The difference between hair loss and hair breakage

Most individuals fail to differentiate between hair loss and hair breakage. These two terms, which are often use synonymously, in truth hold very different meanings, are caused by different factors, and are resolved in different ways.

What is hair loss?

Hair loss, also known as alopecia, is a condition in which hair starts falling off the scalp, or other parts of the body. Hair loss is not contagious and is, in most cases, manageable or solvable. An adults’ head has approximately 100,000 to 150,000 hairs, and, on average, a person looses 100 hairs every day. Hair loss must not become a concern unless the number exceeds the average rate. 

Types of hair loss or alopecia:

  • Scarring alopecia causes permanent hair loss. When affected by this condition, the scalp loses its ability to regenerate hair.
  • Telogen effluvium causes temporary hair loss. Hair follicles enter their resting phase and cause shedding and thinning of the hair.
  • Trichotillomania is a psychological disorder in which a person pulls out their hair.
  • Alopecia universalis causes hair loss throughout the body including scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes and pubic hair.

What are the causes of hair loss?

  • Hereditary

Hereditary hair loss usually appears with age in the form of receding hairline and bald spots in men, and thinning of hair along the crown in women.

  • Diet

Consuming a diet which does not contain adequate levels of protein can lead to hair loss.

  • Hormonal interference

Pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, abnormal androgen levels and thyroid problems can cause permanent or temporary hair loss.

  • Side-effects of drugs

Medicines used for cancer, arthritis, gout, hypertension, depression and cardiovascular problems can cause hair loss. 

  • Trauma

 Any physical or emotional shock can cause temporary hair loss. This usually occurs several months after the trauma.

  • Hair styles

Curling, straightening and rolling of hair by applying heat and hair styles which involve pulling of hair often lead to hair loss.

  • Hair treatments

Hot oil massage, frequent shampooing, bleaching and dyeing can cause severe hair damage hence, hair loss. 

Now, what is hair breakage? 

Contrary to hair loss, where the complete strand of hair falls off the scalp with or without the hair bulb, when dealing with hair breakage, the shaft of hair can break from anywhere. Hair can break from the start, mid or the end especially when combing or touching it. This usually results in split ends, short pieces of hair and brittle hair. 

What are the causes of hair breakage?

Hair breakage is caused by the moisture, or lack there of, in the hair. When hair is regularly moisturized and not allowed to become dry, it doesn’t lose its tendency to bounce back upon stretching. On the other hand, in case of dehydration, hair becomes brittle and weak, loosing its ability to bounce back when its being combed or brushed.

Just as for hair loss, dietary problems, hormonal imbalances, thyroid and androgen interferences, tight hair styles, heating and hair treatments can also cause hair breakage.

Other factors which are unique to hair breakage and facilitate it, include over brushing, dehydration, vigorous towel drying and not having regular haircuts. 

References:

  1. Gardner, S. (2020, January 23). Hair Loss – Types of Aloecia & Causes of Thinning Hair. Retrieved August 24, 2020, from https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/understanding-hair-loss-basics
  1. Hair loss. (2020, May 22). Retrieved August 24, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hair-loss/symptoms-causes/syc-20372926
  1. Hair breakage: Common causes, types, repair, and prevention. (n.d.). Retrieved August 24, 2020, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325026