Why It's Important to Know the Difference Between Shedding and Breakage

By Alexa Santory

Shedding vs. Breakage

These words get thrown around a lot when discussing hair health and hair growth. They sound like they’re about the same thing but in reality, there’s one teeny tiny difference between the two. Today’s Beauty School lesson is all about the difference between hair shedding and breakage. Keep reading for a quick guide on knowing the difference and how to further protect the hair moving forward!

What is shedding????

If you read our lesson on the hair growth cycle, you’ll know that shedding is a natural occurrence for our hair, no matter the hair type. Shedding the hair is our body’s natural way of releasing something from the body to make room for something new. When hair has reached the end of its growing cycle, and falls out with the root attached. Not the root root, but the bulb root that forms around the catagen phase of the hair cycle. This is the teeny tiny difference I was referring to earlier. That bulb root determines whether the hair was shed naturally or by breakage. The bulb root is white because, when it develops, the hair has stopped producing melanin. But that little white dot you sometimes see at the end of a stray hair is totally normal and a natural part of hair shedding. Hair shedding in general is nothing to really be concerned about. People lose around 100 to 125 hairs a day. Still though, external issues like copious amounts of stress, styling methods, poor diet, or internal issues like alopecia or other illnesses could lead to rapid hair loss. If you feel that you’re losing way too much hair, definitely consult a doctor about it.

What is breakage????

Breakage ain’t natural. Hair breakage is a result of a great deal of external stress being placed on the hair, making it weaker. If you find that your hair is breaking a lot, it might be time to switch up some stuff in your routine. Learning whether your hair is broken or not is as simple as looking for the bulb root on the end of it. If there’s no little white dot at the tip of the hair, or the fallen piece of hair is short, rather than the length of the rest of your strands, it’s a broken hair. Hair breakage is a sign of mistreating the hair, and before it breaks, there’s typically cuticle loss, then the fibers begin to split. Weak, damaged (whether by heat, chemicals, or sun exposure) hair is prone to breakage since it severely lacking in moisture and overall nourishment. The drier the hair, the more prone to breakage. In the same vein, though, too much of a good thing can cause breakage too! Overusing protein treatments can cause the hair to break as well, since there’s more protein going into the hair without balancing it with moisture. Breakage is relatively easy to fix just by learning your hair’s porosity and giving it more of the good stuff it needs.

Help!! My hair is breaking like crazy!!

The damage is done!! Quit while you’re ahead!! ….kidding :). The amazing thing about hair is that it does, indeed, grow back. It doesn't grow back overnight, of course, but like all good things, hair growth and repairing damage requires time and patience. However, 100% of damage isn’t going to be repaired with one deep conditioning session. That leads me to my next point, which is that broken damaged hair is most often in dire need of moisture. Getting it into the hair with water is the most obvious way, but with tap water often being very harsh on the skin and hair, you can pick up the slack by incorporating a moisturizing product into your routine. Look for water based hair moisturizers that don’t contain the icky stuff like sulfates, parabens, and silicones that suffocate the hair. You want the moisturizer to penetrate deep into the hair and deliver nourishment. This moisturizer will be the L in the L.O.C. method, a hair care method that’s designed to keep moisture in place.
The next trick is keeping the moisture locked into the hair. This is why knowing your hair’s porosity is so important!  Keeping the moisture in high and low porosity hair is rather challenging, so now’s the time to bring out the big guns and implement the O in the L.O.C method...oil. These babies keep moisture locked in tight while also delivering nourishing vitamins and minerals the hair needs to flourish. Hair butters (like our Marrakesh Argan Oil Shine & Moisture Hair Butter) that are rich in oils, help keep moisture sealed in. Always, always, always apply oil after you apply moisturizer. Oils are hydrophobic, meaning they don’t mix with water, so adding it first will actually keep moisture out! That's not the goal here.
Hair growth at a plateau? Check out how @nappyheadedjojoba fixed hers.

Some more tips for preventing breakage

  • Be gentle with your hair. Pulling and tugging and towel drying (omg please don’t do that!!) all have adverse effects on the hair and can create damage.
  • Always comb/detangle the hair from the ends, working your way up.
  • ALWAYS use a cotton t-shirt or microfiber towel when drying your hair. Terry cloth is not your friend!
  • For more intense, targeted treatments, deep conditioners and protein treatments are there to pick up the slack. Routinely deep conditioning your hair will result in healthier, softer, less damaged hair over time. Although not every deep conditioner is made equally, they all have the common goal of delivering intense moisture to the hair.
  • As far as protein goes, it’s important to remember that our hair is quite literally made of it. Damaged, brittle, breaking hair is a sign of a depleted level of keratin. Protein treatments help revitalize and strengthen weak hair. Alternating the two treatments will lead to softer, stronger, more manageable hair that’s a lot less prone to breakage!
  • Moisture overload is a thing. Remember: too much of a good thing can be detrimental. If your hair too moisturized, it can become mushy, dull and break. Finding balance is key.  
  • Your monthly regimen should be close to Week 1 Strengthening Deep Condition Treatment, Week 2 Moisturizing Deep Conditioning Treatment, Week 3  Strengthening Deep Condition Treatment, Week 4 Moisturizing Deep Conditioning Treatment.


    Friday we discuss YOUR EDGES and how to keep them thick and healthy!

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    "This mask is sooo moisturizing!! I mixed it with an avocado and a bit of avocodo oil , I sat under my steamer for 20 minutes and placed a plastic bag over my head for another 30 minutes when I rinsed it out my hair was sooo soft. I twisted my hair up and when I took the twist down a few days later my hair was still very moisturized . In love!!"

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