Hair Loss
Skin Disorders

Is It Hair Loss or Something Else?

If you’ve noticed that there are more hairs on your pillow or hairbrush, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says that you may just be shedding more hair than normal. And that is not the same as hair loss, the AAD says. There is a difference.

Hair shedding often stops on its own, the AAD experts say. It is normal to shed between 50 and 100 hairs a day. If you are shedding noticeably more hairs than that, the medical term is telogen effluvium.

This kind of shedding occurs in people who have experienced stressors such as:

Losing at least 20 pounds

Giving birth

Undergoing stressful experiences such as caretaking , getting a divorce or losing a job.

Suffered a high fever

Had an operation

Recovering from an illness, especially one with a high fever

Stopped taking birth-control pills

Most people notice the excessive hair shedding a few months after the event, the AAD says. This shedding is normal and temporary. As your body readjusts, the experts say, the excessive shedding stops. Hair is usually back to normal within six to nine month.

If the stressor stays with you, though, hair shedding could continue. People who are constantly under a lot of stress can have long-term excessive hair shedding.

Hair Loss

Hair loss occurs when something stops the hair from growing, the AAD says. The medical term for this condition is anagen effluvium. The most common causes of hair loss include:

Hereditary hair loss

Overreaction of the immune system overreacts

Some drugs and treatments

Hairstyles that pull on the hair

Harsh hair care products

Compulsion to pull out one’s hair

If you have hair loss, your hair will not grow until the cause stops, the AAD says. For example, people who undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatments often lose a lot of hair. When the treatment stops, their hair tends to regrow.

If you suspect that a treatment or drug is causing your hair loss, talk with your doctor. Serious side effects can occur if you immediately stop a treatment or drug.

Other causes of hair loss may require treatment. Many people who have hereditary hair loss continue to lose hair without treatment, the AAD says. A woman who inherits the genes for hereditary hair loss may notice gradual thinning. Men who have hereditary hair loss tend to develop a receding hairline or bald patch that begins in the center of the scalp.

Treatment helps many people who have hair loss, but not everyone. A dermatologist can distinguish between hair loss and hair shedding.

A dermatologist also can find the cause or causes and tell you what you can expect. Effective treatments options are available for many types of hair loss. The sooner treatment begins, the better the prognosis.

Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations, with a membership of more than 18,000 physicians worldwide. For more information, contact the AAD at 1-888-462-DERM or visit


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