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What is the Hair Shedding Scale?

Katelyn Hagerty FNP

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 7/14/2022

Your hair follicles — the small, tunnel-like structures found on your scalp and other areas of your body — are constantly going through a hair growth cycle in which hair grows to its full length, then sheds.

It’s normal to experience some shedding as part of this process. In fact, most people shed about 50 to 100 hairs per day. However, shedding more hair than this on a daily basis could be a sign that you have male pattern baldness or another form of hair loss. 

Hair loss can occur for a variety of reasons, including damage to the hair follicles caused by the androgen hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), fungal infections of the scalp and hair shedding conditions such as telogen effluvium.

These different causes of hair loss can result in different types of shedding. For example, male pattern baldness typically produces a receding hairline or bald spot around the crown, whereas telogen effluvium often causes diffuse hair loss across your scalp.

If you’re worried about hair loss, your healthcare provider may use a hair shedding scale to gain an understanding of how much hair you’re losing on a daily basis.

There’s no single scale that’s used to assess hair shedding. Instead, your doctor can use a variety of different scales to determine the extent of your hair shedding, as well as the severity of hair loss caused by issues such as androgenetic alopecia

Below, we’ve covered these hair shedding scales and how they work, as well as how your healthcare provider may use them to diagnose hair loss.

We’ve also explained your options for treating hair shedding, from evidence-based medications to changes that you can make to your lifestyle and hair care habits. 

What is the Hair Shedding Scale?

First things first, the hair shedding scale was initially developed to assess the severity of hair shedding in women affected by female pattern hair loss. But if you’re experiencing hair loss, it may be helpful to learn more about this scale.

The hair shedding scale, or hair shedding visual scale, is one of several systems to assess the severity of hair shedding. It’s used to get a quick understanding of whether hair loss is occurring and if so, how severe it is.

The hair shedding scale was initially developed by Rodney Sinclair, a dermatologist located in Melbourne, Australia, who published it in the British Journal of Dermatology as a potential tool for medical professionals to analyze hair shedding severity.

It involves asking women with hair loss to assess their own hair shedding using six to nine example photos of hair bundles of different sizes.

Each example photo contains either 10, 50, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 600 or 700 hairs, with the size and density of the bundle of hair increasing with each photo. The earlier photos show mild and routine scalp hair shedding, while the later photos display the effects of severe hair loss. 

Because hair length can vary from person to person, different sets of photos are used to display shedding scales for short, medium length and long hair.

Typically, women without significant hair loss select early photos in the series and have average shedding scores in the 2.35 to 2.5 range. Women with excessive shedding typically score in the 7 to 7.25 range on the scale.

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Other Scales for Assessing Hair Loss

Although hair shedding can affect both men and women, the hair shedding scale was developed solely to assess hair loss in women. 

As such, it may not be useful if you’re a man who’s starting to get excessive hair shedding, patchy hair loss or other types of hair loss

Luckily, there are several tests and scales that you or your healthcare provider can use to check for active hair loss. Some of these are informal “tests” that you can do at home, while others are more specific scales that your healthcare provider may use as part of a hair loss evaluation.

At-Home Tests

While not a test or scale per se, you can check for many signs of hair loss at home by looking at your hairline, crown and other areas of your scalp in the mirror.

Male pattern baldness, the most common form of hair loss in men, occurs when DHT stops your hair follicles from growing properly. Over time, your hairs may become miniaturized and spend a shorter amount of time in the anagen phase, or growth phase, of the normal hair cycle.

The progression of hair loss usually begins at your hairline — an area of your scalp that you can easily see in the mirror. As the extent of hair loss becomes more severe, it may result in a more clearly M or V-shaped hairline, with bald patches around your temples.

If you notice your hairline receding when you look at yourself in the mirror, or when you compare old photos to new ones, it’s usually a reliable sign that you’re starting to lose hair. 

There are also several other methods that you can use to check for hair shedding at home. One involves picking up and counting the hairs that you shed on a daily basis on your pillowcase, the hair catcher in your shower drain and other areas that catch lots of shed hairs. 

It’s normal to shed between 50 and 100 hairs as part of your typical daily hair shedding, If you can count significantly more shed hairs than this (for example, 200 or more), it could also be an indicator that you’re experiencing excess hair shedding.

Keep in mind that these techniques are informal and shouldn’t be used to diagnose yourself with any form of hair loss. However, they may be useful signals that it’s a good time to talk to your healthcare provider about your hair and take action to prevent further shedding. 

The Norwood Scale

If you already have visible hair loss, your healthcare provider might use a classification system called the Norwood scale, or Hamilton-Norwood scale, to measure the extent of your hair loss and provide you with information about your treatment options.  

The Norwood scale is a seven-type scale that’s used to measure the severity of male baldness, starting from Norwood Type 1 (little to no recession of the hairline or hair loss around the crown) to Norwood Type 7 (severe, considerable hair loss across the entire scalp).

The more severe your hair loss is, the higher you’ll be placed on the Norwood scale. In general, as your hair loss becomes more advanced, your options for limiting shedding and restoring your normal hair growth cycle can become more limited.

Diagnostic Hair Loss Tests

In some cases, your healthcare provider may use an in-office or lab diagnostic test to determine if you’re shedding hair and, if so, what’s causing it. 

Common evaluation methods include the hair pull test, which involves tugging on your hairs and counting shed hairs in the telogen phase, and scalp biopsy, which involves carefully removing a sample of skin from your scalp for analysis.

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How to Treat Hair Loss

Dealing with hair shedding from male pattern baldness can be a stressful experience. However, it’s almost always possible to slow down, stop or reverse hair loss with the right hair loss treatments.
You can seek help with hair loss by talking to your primary care provider, scheduling a meeting to discuss your hair loss with a dermatologist or by using our range of medications for hair loss available online. 

Finasteride and Minoxidil

Currently, the most effective way to treat shedding and improve your hair density is by using the hair loss medications finasteride and minoxidil. 

Finasteride, which is available as a generic medication and as Propecia®, works by preventing your body from converting testosterone into DHT. This reduces DHT levels and prevents your hair follicles from becoming miniaturized and incapable of growing new hairs. 

Used over the long term, finasteride is highly effective at treating hair loss. In fact, in one study, 91.5 percent of men with male pattern baldness experienced improvements in their hair growth after using finasteride for a period of 10 years.

Short-term studies of finasteride also show improvements. For example, one study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that many men showed increased hair growth in areas affected by male pattern baldness after using finasteride for one year. 

We offer finasteride online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is right for you.

Minoxidil, which is available as a generic medication and as Rogaine®, is a topical medication that works by stimulating the growth of anagen hairs. It also increases blood flow to the scalp, which may supply more nutrients to your hair follicles and improve growth.

Research also shows that minoxidil is effective, particularly when it’s used with finasteride as a form of combined treatment. 

For example, a study published in the journal Dermatologic Therapy found that 94.1 percent of men with male pattern baldness showed improvements after using finasteride and minoxidil as part of a combined treatment for 12 months.

In comparison, 80.5 percent of the men who solely used finasteride and 59 percent of the men who used minoxidil alone displayed improvements. 

We offer minoxidil topical solution and minoxidil foam online. You can also purchase finasteride and minoxidil together as part of our Hair Power Pack, which includes several evidence-based ingredients for fighting hair loss. 

Habits and Lifestyle Changes

While making changes to your habits and daily life won’t prevent male pattern baldness, it can help to prevent or reduce the severity of some other forms of hair loss. 

First, try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Certain forms of hair loss, such as telogen effluvium, can be caused by excess stress, infections or illnesses that cause fever and dietary problems, including deficiencies of protein and/or iron.

Many of these issues can be prevented by eating a balanced diet, getting sufficient sleep and using techniques to relax when you feel stressed or anxious

Some hair care and styling habits can also damage your hair, which may contribute to thinning and hair loss. To prevent hair loss, try to:

  • Brush your hair only when necessary. There’s no need to brush your hair on a daily basis, as this can cause damage. Instead, it’s much better to only brush or comb your hair when you need to style it.

  • Avoid tight styles and strong hold styling products. These can contribute to a form of hair loss called traction alopecia, in which the tension from pulling on your hair damages your hair follicles and causes hair loss.

  • Use a hair loss prevention shampoo. Products like our Hair Thickening Shampoo and Thick Fix Conditioner are formulated with active ingredients that reduce damage to your hair and promote optimal growth. 

Our list of men’s hair care tips shares other techniques that you can use to reduce shedding and promote healthy, consistent hair growth. 

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Take Action to Prevent Shedding & Hair Loss

It’s normal to shed between 50 and 100 hairs a day — something that can be obvious when you look at your pillowcase or hair brush. However, if you’re shedding more hair than this, it may be a sign that you’re starting to develop male pattern baldness. 

Several scales are used to assess hair shedding and hair loss, including the hair shedding scale and the Norwood Scale. 

To diagnose hair loss, your healthcare provider may use one of these scales, an in-office pull test or a simple hair examination. They may also ask you about your symptoms, including when you first noticed your hair starting to shed or the shape of your hairline beginning to change.

If your hair loss is bothering you, it’s best to take action sooner rather than later. You can do this by talking to your healthcare provider about treatment options, or by using our range of hair loss medications and treatment products for men

By acting early, you can avoid letting minor shedding develop into a more significant receding hairline or bald patch.

Interested in learning more about dealing with male pattern baldness? Our full guide to what you should take for hair loss goes into more detail about proven hair loss medications like finasteride and minoxidil, as well as habits that you can use to strengthen and protect your hair. 

15 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

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  2. Do You Have Hair Loss or Hair Shedding? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/shedding
  3. Sinclair, R. (2015, May 5). Hair Shedding in Women: How Much Is Too Much? The British Journal of Dermatology. 173 (3), 846-848. Retrieved from https://www.practiceupdate.com/content/hair-shedding-in-women-how-much-is-too-much/24380
  4. Martínez-Velasco, M.A., et al. (2017, March). The Hair Shedding Visual Scale: A Quick Tool to Assess Hair Loss in Women. Dermatology and Therapy. 7 (1), 155-165. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5336434/
  5. Ho, C., Sood, T. & Zito, P.M. (2021, November 15). Androgenetic Alopecia. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/
  6. Hughes, E.C. & Saleh, D. (2021, June 8). Telogen Effluvium. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430848/
  7. Gupta, M., & Mysore, V. (2016). Classifications of Patterned Hair Loss: A Review. Journal of cutaneous and aesthetic surgery, 9(1), 3–12. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4812885/
  8. Dhurat, R. & Saraogi, P. (2009). Hair Evaluation Methods: Merits and Demerits. International Journal of Trichology. 1 (2), 108-119. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2938572/
  9. Zito, P.M., Bistas, K.G. & Syed, K. (2022, February 12). Finasteride. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513329/
  10. Yanagisawa, M., et al. (2019). Long-term (10-year) efficacy of finasteride in 523 Japanese men with androgenetic alopecia. Clinical Research and Trials. 5, 1-5. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337105943_Long-term_10-year_efficacy_of_finasteride_in_523_Japanese_men_with_androgenetic_alopecia
  11. Kaufman, K.D., et al. (1998, October). Finasteride in the treatment of men with androgenetic alopecia. Finasteride Male Pattern Hair Loss Study Group. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 39 (4 Pt. 1), 578-589. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9777765/
  12. Badri, T., Nessel, T.A. & Kumar, D.D. (2021, December 19). Minoxidil. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
  13. Hu, R., et al. (2015). Combined treatment with oral finasteride and topical minoxidil in male androgenetic alopecia: a randomized and comparative study in Chinese patients. Dermatologic Therapy. 28 (5), 303-308. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/dth.12246
  14. How to Stop Damaging Your Hair. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/stop-damage
  15. Hughes, C.R., Robinson, C.N. & Kundu, R.V. (n.d.). Traction Alopecia. Retrieved from https://skinofcolorsociety.org/patient-dermatology-education/traction-alopecia/

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.