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What’s the Difference Between Hair Loss and Shedding

A man looks at his gray hair in a mirror.
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Hair shedding is a common phenomenon that most of us experience at some point in our lives. For some of us, hair shedding is next to constant. While it’s natural for our hair to fall out, it can become alarming when it happens excessively.

Hair loss and hair shedding are often used interchangeably, but the truth is that they’re not the same thing. To help you understand the difference, LifeSavvy spoke with Helen Reavey, celebrity hairstylist and founder of Act + Acre, and Dr. Andy Goren, a dermatologist with a specialty in trichology to get to the bottom of which hair loss is which.

What Is Hair Loss?

A woman examines her scalp.
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According to Reavey, hair loss refers to the loss of hair from the scalp or other parts of the body. It can occur gradually or suddenly and may be temporary or permanent.

“So many different factors can contribute to hair loss,” Reavey said. “Age, stress levels, diet, illness, hormonal imbalances, or even product buildup can all cause hair loss.”

Goren agreed. The dermatologist told LifeSavvy that hair loss is typically considered a medical condition and is diagnosed by dermatologists. Just like Reavy, he explained that there are a number of factors that can contribute.

It’s worth noting, however, that there are several types of hair loss, including male and female pattern baldness which is a progressive form of alopecia that beings with thinning, alopecia areata which is an immune disorder, and telogen effluvium which is often caused by the stress of bodily changes. But male and female pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss.

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Finding the cause of hair loss can be a bit of a challenge.

“[Hair] loss occurs 3-6 months after something has occurred, so think back to 3-6 months before noticing the hair loss and ask yourself some questions. Were you going through something stressful, any changes in diet etc?” said Reavey.

What Is Hair Shedding?

Hair shedding is a natural process that occurs as part of the hair growth cycle. Essentially, old hair is being replaced with new hair.

“Hair shedding typically occurs in the third phase of the hair growth cycle, also known as the telogen cycle,” said Reavey. “During this phase, the hair follicle stops growing, causing the hair shaft to shed and new hair to take its place. Hair shedding is extremely normal. Most people shed between 50 to 100 hairs a day.”

However, Dr. Goren explains that excessive hair shedding can be a cause for concern, particularly if it leads to visible thinning of the hair or bald patches.

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Stress, hormonal changes, and nutritional deficiencies can all impact hair growth and contribute to excessive shedding. If left untreated, excessive hair shedding can lead to a visible decrease in hair density, making the scalp more visible.

If you believe you’re dealing with excessive hair shedding, consult a professional for help as soon as possible. By addressing excessive hair shedding early on, individuals can take steps to prevent further hair loss and restore their hair density.

What’s the Difference Between Hair Loss and Hair Shedding?

A woman examines her hairline in a mirror.
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When it comes to telling the difference between hair loss and hair shedding, it’s all about volume.

Hair loss is a condition in which hair falls out and doesn’t grow back. It can be permanent and could lead to bald patches or thinning hair. The factors that cause hair loss are also widely varied and can include genetics, medical conditions, and autoimmune diseases.

On the other hand, hair shedding is a normal part of your hair cycle and isn’t typically a cause for concern. Shedding between 50-100 hairs per day is normal. However, there are cases of excessive hair shedding that could be caused by stress or other factors. If you believe you’ve begun to shed excessively, it’s best to consult your dermatologist.

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Can You Prevent Hair Loss?

Preventing hair loss can be challenging in some circumstances, especially if it’s genetic. However, it’s not impossible. Reavey explained that some conditions can be reversed using treatments and lifestyle changes. If you want to take a step forward toward reversing or slowing hair loss, your doctor is the best place to start.

Using the right care method is important in helping slow hair loss. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests using a gentle shampoo and conditioner and using a leave-in conditioner to help make fragile strands longer. Also, avoid at-home coloring and chemical treatments and try to stay away from hot tools as much as possible.

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As for Dr. Goren, he pointed to the use of minoxidil to treat hair loss. The topical treatment has decades’ worth of research to prove its efficacy. However, it’s important to note that once you begin treatment, it can take six-nine months to see results, and it must be used continuously.

Ultimately, though, the best way to prevent or reduce hair loss is to consult with your dermatologist to find the root cause of the issue. Then, they can assist in finding you the best treatment.

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Can You Prevent Hair Shedding?

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Most cases of hair shedding are a normal part of the hair cycle and aren’t necessarily preventable. They’re just natural. However, avoiding excessive shedding is possible by adopting healthy hair habits.

Dr. Goren said excess hair shedding can be treated and points to INTACT by Daniel Alain which Goren explained helps to keep the hairs more firmly attached during activities like brushing and showering.

As for Reavey, she recommended a serum like Act+Acre’s Swiss Apple Stem Cells (2%) which helps to slow shedding.

For those who believe they have excess shedding, though, your dermatologist is still your best bet, and they should be your first step.


If you’ve wondered if your hair shedding was normal or what exactly escalated into hair loss, Goren and Reavey’s insights could help you discern what your next best steps should be.

Abbey Ryan Abbey Ryan
Abbey Ryan is a storyteller, preferably of stories in written form. Across the 5 years of her professional writing career, her work has been featured in The Chicago Tribune, Amazon, The Medical News Today, and more. When she's not writing (which is rare), she's likely traveling, painting, or on the hunt for a good snack. Read Full Bio »
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