Hthin air, while common, can be incredibly overwhelming—especially if you’re experiencing it for the first time. But before you hit the panic button (and invest in a whole bunch of products that might not actually be work), we want to arm you with as much information as possible to assure you that the situation is much more manageable than it seems.
What most people don’t realize is that there are actually two different types of hair thinning – reactive and progressive – each with different causes and treatments. And knowing which one you’re dealing with is key to keeping your strands as healthy and full as possible.
“Reactive hair thinning, also known as telogen effluvium (TE), is an excessive increase in daily hair loss due to an internal trigger,” she explains. Annabel Kingsley, consultant trichologist and brand president at Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinic in New York. Progressive hair thinning, on the other hand, is caused by “a variety of factors, including genetics, hormonal changes, and age,” explains the double board-certified plastic surgeon Hardik DoshiMD, FACS, at Sufficienta hair restoration studio in New York.
Below, professionals describe how to tell the difference between these two types of hair loss and—more importantly—how to treat them both.
Reactive hair thinning
What is reactive hair thinning?
“Reactive hair thinning, also known as telogen fluvium, is a type of hair loss characterized by sudden and transient hair loss,” says Dr. Doshi.
Each hair follicle goes through three stages of growth – an active growth phase (anagen), a transitional phase (catagen) and a resting phase (telogen). Telogen shedding disrupts this cycle by causing a greater proportion of hair follicles to enter the telogen phase too soon. This results in increased hair loss and noticeable hair thinning.
It’s normal to lose up to 100 hairs a day, but with TE, you may see up to 300 shed daily.
What Causes Reactive Hair Thinning?
Kingsley points out that the most common causes are stress, rapid weight loss, thyroid imbalances, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, surgery, pregnancy and high fevers. Remember the seemingly stress-related hair loss All faced during and after the pandemic? Well, that was reactive hair thinning.
With this in mind, it is important to note that the results of TE do not appear immediately. Due to the nature of the hair growth cycle, it can take 6-12 months after the trigger for the hair to fall out.
How to deal with reactive hair thinning
While TE is incredibly painful, it is important to note that it is not permanent the progressive—which makes dealing with it quite simple.
“TE due to illness or a stressful period is usually self-limiting and will resolve without treatment,” says Dr. Kingsley. “In cases where the hair loss is due to an underlying imbalance, once the cause is identified and treated, the hair loss will stop and the hair will grow back as before.” In other words, once you understand what’s behind the shedding and treat it that, the hair loss should resolve on its own.
For example, one of the most common TE triggers in women is ferritin (stored iron) deficiency, and in these cases, iron supplementation and dietary modifications will likely help get things back on track. Poor scalp health is another common culprit, and using scalp care products that specifically target hair growth can create a better environment to combat thinning.
Progressive thinning of hair
What is progressive hair thinning?
“Progressive hair thinning is commonly used to describe a gradual and persistent decrease in hair density over time,” says Dr. Doshi. This is a typical symptom of androgenetic alopecia, commonly known as male or female pattern baldness.
Androgenetic alopecia is an inherited condition that affects both men and women, although the pattern of hair loss varies. In men, progressive thinning often begins in the late teens or early 20s with a receding hairline and crown thinning that forms a characteristic M shape. Women who experience androgenetic alopecia may notice scattered scalp hair loss and not a distinct receding hairline. Thinning usually occurs later in life, usually after menopause.
What causes progressive hair thinning?
“Several factors contribute to progressive hair thinning, including genetics, hormonal changes, and age,” says Dr. Doshi. “Hormones, particularly dihydrotestosterone (DHT), play a key role in the development of androgenetic alopecia in genetically susceptible individuals.
How to deal with progressive thinning hair
Similar to telogen fluvium, treating progressive thinning hair should also include optimizing your diet, managing stress levels, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, you will also need to use medication to stop it from progressing and encourage regrowth.
For female pattern baldness, Dr. Doshi usually recommends topical minoxidil, a drug widely used to promote hair growth. Hormone replacement therapies may also be considered for postmenopausal women whose hormonal fluctuations may be contributing to hair loss. And while it’s not as common for women as it is for men, hair transplant surgery can be used as a last resort to restore hair density if more tried and true methods don’t work.
How to recognize which type of hair loss you are experiencing
If you notice a sudden and significant drop, you probably have a case of telogen discharge on your hands. On the other hand, if you notice a gradual decrease in hair density where your scalp becomes more visible and your hair is thinner and more sensitive, it is probably progressive hair loss.
This is what he said, this is it is possible for both telogen shedding and progressive hair thinning to occur at the same time. Therefore, it is always a good idea to consult a trichologist or dermatologist as soon as you notice a problem.