Hair is an extremely delicate fiber, though strong, it is not made out of steel! After combing or brushing your hair do you see a lot of strands left behind? Maybe you’ve noticed hair strands on the bathroom floor… If your response is yes, don’t panic yet. Did you know that it’s normal to shed between 50 to 100 hair strands per day? According, to the American Academy of Dermatology, hair loss or breakage occurs when something stops the hair from growing. But, how do you tell the difference between shedding and breakage? Unfortunately, many of us confuse the two when we suffer hair loss. It can be distressing to witness a lot of hair strands go down the drain after washing your hair. The thought of going bald enters your mind and your anxiety level increases. Stress is attributed to hair loss, so let’s get to the bottom of this issue, so you can grow and maintain the health of your hair.
What is shedding?
Hair shedding is a natural process of getting rid of dead hair from your scalp. Our hair naturally cycles in and out of seasonal phases. You might feel as if your hair is shedding excessively, and if that is the case, you will want to identify potential reasons as to why. To help evaluate the potential causes for the excessive shedding, here are a few questions you need to answer to help you determine the cause such as: Have you made changes to your diet/routine? Are you taking any new medication? Are you undergoing hormone therapy? When was the last time you conditioned or detangled your hair? Your answers should give you some insight as to what is going on with your hair. Excessive shedding is common in people who have experienced some level of stress to include, but not limited to the following: lost 20 pounds or more, gave birth, undergone a change that includes a lot of stress, undergone an operation, stopped taking birth control, etc. As your body readjust, the excessive shedding should stop. However, if you haven’t addressed the stressor, the excessive shedding will continue.
What is breakage?
Breakage, on the other hand, is not natural and is an indication of some imbalance or mistreatment of the hair. Some of the common causes of hair breakage or hair loss include, but not limited to the following: hereditary, over-processing, neglect, too much tension on the hair from weaves, ponytails, braids, lack of protein, etc., overactive immune system, compulsive hair pulling, etc.
How do you determine if your hair is damaged?
If when you are styling your hair, and you see short hair strands around your sink, there is a good chance you are experiencing breakage. According to LiveStrong.com, there are a few self-tests you can do to determine whether or not your hair is damaged.
- Follicle Test
Pluck 1 strand of hair from your scalp… I know, it sounds painful. The root must still be attached to the hair. Examine the root end of the strand. It is shaped like a bulb, that means your hair is good condition. If there is no bulb or if there is a small amount, your hair is damaged.
- Sink Test
Healthy hair is strong, whereas, damaged hair shafts absorb liquid quickly. The sink test measures how porous your hair strands are. For this test, you must pluck 4 strands of hair from your head; 1 from the top, 1 from the back, and 1 from the side. Place the hair into a container of water. If the strands float, they are healthy. If they sink, they are damaged.
- Porosity Test
In the event, that you don’t want to pull out strands of your hair, you can do a porosity test to determine the condition of your cuticles. Damage cuticles feel uneven and coarse. To test your hair take a few strands of hair and run your fingers through them from the tip to the root. If your hair feels rough and uneven, it is damaged.
Treatment for Hair Breakage
Breakage is an important sign of whether you will need treatment, trim, or whatever the case may be. But, don’t fret these damages can be reversible. Now that you know a little more about the causes and difference between natural shedding and breakage, you can be proactive in reversing the damage. Consulting with a hair professional to guide you to healthy hair. However, there are also some things that you can do at home such as: using products that do not have sulfates, alcohol, or glycol, and use moisturizing shampoos and conditioners; leave-in conditioners are great, too.
Detangling is key for African American hair, and you want to make sure that your ends are lubricated before you start the process. When detangling, be patient and treat your hair with kindness; so no yanking or pulling. Use a wide-tooth comb and start detangling at the tip of the hair strand and work your way slowly to the root. Depending on the thickness of your hair, you might need to section off your hair.
And lastly, minimize heat exposure. Heat dries out your hair and is a leading cause of hair breakage. If you must apply heat, make sure to use a heat protectant before you begin. When drying set your blow dryer to blow cool; I know you will be drying your hair all day, but your hair will thank you for it.
Imagine your hair being one of the most expensive silk coverings! You should do everything possible to keep that “silk” beautiful! To avoid excess shedding or breaking, I also suggest a protective style and ample treatments to promote healthy growing hair!
Hair Lover, Writer, Editor, and Blogger