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Shedding vs Breakage: What’s the Difference?


3 min read

Nov 4, 2020



Most of us have experienced shedding (hair loss) and or breakage at some point. Despite being common concerns, shedding and breakage have different signs and causes. Shedding also known as hair loss or hair fall occurs from the root of the hair strand while breakage can occur at any point along the hair shaft. Broken hairs are shorter than shed ones. It is normal to lose 50 to 100 hairs daily. Let’s take a deeper look at both shedding and breakage.

What is Shedding?

Shedding occurs when the hair has reached the end of its growing cycle and naturally falls from the scalp along with its tiny, white bulb attached. The lack of a white bulb is an indicator that the hair has not naturally been shed from the scalp but has been removed by other means.

Generally speaking, shedding is not a major concern since it’s a natural part of the life cycle of hair, however, increased hair loss from shedding or hair loss accompanied by a host of other problems should be brought to the attention of your medical professional. Most shedding, however, is simply nature taking its course.

Causes of Shedding (hair loss)

As pointed out, shedding is a natural part of the growth cycle of hair. Increased shedding, however, may be caused by:

  1. Medicines

  2. Stress, tension, or trauma related to too tight hairstyling (traction alopecia).

  3. Hormonal imbalances and fluctuations such as those involved in childbirth or menopause.

  4. Malnutrition (dietary deficiencies)

  5. Autoimmune conditions.

  6. Chemical burns from relaxers or perms.

Since shedding is a natural process triggered by internal changes in the body, it may not respond to external, topical treatments applied to the hair and scalp. When hair has reached the end of his life cycle it sheds and makes way for a new strand of hair to take its place. Unless the underlying cause of the shedding resolves itself, there is not much that can be done. A natural shedding phase may last days or weeks depending on the individual and most individuals experience the shedding phases sometime in the fall. Normal shedding is a fact of life. You should only be worried if it seems your usual rate has increased or seems to have somehow lengthened.

What is Breakage? 

Unlike shedding, breakage is not normal and its existence is a sign that something is wrong. Unless it’s caused by rough handling (mechanical damage), breakage is an indication that the protein: moisture balance needed to keep hair healthy has been compromised. Once the balance is restored then the hair will stop breaking. Hairs tend to break closer towards the ends which is the oldest part of the hair.

Causes of Hair Breakage

Possible causes of breakage may include:

  1. Heat styling

  2. Chemical processing (coloring, relaxing, perming)

  3. Dryness

  4. Split ends

  5. Too harsh brushing or combing

Resolving Shedding (hair loss) and Breakage

It may be easier to correct breakage since it will respond readily to topical treatments. Breakage usually results from a lack of moisture and regular deep conditioning and moisturizing are usually enough to set things right. If caused by weakening hair such as can result from chemical treatments and heat damage then protein treatments and a proper moisturizing regimen can help to help strengthen the hair strand. If the damage is too great, however, your only recourse might be to thoroughly remove the damaged sections of your hair with a haircut or trim.

On the other hand, since persistent, excessive shedding is generally triggered by things going on inside the body, other approaches may be necessary. It’s a good idea to consult a medical doctor who can evaluate the cause of the shedding and recommend measures to counteract it. For example, in cases where shedding is caused by some dietary deficiency, a doctor may prescribe supplements or recommend changes to your diet. If a medication is a cause, your dosage may be adjusted or another medication may be prescribed in its place. For mild cases of shedding that are not caused by some underlying medical condition, coffee or tea rinse applied to the scalp may be able to stop it. Simply brew yourself a cup of coffee or tea and allow it to cool before applying it to your scalp and letting it sit for about 30 minutes before your usual wash day regimen. Caffeine, which is present in coffee and tea is able to promote circulation to the scalp and block DHT (dihydrotestosterone), the hormone responsible for hair loss.

Hair loss of any kind and regardless of the cause can be a stressful thing to deal with, but knowing what you are facing and how to correct it can be a source of comfort. And since knowledge is power, you are now more powerful in your fight against hair loss than you were before.


3 min read

Nov 4, 2020



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