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New Hair Growth vs Breakage: How to Spot the Difference

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Sian Ferguson

Published 11/16/2021

Updated 05/03/2024

At first glance, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between new hair growth and hair breakage. Both can cause what looks like short, fine hairs to stick up, creating a halo-like look. 

Wherever you are in your hair growth journey — whether you’re trying to determine if you’re experiencing hair loss, or you’ve just started treatment for it — knowing how to identify new hair growth can help you determine if you’re heading in the right direction.  

Below, we explain what new hair growth looks like and what you can expect as your hair starts to regrow. We’ve also compiled a list of the telltale differences between breakage vs. new growth. 

Before we go into detail on what new hair growth usually looks like, let’s quickly explain why and how hair loss occurs in the first place. 

Your hair grows as part of a multi-stage cycle referred to as the hair growth cycle. Each and every hair follicle on your scalp and body passes through several stages of growth:

  • Anagen phase. During the “growth phase,” your scalp hair grows to its full length over the course of two to six years. 

  • Catagen phase. This is the phase where hair transitions from growing to resting.

  • Telogen phase. During this resting phase, the hair completely stops growing. 

After this cycle is complete, the hair sheds. This shedding is a normal, natural part of hair growth — in other words, it’s not always cause for alarm. 

That said, certain issues may cause your hair to fall out at a faster rate (or to not grow at all). Common types of hair loss include:

  • Male pattern baldness. Also known as androgenetic alopecia, this is when a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) damages your hair follicles, reducing the length of the anagen stage and causing hair thinning.

  • Telogen effluvium. This is a temporary form of hair shedding that can be caused by a severe emotional or physical stress — think a fever, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal changes, trauma, surgery or certain types of medication.

  • Fungal scalp infections. Infections like tinea capitis (scalp ringworm) can, in some cases, permanently damage your hair follicles. 

  • Traction alopecia. Caused by harsh styling techniques and tight hairstyles, this type of hair loss develops when a continuous pulling force damages the roots of your hair. 

  • Alopecia areata. This is an autoimmune disease wherein your immune system targets and attacks your hair follicles, damaging them so that your hair can't grow.  

Some types of hair loss, like male pattern baldness, can cause permanent damage to your hair follicles. This makes it important to take action quickly if you start to notice a receding hairline or other early signs of baldness. The sooner you get hair loss treatment, the better.  

If you’re not sure which form of hair loss you have, chatting with a healthcare professional, such as a dermatologist or a GP, is a good idea. They can help you determine the cause of hair loss and the best possible treatment plan.   

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Hair Breakage vs. New Growth

You’ve recently started a new hair growth treatment, or you’re recovering after some noticeable hair shedding. You’ve noticed short hairs appearing here and there — but you’re not sure if you’re looking at new hair growth or brittle hairs that have broken off. 

Here are a few signs of hair breakage vs. hair growth. 

Signs of Hair Breakage

Broken hairs can resemble new hair growth because, in both cases, the hair is quite short. 

Hair breakage happens when your hair shaft gets torn in one or more places. It typically occurs when you have damaged hair, which tends to be fragile, brittle and easier to break.

Signs of hair breakage can include:

  • Split ends. This is where a hair shaft splits into different strands, making your hair look frayed at the end. 

  • Dry, brittle hair. If your hair is damaged, it might feel more dry and brittle to the touch.

  • Increased hair fall. Breakage doesn’t cause your hair to fall out of the hair follicle, but you might notice more hairs on your brush or pillowcase.  

Don’t mistake broken hairs for baby hairs. One way to identify baby hair vs. breakage is that baby hairs tend to form around the temples and hairline, while broken hairs can appear anywhere on your head.

Your hair might be damaged because of heat styling, harsh hair products or tight hairstyles, which can pull the hair out. Bad hair care habits, such as brushing wet hair, also can be to blame.

If you’re unsure, a hairstylist can help you identify if your hair is brittle and damaged and offer advice to encourage healthy hair growth.

Signs of New Hair Growth

So, what does new hair growth look like? A few signs of hair regrowth include:

  • Tiny dark spots on your scalp. This early sign of hair growth is easier to see if you have dark hair. It’s a sign that the new hair root is growing from the follicle.  

  • Short hairs on the areas of your scalp that show visible thinning. Parts of your scalp that previously had thinning hair or bald patches will start to grow short hair strands.

  • A different color. This is a fairly obvious sign of new hair growth. The new growth should be a noticeably different color to the rest of your hair.  

  • Flyaway hairs. New hairs may be finer than the rest of your hair, so they may protrude from your scalp. This can give you a “halo-like” effect. 

If you’re struggling to see any new hair growth, one technique that could make it easier to notice is taking regular progress photos. By taking a photo in the same lighting conditions every month, you’ll be able to identify new hair growth as it occurs. 

Our guide to taking before and after photos for finasteride explains how you can take accurate photos and assess your hair growth progress over time. 

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Before/after images shared by customers who have purchased varying products, including prescription based products. Prescription products require an online consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. These customers’ results have not been independently verified. Individual results will vary. Customers were given free product.

If you’re beginning to lose your hair, don’t believe the myth that nothing can be done about it. Many research-backed hair loss treatments can promote healthy hair regrowth, boost hair density or, at the very least, prevent your hair loss from getting worse. 

Some popular treatments include:

  • Minoxidil. This FDA-approved, over-the-counter topical treatment moves hair follicles into the anagen phase (that is, the growth phase). It promotes blood flow to your scalp, stimulating hair growth.  In addition to a solution, it also comes in the form of a minoxidil foam.

  • Finasteride. Specifically used for male pattern baldness, finasteride is an FDA-approved prescription pill that blocks your body from producing DHT, shielding your hair follicles from damage.

  • Topical finasteride and minoxidil spray. This safe and effective hair loss combo is worth trying if you want to give your hair the best possible shot at recovering from male pattern hair loss. 

  • Supplements. Brittle hair and telogen effluvium can be caused by vitamin deficiencies. Try a hair loss supplement like our biotin gummies to boost your nutrient levels.

We’ll add that it’s also super important to practice good hair care habits if you’re hoping to prevent hair loss and promote hair health. Some top tips include:

  • Avoid excessive brushing and combing.  

  • Eat a balanced, nutrient-rich diet.

  • Keep your scalp and hair clean.

  • Opt for gentle shampoos and conditioners.

  • Use hair oils or hair masks for hydration.

  • Use heat protectant when styling your hair.

  • Be gentle when detangling your hair.

  • Give yourself regular scalp massages.

Our guide to men’s hair care tips goes into more detail about these habits and explains how you can make them part of your daily hair care routine. 

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At first glance, broken hairs might look like hair growth, as both cause small, short hairs to appear in different parts of the scalp. 

It can be hard to tell new hair growth sticking up from broken, flyaway strands, but here’s what you should keep in mind to tell the difference:

  • Short hairs in thinning areas are usually a sign of hair growth. These hairs may start out as small dark spots on your scalp as they begin to grow from the hair follicle and out through your skin. 

  • Broken hair is typically caused by hair damage. Hair breakage is usually accompanied by split ends and dry hair. 

  • Take before-and-after photos. If you’ve recently started to use medication to treat hair loss, taking a photo of your hairline and scalp on a monthly basis can help you track your progress.   

Since your hair requires time to grow, patience is key. Focus on practicing good hair health habits, using your hair loss treatment consistently and avoiding harsh styling techniques.

Interested in getting started? We can set you up to speak with a healthcare provider online. This is the first step towards getting the best hair treatment for your specific hair type.

8 Sources

  1. Hoover, E., Alhajj, M. & Flores, J.L. (2021, July 26). Physiology, Hair. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499948/
  2. Ho, C.H., Sood, T. & Zito, P.M. (2021, November 15). Androgenetic Alopecia. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430924/
  3. Hughes, E.C. & Saleh, D. (2022, June 26). Telogen Effluvium. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430848/
  4. 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
  5. LeBeau, M.A., Montgomery, M.A. & Brewer, J.D. (2011). The role of variations in growth rate and sample collection on interpreting results of segmental analyses of hair. Forensic Science International. 210 (1-3), 110-116. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21382678/
  6. How to stop damaging your hair. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/stop-damage
  7. Badri, T., Nessel, T.A. & Kumar, D.D. (2021, December 19). Minoxidil. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
  8. Zito, P.M., Bistas, K.G. & Syed, K. (2022, May 8). Finasteride. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513329/
Editorial Standards

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. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

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.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 

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