Hair is extremely delicate fiber and strong at the same time. We must be careful when combing, brushing, and styling our hair. Do you ever see strands of hair in the sink after you've combed it? Maybe you've noticed hair strands on the bathroom floor… If your response is yes, don't panic yet. Shedding is normal, and you can 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? It is confusing to know the difference between normal shedding and hair loss. It can be distressing to witness hair loss of any kind, the thought of going bald is too much to deal with. Stress is attributed to hair loss, so let's get to the bottom of this issue so you can grow and maintain your hair's health.
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 that might be the case. The best way to determine the potential cause for the excessive shedding to answer the following questions: 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 consists of a lot of stress, undergone an operation, stopped taking birth control, etc.
What is breakage?
However, breakage 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?
When you are styling your hair and 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 one strand of hair from your scalp… I know, it sounds painful. The root must still be attached to the hair. Examine the end of the root's strand. It is shaped like a bulb, which means your hair is in 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. 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
If you don't want to pull strands of your hair, you can do a porosity test to determine 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 a vital 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 differences 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 critical for African American hair, and you want to make sure that your ends are lubricated before you start the process. I've used the product As I Am and coconut oil to detangle. When using coconut oil, I let it sit for 30-minutes to an hour before gently combing the tangles. I love using coconut oil on my skin as a moisturizer. When detangling, be patient and take your hair time, 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.
Lastly, minimize using heat on your hair. 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 cool. It will take longer for your hair to dry, but it is much better for your hair's health.