Hair turnover is a normal and expected process of the hair growth cycle. But, when you start to lose more hair than usual, it can be alarming. While some people use the terms hair loss and hair shedding interchangeably to talk about hair falling out, the two are very different. Here, we look at the difference between hair loss and hair shedding and what you can do to keep your hair on your head.
What is Hair Shedding?
Hair shedding is an important part of the hair growth cycle and is therefore very normal. There are three main phases in the hair growth cycle: anagen, catagen, and telogen.
Anagen is the growing phase and lasts several years. During this phase, your hair follicle is actively working to make your hair grow longer. At a certain set point (usually determined by your genes), your hair follicle stops growing and switches to a transitional period called catagen. This phase lasts only a few weeks and is where the follicle ‘transitions’ from growing to resting. The third phase is telogen, where the hair shaft begins to detach from the follicle in preparation for falling out. This phase usually lasts around three months. The hair growth cycle is completed when the hair sheds, and the follicle then starts over at anagen.
Fortunately, all our hair follicles are on a different schedule, meaning that we do not lose all of our hair at once. For this reason, it is normal for people to shed between 50-100 hairs per day.
When Should You Be Concerned About Hair Shedding?
People worry about hair shedding when they see more fall out than normal. There are many reasons you may see an uptick in the amount of hair you shed each day, but the most common reason is telogen effluvium.
Telogen effluvium is a type of temporary hair loss caused by stress. Numerous stressors can cause telogen effluvium, including:
- Emotional stress
- Major life changes
- Nutritional deficiencies
You can usually tell if you are losing hair from telogen effluvium if:
- You had a stressful event occur about 3 months prior
- You are losing up to 300 hairs per day
- You are not suffering from permanent hair loss
Telogen effluvium is short-term and non-permanent. Most people will experience this condition at some point in their lives, and will not have lasting effects.
What is Hair Loss?
Unlike hair shedding, which is normal and sometimes a temporary reaction to excess stress, hair loss can be permanent and may be the result of a medical problem. In most cases, if hair loss is left untreated, it is difficult to get back.
The most common cause of hair loss is androgenic alopecia. This condition tends to run in families and results from a sensitivity to DHT (a derivative of testosterone) in the scalp. Both men and women can have androgenic alopecia, but we most commonly talk about it in men. Indeed, this condition is the culprit behind the receding hairline, vertex hair loss, and crown hair loss. In women, this form of hair loss usually manifests as a widening part line and thinning by the temples.
Hair loss can be caused by numerous other conditions, too. One of the most challenging hair loss conditions to treat is alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks hair follicles. Steroids are one of the key treatment options, but it can be an uphill battle when treating this condition.
Other causes of hair loss include:
- Chemotherapy treatment
- Certain drugs
- Thyroid disease
- Hormonal imbalance
- Fungal infections
- Harsh hair styling practices
Treating Hair Loss
Regrettably, there is no cure for androgenic alopecia - the most common hair loss condition. However, there are ways to slow it down and even suppress further losses altogether. Men with androgenic alopecia may be prescribed a medication called finasteride. This medication can help reduce DHT levels in the body by blocking the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which converts testosterone to DHT. Incidentally, this medication is also used to decrease prostate growth. Although effective, finasteride can have unwanted side effects, such as compromising sexual function. Additionally, it is not typically recommended for women as a treatment for hair loss.
Aside from finasteride, there is a highly effective topical solution for getting your hair back. Minoxidil is an FDA-approved medicated solution for hair loss that blocks DHT and increases blood flow in the follicles. It has been used for several decades now, and you can find it at DS Laboratories in the SPECTRAL.UHP® product.
There is a newer formulation of minoxidil that uses nanosome technology to make the product more effective with no side effects. Nanoxidil® 5% has a high efficacy and lower molecular weight, making it easier to absorb into the scalp.
- Reduces DHT in the scalp
- Prevents perifollicular fibrosis
- Prolongs anagen
- Serves as an antioxidant
- Reduces protein-kinase-C (PKC) isoenzymes
- Increases vascular endothelial growth factor
What To Do if Hair Loss Is Not Due to Androgenic Alopecia
If a medical condition is behind your hair loss, it sometimes can be a little more straightforward to treat. For example, if you have hypothyroidism (a common condition marked by low thyroid hormone), taking synthetic thyroid hormones can help restore your hair growth patterns and also make you feel better all over. Likewise, if a skin condition like psoriasis or fungal infection is prohibiting healthy hair growth, topical and oral medications may help heal the scalp.
It is necessary to see a doctor if you have hair loss related to a medical condition so that you can get the proper treatment. And in the meantime, you may benefit from using hair re-growth products like the REVITA® shampoo and conditioner to support healthy and rapid hair growth.