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Hair Shedding vs. Hair Loss: Decoding the Mysteries of Falling Hair

Are you finding more hairs on your pillow or hairbrush than usual? 

Hair is an integral part of our identity and changes in its appearance. It is expected to worry about hair loss, but many people wonder whether they are experiencing hair loss or hair shedding. Shedding is an integral part of the hair growth cycle, while hair loss indicates a disruption in the cycle. 

In this blog, we will delve into the differences between hair shedding and hair loss, their causes, and practical solutions to maintaining healthy hair.

But first, let us understand what the hair growth cycle is.

The Hair Growth Cycle

The hair growth cycle, consisting of 4 stages - anagen (growth), catagen (transition), telogen (rest), and exogen (shedding), follows a rhythmic pattern for continuous renewal. During the exogen phase of this process, hair naturally falls out, making space for new growth. Approximately 150 hairs are shed daily, marking a fresh life cycle initiation. This systematic shedding prevents a buildup of old strands, ensuring the ongoing vitality of the hair. Understanding this sequential progression is essential in distinguishing between routine shedding and abnormal hair loss. It is a systematic cycle that safeguards against hair losing its natural balance, sustaining the integrity of healthy hair growth.

Let us now discuss hair shedding and its causes.

Hair Shedding: A Natural Phenomenon

Hair shedding is a natural and cyclical occurrence crucial for maintaining healthy hair. On average, around 150 hairs are shed daily as part of the hair growth cycle, a process necessary for renewal. This shedding phase, scientifically termed exogen, serves as a mechanism to allow new hair to replace the old. The entire cycle, spanning two to five months, is a harmonious rhythm that ensures our hair's continual health and vitality. It is essential to recognize that shedding is not synonymous with hair loss. Instead, it is a necessary and temporary phase in the ongoing renewal of our follicles. So, if you ask, "Why am I losing so much hair?" or notice a few strands falling off, it is likely just a part of this natural process.

Causes of Excessive Hair Shedding

Excessive hair shedding, known as telogen effluvium, shows the intricate connection between stressors and hair health. This condition indicates the impact of various life events on the natural hair growth cycle.

Some typical hair-shedding reasons are given below:

1. Weight Loss and Hair Shedding

Losing a significant weight, 20 pounds or more, disturbs the delicate equilibrium of the hair growth cycle. This disturbance manifests as an increase in the shedding phase, revealing the sensitivity of hair health to changes in the body's overall well-being.

2. Postpartum Shedding

New mothers commonly experience a surge in hair fallout approximately two months after giving birth. Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy and postpartum play a pivotal role in this phenomenon, focussing on the intricate relationship between reproductive changes and female hair shedding.

3. Stressful Life Events and Their Impact

Life events characterized by high-stress levels, including divorce, caregiving for a sick loved one, or job loss, contribute significantly to telogen effluvium. The body's response to these stressors accelerates the shedding phase, disrupting the usual rhythm of the hair growth cycle.

4. Fever-Induced Shedding

Recovering from an illness, particularly when accompanied by a high fever, triggers a temporary surge in hair shedding. This adaptive response is part of the body's resource allocation towards healing, showcasing the interconnectedness of overall health and hair vitality.

5. Medical Procedures and Hair Adjustments

Undergoing medical procedures, such as surgery or discontinuing birth-control pills, can induce temporary shedding as the body undergoes adjustments. Understanding these triggers provides insights into the transient nature of shedding during periods of physiological change.

Temporary Nature of Excessive Shedding

Excessive shedding is typically a short-term reaction to a specific stressor. The shedding peaks a few months after the triggering event and gradually diminishes as the body adapts. Within six to nine months, the hair usually regains its normal fullness. It is important to recognize the distinction between shedding and hair loss. While shedding is a natural process where the body sheds hair to make way for new growth, long-term excessive shedding may persist if the underlying stressor continues. Understanding this shedding vs hair loss dynamic is crucial for maintaining hair health.

In the next section, let us explore hair loss and its causes.

Hair Loss: When the Growth Cycle is Disrupted

Hair loss, scientifically termed anagen effluvium, halts the hair growth cycle. Unlike shedding, where hair naturally sheds to make way for new growth, hair loss disrupts this cycle, leading to inactive hair follicles and a halt in development. Various factors, including genetic predisposition, immune system disorders, medications, harsh hair-care practices, and compulsive hair pulling, can trigger hair loss.

This condition is distinct from shedding; instead of a natural shedding process, hair ceases to grow altogether due to an underlying reason. Knowing the distinction between normal shedding and hair loss is essential, as well as understanding how much hair loss is normal. This knowledge helps recognize if the amount of hair loss observed is within the usual range or if it requires attention and specific care to maintain healthy hair growth.

Let us look into some common causes of hair loss in detail.

Causes of Hair Loss

Some common causes of hair loss are given below:

1. Hereditary Factors

Hair health is significantly influenced by genetic predisposition, often resulting in gradual hair thinning or the formation of bald patches. This hereditary influence can lead to noticeable hair shedding, where hair falls off gradually over time. Discerning between normal shedding and hereditary hair thinning is essential to address concerns effectively.

2. Immune System Disorders

Conditions where the immune system mistakenly targets and attacks hair follicles contribute to hair loss. This autoimmune response can result in significant hair shedding, emphasizing the distinction between hair shedding vs. hair loss caused by immune system disorders.

3. Medications and Treatments

Certain drugs and treatments, such as chemotherapy, may inadvertently cause hair loss, where hair falls off due to side effects. Recognizing these unintended consequences is vital for those undergoing medical treatments affecting hair health.

4. Hairstyles and Hair-care Practices

Styles that pose excessive tension on the hair, along with the use of harsh hair-care products, can contribute to hair loss. Understanding the impact of styling choices and products helps individuals make informed decisions to prevent excessive hair shedding and potential long-term hair loss.

Addressing Hair Loss Causes

If you suspect that a treatment or drug contributes to your hair loss, it's crucial to consult your doctor before discontinuing it. Abrupt cessation may have serious side effects. Dermatologists are pivotal in distinguishing between hair loss and shedding, utilizing their expertise to identify underlying causes and recommend appropriate treatments. They can provide valuable insights into potential health issues or external factors affecting hair health. Treatment options are available for various types of hair loss, and a dermatologist can guide you on the best approach.

Hair Shedding Vs. Hair Loss

Hair Shedding Vs Hair Loss

Here is a table summarizing the difference between hair shedding and hair loss


Hair Shedding

Hair Loss


Natural and cyclical process.

Disruption in the natural growth cycle.

Daily Quantity

Around 150 hairs shed daily.

Gradual thinning or bald patches.

Cycle Duration

Occurs as part of a regular 2-5 month cycle.

Halts growth cycle, leading to inactive follicles.


Natural renewal, often triggered by stressors.

Genetic factors, immune disorders, medications, harsh practices.


Temporary, peaking a few months after stressor.

Long-term if the underlying cause persists.

Professional Help

Usually not required unless excessive and persistent.

Essential for diagnosis and tailored treatments.


Hair usually regains fullness within 6-9 months.

Regrowth depends on addressing the underlying cause.


Postpartum shedding after giving birth.

Chemotherapy-induced hair loss.

This table summarizes the key differences between hair shedding and hair loss, outlining their nature, daily quantity, cycle duration, causes, duration, need for professional help, regrowth, and clear examples.

When to Seek Professional Help 

Consulting a dermatologist is advisable if excessive shedding is accompanied by visible thinning or scalp tenderness. Professional guidance becomes crucial when dealing with prolonged shedding or unexpected hair loss. Seeking early help allows for a timely diagnosis and better treatment outcomes. Trichologists, specializing in diagnosing and treating hair and scalp issues, play a vital role in maintaining hair health. Their expertise provides valuable insights into the causes of hair shedding and loss, ensuring an accurate diagnosis and the formulation of personalized treatment plans for individuals seeking effective solutions for their specific concerns.

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In conclusion, comprehending the distinction between hair shedding and hair loss is pivotal for effective management. Shedding is a natural phase within the hair growth cycle, whereas hair loss indicates a disruption in this cycle. Timely professional intervention, lifestyle adjustments, and proper hair care are crucial in maintaining healthy hair. If you are troubled by hair loss or hair shedding concerns, seeking guidance from a dermatologist or trichologist can help uncover the underlying causes and explore suitable treatment options. Understanding "why is my hair falling out" is essential for addressing hair health concerns comprehensively.

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About The Author: Paula Bland

Paula Bland - Natural Hair consultant

The founder of TLP, Paula Bland, is a medically qualified Nurse Practitioner, Hair aesthetician, and psychiatric Nurse Practitioner known for her highly effective hair consultation. Paula has a non-traditional approach to hair care and advocates a chemical-free, natural, and holistic approach. The Love of People is her brainchild, and its products reflect her approach to hair health and have helped women with naturally curly hair manage their curls in a chemical-free and organic way.



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