Most people mistake hair loss for shedding, and you can’t really blame them. After all, the end results are the same — people lose hair. There’s a lot more to it, however. One is a natural phenomenon, while the other may signal that something bad is going on with the body.
The Basics of Shedding
We lose hair all the time due to natural shedding. On average, we shed about 100-150 strands a day. Each hair strand doesn’t stay on the scalp forever; they’ll remain there for about two to eight years, give or take. That’s the length of an individual hair follicle’s growth stage, which is then followed by a two-month resting stage without growth. Afterwards, the strand falls off and is replaced by a new one.
The amount of hair being shed varies among ethnicities and depends on other circumstances, too. Caucasians lose the most hair due to shedding (an average of 100 a day), followed by Asians (70/day), and Africans (60/day). Different ethnicities have varying amount of hairs per square inch of their scalps, leading to such a disparity. Lastly, hair color also has something to do with it — blondes tend to shed more than redheads or brown-haired people. It’s because the lighter the hair, the more strands there are per square inch.
The Basics of Actual Hair Loss
When shedding becomes “too much,” it’s still likely to not get considered as actual hair loss, but as a condition known as telogen effluvium. This is a result of rapid bodily changes, such as considerable weight loss, high fever, recovery from an illness or high stress levels. As soon as the body readjusts, the excessive shedding stops and the hair regains its fullness within 6 to 9 months.
Should things get worse, the condition develops into actual hair loss, treatable by multiple options including a hair transplant. Real hair loss occurs when something stops the hair from growing. Androgenetic alopecia is a common culprit, which follows the Norwood Scale of hair loss in men. With this scale, the hair loss pattern starts from a receding hairline which develops into a widow’s peak high atop the head. This widow’s peak will eventually recede further until a small hairless spot at the back appears. Over time, hair growth will grind to a halt at the top of the head, but will continue on the sides.
Various factors can cause hair loss, including heredity, overreaction of the immune system, specific drugs and treatments, and harsh hair care products. Alopecia, for one, is a product of an overreacting immune system. When this happens, the body mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, ‘thinking’ that they’re foreign substances out to harm the body. Treating such a condition involves focusing on the actual cause, and patients with concerns should always see a qualified treatment provider.