Thinning hair, shedding and hair loss are often used interchangeably in everyday conversations. So, how do you know which one you’re dealing with and whether there’s any reason for concern? How obvious should the thinning be to not count as regular shedding anymore? Is it possible you just have fine hair?
Noticing any changes in your hair can be distressing. Maybe you’ve noticed more hair getting caught up in your hairbrush than usual, or your part has become more noticeable than before.
Our minds tend to jump to the worst-case scenario, but there are many reasons your hair could seem a little thinner than it used to be, and it might not be hair loss.
Here are the key differences between shedding, thinning hair and hair loss.
Is hair thinning or shedding the same as hair loss?
While all related, there’s a difference between hair that is simply thinning and hair that is being lost due to a trigger. In the context of this article, here’s what we mean by each.
Shedding hair is a normal part of life, we all shed about 50-100 hairs daily. Temporary excessive shedding is called telogen effluvium – a condition where hair follicles are shocked into a resting state. It is typically caused by a trigger event or a nutritional deficiency, and normal growth usually returns over time when the trigger is removed.
Thinning refers to moderate or minor hair loss and doesn’t necessarily lead to full balding. It can happen for many reasons and is a normal part of aging in men and women.
However, in women overall thinning could also be an early stage of hair loss. Female pattern hair loss is a genetic type of hair loss that shows up as diffuse thinning across the whole scalp. Men, on the other hand, usually lose hair in an easily recognisable pattern.
Hair loss is more widespread and usually occurs when something is stopping the hair from growing back altogether. Hair loss often, but not always, leads to balding as the hair follicles are attacked and stop producing new hair.
There are several potential causes for hair loss, so it’s important to get a professional opinion from a doctor or a dermatologist to figure out what is causing yours. Here are some common conditions that lead to hair loss.
- Androgenic alopecia, also known as female or male pattern hair loss, is a hereditary type of hair loss. A hormone called DHT causes the affected hair follicles to miniaturise and eventually hair growth stops.
- Traction alopecia is a type of hair loss that is caused by tight hairstyles and tension, weakening and damaging the hair follicles.
- Alopecia areata is a type of hair loss where the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles. They then shrink and hair growth slows down, leading to bald patches across the scalp.
Thinning is a normal part of life – most of the time
Losing some hair isn’t the same as going bald.
Hair texture and density change through our lifetime, it’s a natural part of the aging process. Gradual thinning is a common part of aging – hardly anyone has as much hair at 45 as they did at 25.
Men often see their hairline mature and change shape, and women often notice they may need to loop a hair tie around their locks an extra time.
Hormonal changes may lead to more shedding, with many women noticing their hair thinning due to menopause or after childbirth.
It’s also good to remember it’s completely normal to shed 50-100 hairs a day. Anything more than that may indicate an underlying condition that needs to be addressed.
Some life events, such as stress or crash diets, can cause temporarily increased shedding that leads to thinner hair. This type of hair thinning often goes away as the body recovers from the trigger event and things go back to normal.
Is your hair thin or thinning?
Sometimes we worry our hair is thinning, but it might actually just be thin.
Many people have naturally fine or thin hair. Having thin hair doesn’t always mean you’re losing it and hair texture can change throughout life with hormones and aging. You could have a full head of hair that is just made up of fine strands!
To determine whether your hair is thin or thinning, look at scalp growth, not the thickness of the lengths.
Can you grow back thinning hair?
This is the million-dollar question, and one that we won’t be able to answer for you online.
There are multiple things that you can do to help your hair grow thicker, but whether you’ll be successful or not depends largely on what is causing the problem in the first place.
One thing that anyone can do to help their hair is to create the ideal conditions for growth. This includes:
- Using quality hair products to promote scalp health
- Living a healthy lifestyle
- Quitting smoking
- Sleeping enough each night
- Taking a hair growth supplement to prevent nutritional deficiencies
However, the most crucial thing to do is to get a professional opinion on your hair. Visit a doctor or a dermatologist, and maybe bring with you some photos that show how your hair has changed over time.
The peace of mind a professional opinion can bring is worth more than you may think. If it turns out you are experiencing hair loss, they can direct you towards the right treatment.