If your ponytail seems a little thinner or your big waves seem a little leaner, the natural assumption would be your hair is falling out… right? Not always. In actuality, there’s a major difference between hair loss and hair breakage—and identifying the correct “symptom” will help you devise a tailored plan with the right hair products for your needs that will increase your chances of successfully getting your locks back into shape. Here, we break down everything you need to know.

What Is Hair Loss?

Simply put, hair loss is when hair falls out from the root. It’s said that we’re born with an average of 100,000 strands of hair, and according to the American Academy of Dermatology we shed between 50 to 100 hairs daily. In other words, we have hair in the telogen (falling) stage of the hair growth cycle at any given moment, and losing this amount of hair on a daily basis is totally normal.

On the other hand, there are cases where hair loss is not considered normal and worth looking into. Nutritional deficiencies, including iron, zinc, vitamins A, D, E, biotin, and folic acid could lead to hair loss. Psychological or physical trauma, stress, hormonal changes (such as childbirth), medications, thyroid issues, skin infections, autoimmune issues, genetics, crash diets and harsh chemicals from hair products are all common causes.

Try It Yourself: Biotin Gummies for Strong Hair

What Is Hair Breakage?

Hair breakage is exactly that—hair breaking off at some point on the strand—not falling off from the root. This means strands will be shorter than the rest. Some clear signs of hair breakage include sparse areas along the hairline and nape, split ends, and extreme frizz. When hair is smooth, sleek, and healthy, it’s because cuticles and overlapping scales are lying flat. When the hair is not healthy, these can split apart and eventually lead to breakage.

Related: Surprising Reasons Hair Falls Out — And How to Stop It

Causes of Hair Breakage

Hair breakage is typically the result of strands breaking off from simple everyday actions like combing, brushing, detangling and showering. Hair breakage is also often caused by improper heat styling, extremely dry or brittle hair as well as chemical treatments such as relaxers or bleaching.

Read: What Is a Trichologist and When Should I See One?

Resolving Hair Loss and Hair Breakage

Although the difference between hair loss and breakage seems obvious in theory, it’s easy to get the two confused when you’re confronted with less hair. After all, it’s difficult to distinguish short hair vs. regular-length hair, or hair that should be there but isn’t anymore, with your naked eye.

If you’re still unsure of which of the two you’re dealing with, speak with a professional, such as a trichologist. A trichologist can perform a scalp and hair examination, and if you’re suffering from hair loss (rather than hair breakage) they will run some blood tests to help determine the cause.

While they focus on hair health, a trichologist will also take a look at your medical history and diet history for further evaluation of what can be behind your hair loss. They may prescribe you with nutritional supplements and offer a brand new diet plan that caters to any deficiencies that were the cause behind your hair loss.

For hair breakage, talk to your stylist so you can minimize breakage without sacrificing your preferred aesthetic. Discuss how you can change your routine and what products you can swap or add. Your stylist can also teach you gentle detangling methods as well as heat-styling techniques. They might also recommend incorporating a deep conditioner into your weekly routine to allow the highly concentrated ingredients to penetrate deeper into the scalp. You can also use a scalp detoxifier beforehand for extra relief. 

You can also turn to supplements and growth-targeting products to help combat both hair breakage and hair loss. If you’re looking to increase your vitamin intake, we recommend taking vegan biotin gummies daily while using our GRO hair serum for the best results. The biotin in these gummies directly targets hair loss because it helps stimulate keratin production. Keratin itself is responsible for the structure of the hair, and producing more of it can strengthen the hair. Our gummies also contain vitamins A, C, and E, which help neutralize the free radicals that can damage and dry out our hair. As we mentioned above, dry and damaged hair can eventually lead to breakage, so this is a great precautionary measure. The zinc found in the formula also helps maintain overall scalp health, hair tissue growth, and repair.

As for our GRO Hair Serum, the mung bean and red clover ingredients help reduce inflammation of the scalp, which can cause temporary hair loss. The turmeric present in the formula has also shown to help lengthen the hair’s anagen (growth) phase. Using both of these can visibly increase hair density by up to 50% in just a few months.

Now that you know the difference between hair loss versus hair breakage, you’ll have a better idea on how to tackle one or the other (or both). Either way, make sure you treat to focus on overall hair wellness to achieve the healthy hair you desire.