Picture this; its wash day again and after pre-pooing, you’re happily shampooing, only to look up, and find yourself with a fist full of lost hair. Frustrating right? Well hair loss can come about due to shedding, or breakage, or both. So what is the difference between shedding and breakage?
Shedding is perfectly normal, and is the final stage of the hair growth cycle. It can be identified by the following means
- A white bulb at the bottom of the strand. This indicates that the strand was detached from your scalp at the root.
- Length: meaning, it will roughly be the same length with your regular hair, not shorter.
Although shedding is normal, several factors can cause one to experience excessive shedding, these include but are not limited to;
- Significant weight loss
- Unhealthy diet (especially protein deficit)
- Any form of hormonal imbalance, both natural and artificially generated. Which is why older women can experience hair loss at menopause, and younger women can see more shedding during their menstrual cycle. But women on birth control and other hormonal drugs can also be prey to excessive shedding.
Going by the hair growth cycle which takes 4 – 6 years, it is normal to lose between 50 and 100 strands of hair each day, anything significantly more can be signs of or lead to alopecia and other hair conditions. However if you do not detangle every day, you will notice a lot more than the regular 50 – 100 strands when you eventually do detangle and this is simply due to accumulation over time. Some products claim to reduce shedding using garlic, ginger, and sometimes hibiscus extracts, but its always a wise idea to be careful with such products, because since shedding is a direct result of our internal system, it is difficult to tackle from the outside.
Now to the elephant in the room … breakage
Breakage is the abrupt slicing of hair on any part of the hair shaft. Now breakage is a bigger menace to naturalistas because of all the negatives associated with it. But first let’s examine the symptoms and causes.
Some means to identify breakage are:
- There is no white bulb/club at one end of the hair, it is just a rough cut.
- It will be shorter than your average hair length
- There will be a good number of “flyaways” in your hair (flyaways are short hairs left behind after breakage has occurred)
- The ends of your hair develop knots and tangles
- Split ends.
Causes of breakage
Breakage results from a number of factors;
- Excessive manipulation
- Lack of protein
- Too long gaps between detangling
- Heat damage
- Chemical damage (e.g. coloring hair and not treating it afterwards)
- Lack of trimming
Hair will break, and while there’s no sure fire way to guarantee yourself a completely breakage-free natural hair experience, there are ways to keep breakage to the minimum.
- Control your hands: It is always a good idea to work over your hair only when you need to. The number one cause of breakage is excessive manipulation, so if you can keep your hands to yourself, you’ll be putting yourself ahead.
- Moisturize: always ensure that you do not leave your hair wanting for moisture (even when you’re in a long term protective style. Tip: spritz water, or a water based mixture on your style). Also try to detangle only after you have moisturized your hair using products with adequate slip. Dry combing will get you nothing but more breakage. If you’re unsure how to properly moisturize your hair, you’d do well to read this.
- Heat control: Sometimes it’s unavoidable to put heat on your hair, but do it the right way, with a heat protectant. Shea butter or argan oil work just as well as some store bought protective sprays.
- Treatments: From moisturizing deep conditioning treatments to the much needed protein treatments. Do not skip out on your hair treatments especially if you’re one to color your hair. They help to keep your hair strong and improve overall elasticity.
- Trim: Let the dead ends go sis. If it has split at the tips and you don’t let it go, it won’t magically fix itself up, instead it’ll keep splitting and break off somewhere lower leaving you with (ding! ding! ding!) more flyaways, and more problems. So do yourself the favor and save yourself the stress.
You can tell the difference between shedding and breakage by simple examination of lost hair an if ither of the cases is in excess, you’ll know what to do next. In the end, breakage can only be hampered by the care you give your hair. So if you’re looking to retain length, and maintain health its good practice to take adequate care of your hair.