Finding clumps of hair in the shower drain, or seeing strands of hair on the pillow can be an alarming sight. It can be distressing to witness what seems like excessive hair fall without understanding the cause.

Hair shedding and hair loss are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Shedding is a natural process that occurs when old hair falls out to make room for new hair growth. Hair loss, on the other hand, is a gradual decrease in the volume and thickness of hair that can be caused by a variety of factors.

Hair fall is a natural part of our daily routine. It's perfectly normal to shed a few strands of hair each day. But how can we differentiate between the normal shedding and when it becomes a cause for concern?

Hair Growth Cycle

Hair shedding is a natural part of the hair's growth cycle. The hair growth cycle consists of four key phases: anagen (growth phase), catagen (transition phase), telogen (resting phase), and exogen (shedding phase).

The anagen phase is the active phase of hair growth, during which the hair follicles are actively producing new hair cells. 

The catagen phase is a transitional phase, signaling the end of active hair growth. It is a brief phase that lasts for only a few weeks. During this time, the hair follicles shrink and detach from the blood supply. 

The telogen phase is the resting phase of the hair growth cycle, where the hair follicles are in a state of rest. This phase can last for a few months where the hair doesn’t grow any further. 

Finally, the exogen phase is the shedding phase of the hair growth cycle. It is a natural process where old hair strands that have completed their life cycle are shed to make room for new hair growth. During this phase, new hair strands push out the old ones, resulting in the shedding of hair. 

Not every hair strand follows the same cycle, otherwise this would result in frequent baldness. Shedding corresponds to your genetics, your natural growth cycle is entirely normal, and entirely different from others.

4 stages of hair growth

Hair Shedding Is Not Breakage

Shedding, temporary when it occurs within a normal range, is considered a natural process for maintaining healthy and balanced hair. It is a sign that the hair follicles are actively cycling through their growth phases. Shedding allows for the removal of older hair strands that have completed their life cycle, making way for new hair growth. It is estimated that we shed anywhere between 100 to 150 hair strands per day, which seems like a lot, but when you consider that the average person has between 90,000 and 150,000 hairs on our head, it’s actually about .01% daily that we lose.

Breakage occurs when the hair shaft becomes weak and brittle, leading to a snapping or breaking off of the hair strand at the mid point. This can be caused by many factors, such as excessive heat styling, chemical treatments, over-brushing, or harsh hair products. The difference in shedding vs breakage, is that when you shed, the “bulb” or “anchor” of your hair comes out with the rest of your hair, whereas breakage is when your hair snaps off from a weakened point in your hair shaft.

Why Hair Loss Happens

Hair loss occurs when the hair strands stop the hair growth cycle altogether after they reach the exogen phase. The follicle simply does not produce new growth. Addressing hair loss often requires a multifaceted approach, including making lifestyle modifications, improving diet, managing stress levels, maintaining scalp health, and seeking medical evaluation and treatment if necessary. A few common causes of significant hair loss includes:

Hormonal Changes

Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as during pregnancy, menopause, or thyroid disorders, can impact the hair growth cycle. Hormonal imbalances can lead to hair thinning or shedding in both men and women.


Poor nutrition or deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals, such as iron, zinc, biotin, and vitamin D, can affect the health of the hair follicles and lead to hair loss.


Chronic stress or sudden traumatic events can disrupt the hair growth cycle and lead to increased shedding or hair loss. Stress-induced hair loss, known as telogen effluvium, is a temporary condition that typically resolves once the stress is addressed.

Lack of Scalp Health

A lack of proper scalp care, such as infrequent washing, using pore-clogging hair products, or excessive heat styling, can contribute to scalp issues like dandruff, inflammation, or suffocated hair follicles. These conditions can hinder the natural growth of hair and lead to hair loss.


Androgenetic alopecia, also known as male or female pattern baldness, is the most common cause of hair loss and is primarily influenced by genetic factors. This hereditary condition results in gradual hair thinning and loss over time.

How To Prevent Hair Loss

Maintain a Healthy Diet: Ensure you have a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins, which are essential for hair health. Including supplements like iron, omega-3 and B vitamins can have a positive impact on your scalp health, which in turn will promote healthy hair growth.

Be Gentle with Your Hair: Avoid excessive heat and chemicals. Limit the use of heat styling tools, and instead try air drying your hair once a week to prevent damage. Avoid excessive brushing, and reduce exposure to harsh chemical treatments that can damage the hair.

Avoid Tight Hairstyles and Pulling: Constantly pulling your hair back tightly or wearing hairstyles that cause tension can lead to hair breakage and traction alopecia (hair loss due to repetitive tension). Opt for loose hairstyles that don't pull on the hair follicles excessively.

Take Care of Your Scalp: Keep your scalp clean and healthy by regularly washing it with a gentle shampoo and conditioner. Use shampoos that are specified for your scalp needs. Gently massaging the scalp with a scalp brush, or your fingertips can also help stimulate blood circulation and promote hair growth.

Manage Stress: Engage in stress-reducing activities like exercise, meditation, or deep breathing exercises to help manage cortisol levels. Chronic stress can contribute to hair loss, so finding healthy coping mechanisms is important.

Final Thoughts

While shedding hair is generally normal, excessive shedding can be temporary. If thinning in local areas or sensitivity accompanies shedding, consulting a professional can help identify the most effective remedy to restore your hair growth cycle and address the root cause. Additionally, and most importantly, practicing regular scalp care, including washing and massaging, can help maintain a balanced hair growth cycle.