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Whether you’ve started to notice an increasing amount of hair in your shower drain or hairbrush lately, or you’re simply looking to prevent such a circumstance at all costs, it’s normal to be curious about hair shedding and hair loss. Unfortunately, it’s something that happens to most of us at one point or another in our lives, but you may not fully realize the scope of factors that can cause hair to fall out at a faster rate than normal. Newsflash: hair shedding and hair loss don’t only happen to those with damaged hair. It can happen to anyone—with any hair type! Here, we’re sharing everything you need to know about hair shedding and hair loss. Plus, we have hair care tips and hair care product recommendations to help keep your mane looking healthy and full.
Believe it or not, hair shedding and hair loss are actually two totally different things, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Hair shedding can be completely normal—up to a certain point. The AAD states that it’s normal to shed anywhere between 50 and 100 hairs per day. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, this is just a common consequence of the normal hair cycle. Now, while it’s obviously hard—if not impossible—to count the exact number of strands left in your brush at the end of the day, what you’ll want to keep an eye on is if you start to leave behind more hair than you used to. If the number of strands seems to be increasing, you may have excessive shedding, which according to the AAD, typically lasts for six to nine months before the body adjusts.
Now, as for how hair shedding differs from hair loss, this is the answer: With hair loss, there is a root cause beyond the natural hair cycle. According to the AAD, something causes the hair to stop growing and it will not grow again until the cause is addressed. So, the two are actually completely different animals: you shed hair naturally, but your hair continues to grow. As you might expect, each one also has different causes—more on that below.
As we said, you naturally shed quite a few strands of hair every day—it’s par for the course, and you don’t need to worry about it. However, increased hair shedding can be caused by a multitude of different factors. The AAD lists potential causes as losing weight, having a baby, recovering from an illness (such as a high fever), and even extended periods of stress (like going through a divorce or losing a job). As mentioned above, for most people excessive shedding is temporary and will resolve itself in time after the stressful event has passed.
Hair loss, meaning you lose the ability to grow new hair, can also happen for a varied number of reasons. According to the AAD, common causes include hereditary hair loss, an immune system overreaction, drugs or medical treatments (like radiation and chemotherapy), hairstyles that put stress on the hair, and harsh hair care products.
Unfortunately, as those who have experienced excessive hair shedding or loss can attest, the experience can take a significant toll on one’s self-esteem. Whether you’re starting to notice your hair part widen, or you have a family history of baldness and hair loss, it’s wise to make an appointment with a dermatologist who can provide professional insight—including determining whether you are dealing with hair shedding or hair loss. According to the AAD, in most cases, a dermatologist should be able to treat hair loss.
In addition to visiting the derm, it’s never a bad idea to commit to a quality hair care routine. As with nearly everything in beauty, consistency is key to seeing results. Generally speaking, you should choose a system of shampoo and conditioner that suit your hair type and concerns.
If you’re partial to tight ponytails, held up with restrictive hair ties, you may also want to update your hairstyling routine. As we mentioned above, hairstyles that put stress and pull on your strands could lead to hair loss. Instead of wearing that ultra-tight pony, consider rocking a low ponytail secured with a gentle scrunchie.
Ready for more hair care tips? If you’re dealing with a dry scalp, here are 4 Dry Scalp Remedies to add to your routine.