Hair Loss or Normal Shedding? What to Know About Female Hair Loss

It’s normal to lose up to 100 hairs per day, but if you’re noticing more hair in your brush or in the drain, you may be wondering what’s going on. Female hair loss can be a scary thing to deal with, but it’s important to understand the difference between excessive hair shedding and hair loss. In this blog post, we will discuss the causes of each and whether natural remedies can help stop your hair loss!

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Is it hair loss or just normal shedding?

Hair shedding and hair loss are actually two different things, both with underlying causes.

Hair shedding refers to the normal amount of hair fall, but if you’re experiencing excessive hair shedding it’s also known as telogen effluvium.

Hair loss occurs when hair not only falls out, but also stops growing.  

We all lose up to 100 strands of hair per day, so shedding hair is a fact of life. But what’s the difference when hair falling out becomes more than just the annoyance of a clogged shower drain, and we begin to see less hair growing back than we’re losing?

Related: Hair Loss: Is What You’re Losing Normal?

Hair shedding and hair thinning

As mentioned above, increased hair shedding is known as telogen effluvium. Whether you’re experiencing excessive hair shedding, or gradual thinning, both of these problems often share a common cause.

High levels of chronic or severe stress shortens the growth phase of each hair follicle, and can quickly deplete nutrients your hair needs to stay strong (1). This means you’ll either notice more hair falling out or you’ll have thinner, more brittle strands—or both.

Stress is a common cause for hair shedding, and it can take many forms, including recovering from an illness, high fever, crash diet, major surgery or injury, or extreme emotional stress or anxiety. Basically, when your hair falls out as a result of telogen effluvium, it means your body needs to direct all its effort towards something more important. You might not begin to notice any excessive shedding until 3-6 months after the major stressor.

Types of stressors that can trigger more hair shedding are:

  • Weight loss
  • Illness
  • Nutrient deficiency (iron, protein, omega-3 fats)
  • Significant diet changes
  • Life changes (job, relationship, etc.)
  • Having a baby 
  • Death or other emotional trauma
  • Hormonal birth control 

The good news is that this type of excessive hair shedding is usually temporary. And, by eliminating or reducing the stressor, hair growth returns.

Learn more: How to Fix Stress-Related Hair Loss

Hair loss

Hair loss is a more complex issue compared to hair shedding. There are several underlying causes, and not every case is reversible for every person, although there are things you can do to halt progression.

Two common causes of hair loss are:

  • Androgenic alopecia – often causing women to lose hair around the crown (top) of the head and is often seen with PCOS as a result of higher than normal androgens (male hormones) in women.
  • Alopecia areata – an autoimmune condition causing patchy hair loss and frequently seen with autoimmune disease, like Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

What causes hair loss?


PCOS-related hair loss is called androgenic alopecia, and is a result of excess androgens, like testosterone, produced by the ovaries. This excess testosterone is then converted to another compound called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which is responsible for the hair loss on top of the crown commonly seen in PCOS.

You may also notice thinning hair all over, especially at the crown, and hair follicles often become thinner over time, leading to more breakage and hair fall.

Read: The Link Between PCOS & Inflammation

Hormone imbalances

Excess androgens are not the only hormonal imbalance that play a role in hair loss. Large hormonal shifts happen just before menopause—during perimenopause—and menopause itself (2).  When your body is transitioning into menopause, ovaries gradually cease production of estrogen, one of the main hormones needed for healthy hair.

Autoimmune conditions

With alopecia areata, your body’s immune system attacks your own hair follicles. This leads to patchy, bald spots on the scalp, eyebrows, or other body parts. Furthermore, other autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis affect the production of thyroid hormones which cause hair to break easily and grow more slowly.

Autoimmune hair loss and Hashimoto’s are both strongly linked to gluten intolerance. Antibodies to gliadin, which is a derivative of gluten found in wheat, can lead to cross-reacting antibodies that also attack hair follicles. Therefore, gluten intolerance can also be a factor in hair loss (3). 

Unhealthy scalp microbiome

The scalp microbiome is the ecosystem of beneficial bacteria living on your scalp that helps protect it from infection, regulates oil production, and contributes to healthy hair growth. Just like the microbiome in your gut, an imbalance in this microbiome can lead to problems! These include dryness, itchiness, dandruff, and even hair loss.

Studies show differences in types of bacteria in health scalps versus those with dandruff and irritation. Scalp health and hair growth are dependent on the presence of beneficial microorganisms (4).

Lush Locks shampoo & conditioner is designed to balance your scalp’s microbiome for softer, stronger hair naturally.

Environmental factors

If you’re constantly styling your hair, or using harsh chemicals on it, the scalp can become irritated and inflamed. This will then lead to an overabundance of sebum, which can clog the follicles and inhibit proper blood circulation. And without good blood flow to the follicles, there will be inadequate nutrition and oxygen delivered to them, which can lead to hair loss.

A healthy scalp plays a key role in proper hair growth and maintenance, so if you’re experiencing hair loss, it’s important to assess your scalp health.

Treating Hair Loss

Fortunately there are many options available for treating hair loss and regrowing lost hair. The best course of action depends on the cause of your hair loss, so a visit to your doctor is helpful to determine underlying causes.

Massage your scalp

When dealing with hair loss, most people try to avoid touching it as much as possible, but massaging your scalp can actually improve hair growth by bringing nutrients to hair follicles.

Try a scalp massage using:

  • 3-5 drops lavender essential oil
  • 3 drops peppermint essential oil
  • Mixed with 4-6 oz of a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba

Take a look at more essential oils to help flakiness, thinning hair, or for growing hair longer! 

Try this: Ayurvedic Scalp Oiling, Natural Ways to Strengthen Your Hair

Balance hormones

Your hair is one of the most noticeable signs of hormone imbalance. I’ve experienced this personally! It wasn’t until I balanced my hormones that I learned hair loss has a root cause, and many times, it’s a sign that we’re suffering from PCOS or other hormone imbalance.

Eat more hair-healthy foods

Your hair needs nutrients! Many of the trendy “healthy” diets we see today actually deplete the body of nutrients hair desperately needs to be long, shiny, and healthy. For longer, thicker hair, make sure you include these foods in your diet:

  • Adequate protein 
  • Healthy fats to balance hormones necessary for hair growth
  • Eggs (with the yolk!) for choline and B vitamins
  • Fruits and vegetables with vitamin C to promote collagen and reduce oxidative stress

Protect from breakage at night

Your pillowcase can actually cause breakage and dryness overnight, which can make it seem like your hair just isn’t growing. Swap out your cotton pillowcase for satin or silk, or consider sleeping in a silk headscarf.

Try a natural, at-home hair mask or conditioner

Some of the best hair care remedies come straight from nature herself. Simple ingredients contain nourishing proteins and protective fats that promote strong and thick hair.

My go-to hair mask is:

  • ½ avocado
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ cup yogurt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix well. Apply to damp hair, paying special attention to any dry ends. Twist your hair up in a bun and let this mask sit for 15-30 minutes. Afterward, rinse out with lukewarm (not hot) water.

Take a hair vitamin

Quality hair vitamins can be difficult to find, as they’re frequently filled with artificial colors, additives and unnecessary fillers that can harm the body in the long-term. 

Lush Locks contains l-cysteine, an amino acid concentrated within keratin in the inner portion of a healthy hair shaft, which, when paired with amla, B vitamins, and iron, help to deliver nutrients to the scalp to promote healthy hair growth. It’s also free of binders and fillers.

Hair loss and hair shedding are often used interchangeably in conversation, but now you know the difference between temporary hair changes, and more serious underlying causes of hair loss.

Recognize the signs that your hair may need extra support and give your body time to repair itself. Be mindful of the products you use, try natural remedies such as massaging your scalp or using a hair mask, and make sure your diet is packed with healthy foods for thicker, longer hair.


Dr. Taz Bhatia M.D.