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Hair Shedding vs. Hair Loss

Loosing hair can be a traumatic experience for many. Understanding why the loss of hair is happening is important. It often can help with the anxiety of the situation to know what is happening and what can be done about it. With that being said, I think it is important to define the difference between shedding and hair loss.

Hair shedding, which often stops on its own, is normal. Most people shed between 50-100 hairs per day on average (pics 1 & 2). This may be slightly less or more depending on the individual. It is important to note that keeping hair wrapped or pulled into a ponytail as well as wearing protective styles, can increase the appearance of shedding due to hair not being combed daily (pics 3 & 4).

Outside of the above scenarios, more than the slight difference is considered excessive shedding (pics 3 & 4). Excessive hair shedding is common for people who have experienced a stressful physical event such as, losing weight (20+ lbs), having babies, increased stress, being ill with a high fever, having surgery or having discontinued an oral contraceptive. With women who have experienced childbirth, many will notice some extreme shedding between 2-6 months. Although this can be extremely unpleasant for the woman having to go through it, this degree of shedding is both natural and temporary. Once her body begins to readjust the excess shedding will cease and hair will begin to grow and flourish. Normal fullness will return within 6-9 months average. Some may experience shorter or longer recoveries. However, if the stressor is a continuous situation such as caring for an ill or elderly loved one or having a high stress job, the shedding will undoubtedly continue until there is a change in the stressful situation. This is not the case for hair loss.

Hair loss is defined by the interruption of the normal growth cycle. Some causes included but are not limited to heredity, overactive immune system, some medications and treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation as well as high blood pressure medication, as well as tension causing hairstyles and nervous habits

that cause alopecia, such as pulling hair, known as Trichotillomania. Hair loss in men and women can have some of the same characteristics, such as thinning in the crown hairline areas. For many the thinning may be gradual and may take years to progress. For others the process may happen much quicker. Until the causes of the hair loss are discovered and stopped (where possible) the hair loss will continue provided it is not a hereditary condition. In those cases, there may be treatments that can be performed to slow down the progression of the hair loss. In order to find out what is causing the thinning, a Dermatologist or Trichologist may recommend a full blood workup to see if there may be some underlined issues that are contributing to the issue since many health conditions and medications can lead to hair loss.

Hair shedding and hair loss have similar aspects but are distinctly different. If you think you may be experiencing one of these situations, but you are not sure, I recommend getting a consultation with your local Trichologist or Dermatologist.

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