafter. In genetic hair loss, the follicle’s anagen phase starts to shorten. This leads to thinner strands of hair, a medical condition called miniaturization. In addition, there is also a delay in the growth of new hair to replace the strands that have been shed.
The below Illustration demonstrates the miniaturization of the hair follicle.
Both in women and men, androgenetic or genetic alopecia is one of the most common causes of hair loss. While in women’s hair loss hair miniaturization tends to impact hair all over the head, while their hairline doesn’t recede. In men’s genetic hair loss, a condition also known as male-pattern baldness, hair is lost in a well-defined pattern described by Drs. Norwood and Hamilton, aka, the Norwood-Hamilton hair loss patterns.
There may be many factors genetic or environmental that play a role in hair loss.
Some of the more most common causes of hair loss are:
- Hereditary factors
- A reaction of the immune system
- A reaction to certain drugs or medications
In comparison to hair shedding, hair loss secondary to genetic etiologies requires medical or surgical treatment. Depending on the cause and qualitative loss of hair follicles, the treatment and results will also vary. One of the most common treatments for hair loss in women is medications, while men often will need both medical and surgical treatment like a hair transplant to receive any visible results.
Are you losing too much hair?
Many factors can be the cause of hair shedding or hair loss. If you are experiencing one of the two but can’t find an explanation you should consider visiting a physician specializing in hair and scalp disorders.
Can you determine the difference between hair shedding vs hair loss? If you do not, that is why we are here to help you.
To learn more about the cause of your hair loss or shedding, schedule your appointment at Orange County Hair Restoration with Dr. Ken Williams via our appointment request form or contact our office at (949)333-2999 . Our office is located in Irvine, Orange County, next to the Newport Beach and Laguna Beach coastline.
Dr. Ken L. Williams
Dr. Williams practices medical and surgical hair restoration for men and women. His private practice is dedicated to the art and science of hair restoration. He is a Diplomate of ABHRS, the only surgical organization that certifies surgeons. Our hair doctor is also a fellow, of the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery. He is an expert in Regenerative PRP, Stem Cell Therapy, and Surgical Hair Restoration in treating hair loss in men and women. He was one of the early cosmetic hair transplant surgeons to incorporate Follicular Unit Excision into his surgical hair practice, and he relates easily to his hair loss patients as he is a FUE surgical recipient of approximately 10,200 follicular grafts.