Understanding the Difference between Hair Loss & Hair Breakage

Understanding the Difference between Hair Loss & Hair Breakage

Understanding the Difference between Hair Loss & Hair Breakage

Did you notice that when people are wanting to express the same emotion but talking about two different types of hair problems! Re-read it again? Yes, the two hair problems are – HAIR BREAKAGE & HAIR LOSS.

Both these terms are commonly heard, discussed and used interchangeably. Let’s understand this difference better to help you tackle the concern right.

But before we do that, let’s first understand our Hair’s strength…

Human hair is as strong as a wire of iron. The average person’s head has 1,00,000 to 1,50,000 strands of hair. And did you know a single hair can support up to 100 grams in weight and a whole head of hair could support up to 12 tonnes — the equivalent of two African elephants!

However, in today’s world, even strong hair cannot combat the overpowering assault of the chemicals contained in the hair-care products available today. The colours, chemicals, gadgets, etc. you use on your hair, to perm, dye or straighten hair actually takes a toll on the quality of your hair. Many people are aware of the risks involved but do not care to maintain the style quotient. And later struggle with hair concerns.

These conditions discussed above clubbed with improper hair care routines & diet over time lead to hair breakage and hair loss.

What is Hair Loss?

Hair loss is when the root or follicle becomes weak and falls off. Typically this is a cycle process. Hair starts to become thin thereby resulting in a reduced volume of your hair. As the root weakens further and further, the hair sheds, from its follicle as a whole. Poor diet, hormonal imbalance, and genetics are known to be major causes of hair loss.

Common Causes of Hair Loss

Dietary Imbalance

Modern-day demands are such that everyone wants to look perfect & fit. Results – switching to crazy diet plans that are trending. Such sudden diet plans and changes can lead to an internal imbalance in the body. The lack of balanced essential nutrients to your hair & scalp causes hair loss. Improper meals disturb the growth cycle of the hair, thus leading to loss. Inadequate intake of water adds to this.

Hormonal Imbalance

Any hormonal imbalance in your body is bound to strike an imbalance in your hair as well. Hormones like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, prolactin in females have a great effect on the hair. Any imbalance or level fluctuations can lead to hair concerns. Thyroid imbalances also cause a lot of hair problems.

Some occasions/circumstances and medical conditions like pregnancy, stressful/difficult labor, concerns postpartum, menopause or detection of a thyroid disorder, PCOD, renal failure, etc. bring a lot of hormonal imbalances in the body. Though you may not experience sudden hair loss during this phase, visible hair fall will be observed after about 3 months from such a triggering imbalance.


Physiological as well as emotional stress strongly affects the health of hair. For instance, typical to emotional stress – skipping meals or overeating, forgetting to drink water, not being disciplined about hair care routines, to name a few. All of which leads to hair loss. Which in turn leads to more stress! Do read our blog on how stress affects your hair.

Solutions to Combat Hair Loss

Hair loss is always triggered by a root cause. What’s most important is to consult a doctor who can help you identify the root cause of the hair loss. Further, there are different types of hair loss that need different treatments and solutions. Only a Hair Doctor can guide you right on it.

Here are some tips at large to always keep in mind…

  • Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet will not only help prevent an imbalance within you but also make your body internally stronger so as to face any challenges caused by internal or external factors.
  • Besides having proper & regular meals, drinking adequate water & having a good sleep plays a crucial role. Water level ensures smooth blood flow and sleeping for 7-8 hours every night ensures that your mind is relaxed.
  • Managing stress with the help of daily exercise or meditation can help combat a toxic lifestyle.
  • Following an appropriate hair care regimen, i.e. oiling, shampooing, conditioning & deep conditioning periodically, as prescribed by your hair doctor for your hair & scalp condition, can help control Hair Loss to a large extent.
  • Undertaking a tricho-check periodically and opting for detoxifying treatments.

Now, what is Hair Breakage?

Now that we have discussed what hair loss is, let’s look at hair breakage.

Hair’s strength, elasticity, and health depend on how hydrated it is. When hair is hydrated well, the moisture in it allows it to swell or contract and thereby stretch plus bounce back without breaking. When your hair is dry it cannot stretch. It is then brittle and breaks off while you are brushing, styling or blow-drying, and in severe cases – just as you run your fingers through your hair!

Just like your body indicates irregular signs while experiencing Hair Loss, Hair breakage is something that’s quite clearly visible. Hair Breakage is when your hair shaft breaks resulting in split ends and shorter hair strands. Basically, hair breaks off from any part of the hair shaft, and not from the root as in the case of hair loss discussed above.

It can happen to all types of hair, from straight to curly for various reasons, but the most common reasons are using wrong hair products, over-styling with heat, colour processing, bleaching, chemical treatments, improper hair care, dehydration or not getting timely haircuts, to name a few. Hair breakage is typically a reversible problem, provided you spot it soon and attend it without delay. It is a temporary problem in a way that needs a permanent fix to avoid recurrence!

Some hair shaft defects are more serious than only split ends and need medical attention.

Common Causes of Hair Breakage

Excessive Heat Styling & Over-Styling

Hairstyles involve excessive usage of heat-aided tools or chemical products. Frequently using heat treatments like blow-dryers, straighteners or curling tongs on the hair remove the moisture from the hair which causes hair to become brittle and prone to breakage.

Using Wrong Hair Products

Hair Colouring has been a major trend lately. Not only women but men too are now fond of trying new and different colours for hair. However, most of the products used in this process contain chemicals that can weaken the hair & make it more vulnerable to breakage. Some shampoos too that are alkaline can cause a negative charge on the hair too.

Improper Haircare Practices

Well, hair care does not only mean oiling, shampooing & condition regularly. It’s much more and beyond! It is compulsory that you follow a disciplined regimen that suits your hair. But you also need to ensure that you don’t unintentionally cause harm as well in the process.

Sometimes mishandling your hair can also damage it badly. For e.g. it’s said that one should brush hair with 100 brushstrokes. This is nothing but a myth. Too much brushing can cause breakage. Similarly, wet hair breaks more easily as compared to dry hair. Hence, rubbing it vigorously as you do with a towel, can lead to damage, increase frizz and cause breakage.

Not Having Regular Haircuts

Saying bye to split ends on time is crucial because if unattended these broken ends move upwards, splitting the hair shaft as they travel up the hair shaft. Split ends, hair damage, growing out hair are challenges that you will face if you don’t get timely trims.

Medical Disorders

Eating or Thyroid Disorders affect the quality, health as well as growth of hair. While people with malnutrition and health issues that come from eating disorders face hair breakage during the growth phase – anagen itself, ones with a thyroid disorder may notice very brittle, dry & dull hair that’s prone to breakage; also leading to thinning!

Solutions to Combat Hair Breakage

  • If you are experiencing hair breakage due to styling, the second-best advice is to check for alternate treatments that relax the hair strand and bring it back to its normal state. Avoiding such styling practices remains the first!
  • In most cases, hair breakage is temporary, and people can repair their hair and restore its strength by adopting hair care practices or products prescribed by a hair specialist. As a hair doctor is the most ideal person to diagnose and identify hair problems, consulting one on a timely basis is a must!
  • Detangle your hair very carefully. Just detangle it by breaking up knots and tangles using your fingers before putting a comb to your hair. And we strongly recommend using wide-toothed wooden combs for the process.
  • Commit to trimming your hair every four-six weeks. This will not only avoid an increase of split ends but also keep your hair in good shape.
  • In case of medical concerns being the root cause of your poor hair quality, do have the concerns addressed with the concerned professional, while being in touch with your Hair Doctor for the hair issues side-by-side. Your trichologist will always treat you after taking into consideration your medical files.
  • Don’t let your hair feel dry. If you feel it is so, then it definitely IS so! And perhaps damaged too. Always use a leave-in conditioner to provide your hair with long-lasting moisture so that it remains smooth, silky, healthy and breakage-free. If your hair is prone to dryness, you perhaps need regular conditioning and deep-conditioning as well.
  • Double-check with your hair doctor on your hair care routine (incl. the conditioning needs), the products & ingredients that you are using, be it shampoo, oil, conditioner, gel, serum, hair colour or any other, and the best practice for your hair & scalp needs. Wrong products on your hair can create havoc. And who knows what’s best for your hair better than your hair doctor.

So, there you go. Hair loss and hair breakage, broken down for you. Remember, the key technical difference is that hair loss is when hair sheds off from its root, and hair breakage is when there is a breakage anywhere in the length of your hair shaft!

Catch up on MD hair transplant surgeon and Trichologist Vinod Sonawane, founder of Bloom Hair Transplant Clinic in Mumbai which is one of the best hair transplant clinics in Mumbai, for problems related to hair care, hair trivia, hair loss problems, treatments and much more. You can also follow us on social media to get a daily update with bits & pieces related to your Hair & Scalp!