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Baby hair refers to the fine, short hairs along the perimeter of the hairline. We know that hair breakage can also present as short hairs, so can you really tell the difference between the two just by looking at it? 

In a nutshell the answer is no, but that does not mean we cannot get some sound advice on the difference. Dr. Neil Sadick, a New York City dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon who specializes in hair growth and loss explained to Allure, “Without a trained eye or a microscope, it's difficult to differentiate between short hairs that are broken and short hairs that are growing in…If you frequently blow-dry your hair on high heat, you're undoubtedly causing stress and breakage.” He adds, "While new hair will generally be in the same growth phase—and thus the same length—damaged hair will vary in length and may appear kinked, look irregular, or have thin, frayed ends.”

New growth happens in great numbers and is often hard to pinpoint as they are spread out among hair in various stages of growth. Only 10% of hairs are in the resting phase at any given time. It’s hard to see them all at once, so if you see that one area of your hair that is shorter than other sections, you can safely assume you have breakage.

Here are questions to ask yourself to determine if those are real baby hairs or the result of breakage:

Are you using damaging practices?

One of the biggest places for damage is along the hairline where we see those baby hairs. Are you wearing tight ponytails, braids or using stylers with drying alcohols? If you do and you constantly see flyaways, then you may be experiencing breakage from the excessive tension along the hairline. Hair glues or wearing sew-ins longer than the allotted time can also cause damage to one’s hair that is not restricted to the hairline. These are just a few hairstyles that create a damaging environment for your hair and scalp.

How do they look?

Examining your hairs may also help. Broken hairs tend to look tapered or jagged with split ends. Shed hairs have the white bulb or root on them and are normal in the life cycle of a strand.

Are you stressed?

According to Dr. Hall-Flavin, "significant stress pushes large numbers of hair follicles into a resting phase." I suffer from hair loss related to stress and combat it by increasing my hair tea rinses and scalp massages whenever this happens. 

Is it time to see a specialist?

The bottom line is you may need to seek professional help from a trichologist, dermatologist, or a cosmetologist to determine if you are experiencing damage along your hairline or if it is in fact just baby hair. Another way to figure it out is to assess your hair practices and see if they are healthy or not. Remember to handle your hair gently and monitor how much your hair can handle tension, thermal tools, and permanent hair color.