HELP! Am I Balding Or Shedding?

In Educate by Trav WhiteLeave a Comment

Is This Balding or Shedding?

This is a photo of the hair I’ve lost in one day from shampooing, conditioning, and brushing…
Hair on the shower tiles from "Am I Balding or Shedding?"
Can you guess how many individual hairs? Stick around to find out.

My Hair Is Falling Out, What’s Going On?

One of the most common questions I get from guys with long hair is, “am I balding…or shedding?” Similar panicky questions include:
  • “Should I be worried if I lose hair in the shower?”
  • “How much hair fall is normal?”
  • “Am I balding if I see my hair shedding??”

Why do so many guys with long hair have these questions? When you have short hair you rarely notice hair falling out. Then you grow it long, and all of a sudden your shower drain is clogged and you are convinced you’re going bald.

Yes, it is possible you could be balding or shedding, but don’t panic or start ordering hair loss remedies just yet. Let’s get to the bottom of what’s actually going on.

There are three ways your hair can fall out.

1. Shedding

To understand hair shedding we need to better understand the hair growth cycle. Hair growth happens in 3 phases:
  • Anagen (Growth phase. Lasts 2-8 years.)
  • Catagen (Transition phase. Blood flow slows down. Can last 4-6 weeks.)
  • Telogen (Shedding phase. Hair naturally falls out. Can last around 3 months.)
At any given time, the hairs on your head are in different parts of each phase. Shedding occurs when a hair follicle enters the third and final stage of the growth cycle, known as the telogen phase, which can happen anywhere between 2-6 years of hair growth.
 
Hair growth cycle from "Am I Balding or Shedding?"
Daily shedding is completely normal, but different factors can speed up or slow down the growth cycle. For example, a poor diet can push hair prematurely into the telogen phase. Too much stress can do the same thing. In extreme cases men can lose hair through telogen effluvium, a stress-induced form of hair loss that can sometimes be mistaken for male pattern baldness.

2. Breakage

Breakage happens when you’re too rough with your hair and a follicle that is still in its anagen (growth) cycle is prematurely yanked out or broken mid-shaft.

We want to minimize breakage as much as possible by being gentler with our hair and making sure it isn’t too dry or damaged. If you have fine hair like me, breakage feels like an everyday occurrence no matter how gentle you are, but you can still mitigate the damage.

 
An inferior hair tie ripping your hair out.

3. Hair Loss (or Hair Thinning)

There can be many reasons for hair loss, but you can distinguish natural shedding and breakage from hair loss if you start noticing your hair density changing from thick to thin over time.

A receding hairline around your temples can also be a sign of balding, but read my article about growing long hair with a receding hairline before you start panicking.

How Much Hair Shedding Is Normal?

The number I see consistently is 50-150 hairs shed per day is normal. This seems to be the consensus, with El Valiente reporting similar numbers in Are You Losing Your Precious Locks?

If you’re losing anywhere between 50-150 hairs per day, there is nothing to worry about. And if you’re losing more than that, it still might not be balding, there’s a chance you’re being too rough with your hair and causing breakage (especially if you have fine hair).

I’ll share some best practices you can implement to reduce breakage below, but first let’s cover the difference between shedding and breakage.

Shedding vs. Breakage

The easiest way to identify shedding is to closely examine the fallen hair shaft and see whether there is a little white bulb at the end.
 
Diagram of telogen phase hair, a white bulb is an indication of natural shedding.
The white bulb is not your root (Dermal Papilla). It is part of the root sheath that attaches to your root. If you see a white bulb, it doesn’t mean your root came out and the hair will never grow back. It’s a normal part of the telogen shedding cycle.
 
Diagram of the hair follicle
How do you identify breakage? If your hair is broken, it will probably happen mid-shaft and it will be much shorter than your current length. If breakage starts to become a problem, you might notice flyaways or shorter hairs around your head.
 
Shorter hairs are an indication of hair breakage.
Hair that breaks will not have the white bulb on it. Breakage may be an indication that your hair is too dry and needs more moisture.

Minimizing Breakage

1. Wash your hair gently and less frequently.

The most common cause of breakage is when you shampoo and condition. That’s because when hair is wet the cortex swells up and the cuticle scales raise, making the hair more fragile and less elastic. Then you’re scrubbing your scalp to get the dirt and oil build-up out, creating the perfect environment for hairs to break.

This is one reason I suggest cutting back on how often you shampoo and condition. Unless your hair is genetically greasy, I recommend no more than two or three times a week.

You might be saying “I sweat a lot,” or “I work out every day.” If that's the case you’ll appreciate how to refresh sweaty gym hair without washing or wetting it.

 

Mistakes To Avoid When Washing

Don’t scrub with too much friction. Meaning don’t run your hands back and forth on the top of your hair to try and clean your scalp.

You want to get your fingers inside your hair and directly onto the scalp and really massage that scalp and scrub the shampoo in. This avoids breaking your wet hair on top which can be the most tangled, and it also stimulates blood flow to your scalp.

Also don’t rub your hair roughly with a towel when drying it, which increases friction on the already vulnerable hair. Blow dryers are fine to use as long as they’re on a lower heat setting and they’re at least six inches away from your hair and constantly moving around.

I also suggest cutting back on the number of times you rinse your hair with only water, simply because when your hair is wet it is the most susceptible to breakage.

The Longhairs demonstrate in-depth shampoo and conditioning technique in their entertaining and educational videos:

2. Brush your hair gently.

The next most common time you will see breakage is when brushing your hair. There is a way to brush your hair to minimize the breakage but you will inevitably get a few hairs that get caught in the comb or brush and break off.

If you have super curly hair, you might be able to avoid brushing altogether, because it can cause tons of frizz. Your hair is best de-tangled wet or damp with a leave-in conditioner, using your fingers or a gentle wet brush. Curls can be a different animal altogether, so here’s more content for our curly-haired brethren.

 

Correct Brushing Technique

The correct way to brush your hair is to start with a wide-tooth comb to detangle it. Start at the ends and work your way up the shaft toward the scalp.

If you start to feel resistance, don’t push through it, that’s how you break off healthy hairs that aren’t in their telogen phase yet. When you feel resistance, stop. Pull the comb out and start again, and gently work at it until you detangle it.

Once you work your way up to the roots and you can run your comb through from root to ends without anything catching, you want to switch to a boar bristle, wooden, or nylon paddle brush so you can spread your natural oils from your scalp down through the length of your hair.

Since the bristles on your brush are much closer together than the wide-tooth comb, you’ll notice more hairs breaking off at this point. Follow the same pattern, starting at the ends and working your way up to the scalp. Once there’s no resistance, brush from your scalp all the way to the ends.

How To Brush Your Hair - For Men
You can watch El Rubio break it all down in How To Brush Your Hair – For Men.

3. Keep your hair moisturized.

Dry hair is most prone to breakage and split ends, while hair that is hydrated and moisturized maintains its elasticity, making it stronger and far less likely to break.

You can get an indication if your hair is dry using the elasticity test. This is where you pull on either end of a single strand of hair. If it snaps back like a rubber band, your hair has good or fair moisture balance. If it breaks instantly, your hair needs moisture. You can see the elasticity test in action in how to balance protein & moisture.

Things that dry your hair include harsh chemicals like color, bleach or dye, extreme heat, and sulfates found in many shampoo and conditioner products. Swimming in a chlorinated pool or saltwater can also dry your hair out, so rinse your hair with fresh water afterwards whenever possible.

Unless your hair is naturally oily, it’s pretty much always a good idea to use a hydrating and/or moisturizing shampoo and conditioner. Nut and seed oils are also fantastic moisturizing agents, including The Longhairs argan oil hair serum.

Are You Balding Or Shedding?

In this post we’ve covered three ways your hair can fall out, and the difference between breakage, shedding and balding (hair loss).

While it’s normal to lose between 50-150 hairs per day from natural shedding, you can and should minimize breakage with the right shampoo and conditioner regimen, proper brushing technique, and keeping your hair hydrated and moisturized.

If you start to notice a receding hairline or your hair density changing from thick to thin, then it might be time to consult a trichologist.

 

How Much Hair Am I Losing?!?

It was only 68 hairs on the shower tiles in "Am I Balding or Shedding?"

THIS IS ONLY 68 HAIRS!

After counting all the hairs I shed in one day from shampooing, conditioning, and brushing, it came out to 68 hairs. That’s well within the 50-150 range and totally normal, so I have nothing to worry about…at least for now! If you are seeing hair like this after taking a shower or brushing, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about either.
Trav White
About The Author

Trav White

Travis is a men’s style & grooming YouTuber with a passion for helping guys look & feel their best internally & externally. He believes that, like hair growth, life is a journey, and you’re most fulfilled when you’re always growing.

FEATURED IN
5 Pretty Believable Hair Growth Myths
Stop Making These 5 Hair Growth Mistakes
Can You Grow Long Hair With A Receding Hairline?

And see The Longhairs featured on Trav White’s groundbreaking video, How To Handle Long Hair Haters.

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