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What’s the Difference: Hair Loss vs. Hair Shedding

Written by Ross Goodhart
What’s the Difference: Hair Loss vs. Hair Shedding

Question: What do you do with the hair strands that get loose in the shower? Are you a stick them on the wall person, or a collect in a clump by the shower drain person? Or are you the elusive and rare third type of person who removes the hair from the shower after every wash? No matter what kind of person you identify as, hair shedding in the shower is perfectly normal. But if you’ve ever experienced a sudden uptick in hair shedding, you might wonder, when does it go from perfectly normal to excessive? When does hair shedding become hair loss? 

In this blog post, we’ll break down some key differences between hair loss and hair shedding, plus share tips for how you can deal with both.

Understanding Hair Loss vs. Hair Shedding

For people who experience a sudden drop in the number of hair strands on their head, hair loss and hair shedding can feel like similar experiences. But to trichologists — specialists who focus on the study of diseases or problems related to the hair and scalp — these are two distinct phenomena.

What Is Hair Loss?

Let’s start with hair loss. Hair loss has many different shapes and sizes, depending on the cause. Hair loss can take the form of anagen effluvium, alopecia areata, androgenetic alopecia, or tension alopecia. The word anagen refers to certain phases of hair growth. At any given moment, all the hairs on our body are in one of three phases: anagen, catagen, and telogen. Anagen is the growth phase. Catagen is the transitional phase in which the hair bulb (the base of a hair strand) breaks down. Telogen is the resting phase, at the end of which hair will fall out — this is called teloptosis.

Now, most of the hairs on our body are in the anagen growth phase. This phase can last for years and years. But at a certain point, all the hair on our body eventually falls out. Hair loss happens due to various factors, but the important keyword here is loss. Hair loss as a result of the conditions we mentioned above is irreversible.

What Is Hair Shedding?

Hair shedding is a little different. Most people lose between 50 and 100 hair strands a day. This is considered normal hair shedding. Hair strands reach the end of the telogen phase and fall off. Hair follicles then begin producing new hair. This is all a normal, standard cycle for your hair strands.

Excessive hair shedding is called telogen effluvium. As you’ll likely guess by its name, telogen effluvium happens when hair strands are moved more quickly into the telogen phase, resulting in a shorter life cycle altogether. The experience of telogen effluvium is sudden hair loss. All at once, it seems, you are shedding more hair in the shower and when you brush your hair than ever before. We’ll get into why this happens in the next section. 

Why Do Hair Loss and Hair Shedding Happen?

Understanding why hair loss and hair shedding are happening may help you distinguish between which condition you’re experiencing. 

Why Hair Loss Happens

In the case of anagen effluvium, hair falls out because hair follicles are permanently damaged. This can happen for several reasons, but chemotherapy is one of the most well-known. Androgenetic alopecia happens because of a hereditary predisposition for baldness. Androgenetic alopecia is especially common in men and is commonly referred to as male pattern baldness. As many as 50 percent of men experience hair thinning or receding before they turn 50. 

Alopecia areata happens because the immune system mistakes hair follicles for a threat and attacks them, weakening them and their ability to produce healthy hair. Scientists are still working on understanding why this happens, though it’s believed genetics and environmental factors contribute to the condition. Tension alopecia happens because of damage to the hair follicles due to tight hairstyles like ponytails or braids. In each of these cases, hair is lost faster than the scalp can create new hair, and as a result, you’ll start to see bald patches or thinning hair overall.

Why Hair Shedding Happens

Again, we’ll distinguish here between hair shedding and excessive hair shedding. Hair shedding is a normal, healthy part of the growth cycle. 

Excessive shedding (telogen effluvium) largely occurs after a particularly stressful event — anything from a difficult month at work to a car accident to a bout of illness. It’s no coincidence that many people have reported sudden hair loss after contracting COVID-19. 

Similarly, many women experience postpartum hair loss as their body recovers from the physical strain of labor and also experiences significant hormonal changes. If you’ve dealt with illness, chronic stress, or tried a crash diet recently, that may be why you’re experiencing excessive hair shedding. 

Keeping your scalp cleansed and balanced is an important way to fight hair shedding and promote normal, healthy hair growth.

What Can I Do To Address Hair Loss and Hair Shedding?

Let’s discuss some solutions to hair loss and hair shedding. 

How To Fight Hair Loss

Fighting hair loss can be a complicated and highly personal journey. As there are several reasons why you may be experiencing hair loss, it’s a good idea to touch base with your doctor before embarking on a treatment plan. 

You can explore several medications and hair supplements, including topical treatments, oral drugs, and natural supplements that have been tied to preventing hair loss. 

In addition to these options, you can also try daily scalp massages. Scalp massages have been proven to increase blood circulation to hair follicles, which can result in thicker hair. Our Scalp Brush is specially designed to gently massage the scalp which exfoliates the surface of your skin, keeping your scalp clear of buildup, and stimulates blood flow to the scalp. 

If you suspect you’re experiencing hair loss rather than hair shedding, talk to your dermatologist or trichologist right away. At that stage, it’s important to be proactive. 

How to Fight Hair Shedding

Perhaps the most important treatment factor for hair shedding is time. Because excessive shedding is often reactive, hair will largely go back to normal once the body recovers from the trauma, illness, or hormonal change. Generally, this process takes about three to six months. That can be a long period of frustration, but patience is important. In the meantime, you can pick up plenty of habits to support your hair follicles and scalp to ensure that once your hair starts growing again, the hair is strong and resilient. Keeping your scalp cleansed and balanced is an important way to fight hair shedding and promote normal, healthy hair growth. This can be achieved with the right set of scalp health products. 

Look for formulas that are free from irritating ingredients like sulfates, parabens, and phthalates, and instead are packed with healthy and nourishing ingredients that will cleanse and soothe your scalp, creating the best environment for healthy hair growth. Jupiter’s entire line of scalp health products are scientifically formulated with the best natural and active ingredients to keep your scalp healthy, nourished, and flake free (remember, buildup from flaking and styling products can damage hair follicles). Eating a balanced diet and drinking lots of water is essential. A natural scalp supplement can help address nutritional deficiencies in your body that may be contributing to hair thinning, hair shedding, and general scalp discomfort (check out our Daily Scalp Essential packed with key vitamins, turmeric root, ashwagandha, and a mushroom blend.). 

You should also try to manage your stress levels as much as possible, to prevent further hair shedding due to high cortisol in the body. Go for a walk every day, try meditation or journaling, and ensure you get plenty of sleep. 

Taking Care of Your Hair, Body, and Mind

Hair loss and hair shedding are two distinct yet related issues that can affect both men and women. They come down to various factors, including our genes, environment, and lifestyles.

By understanding the difference between the two experiences, you can take the appropriate steps to maintain healthy hair and address any concerns that may arise. Remember to be patient, as hair growth takes time and consistency; maintain a healthy lifestyle, use the right set of scalp care products, and seek professional help if you have any concerns. Your scalp is an organ. Treat it well

Oil Control + Exfoliation Set
Oil Control + Exfoliation Set

Built for those looking to address constant or moderate to severe flaking, redness, or irritation and want their mane left looking refreshed and silky smooth.

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, nor is it a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have about the information contained herein, as well as the risks or benefits of any treatment.