Email #6 -Shedding vs. Breakage

Shedding and Breakage: What’s so bad about 'em?

Shedding and breakage are two super common things our hair does, especially in the curly hair community. As natural as shedding is, how much is too much? What can we do to get it under control? And when it comes to breakage, how can we prevent it entirely? 

What is shedding?

As we learned in the hair growth cycle, shedding is a natural part of hair growth. It’s just our body’s natural way of releasing something to make room for something new! When the hair releases itself naturally, it comes out with a small white dot at one end. That’s the bulb root, and it’s white because the hair has stopped producing melanin. It’s also totally normal and nothing to be alarmed about! People actually lose anywhere from 100 to 125 hairs a day, but there are things that can exacerbate it and make it a more serious problem. Internal issues like alopecia could lead to rapid hair loss, while external issues like tons of stress, lots of manipulation and styling without proper care, and even a poor diet can make your hair fall out a whole lot more. 

How can I prevent it?

In a way, you kinda can’t! It’s totally natural and nothing to really be concerned about. UNLESS, it’s falling out rapidly or in clumps, always consult a doctor about it!  One thing you can try at home is a strengthening tea rinses. Green Tea rinses work because hair loss and excessive shedding is caused by a hormone called Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and caffeine in green tea blocks DHT and its effects, helping to reduce hair fall and stimulate new hair growth.

What is breakage?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have breakage, which is very much not natural and not a basic process of the hair growth cycle. The hair usually breaks because of tons of external stress, weakening your strands in the process. This could happen from wearing your hair in a style for too long or even from brushing it with the wrong type of brush. If you have fallout and you notice that there’s no bulb root at the end of the strand, then that’s a broken hair. And if you find that this is happening more often than not, it’s time to switch some stuff up in your hair routine!

 If you’re a user of hot tools and/or any type of chemical treatment, there’s a good chance you’ll experience breakage because they put the hair under a lot of stress and make it super dry! Hair can break from excessive use of chemicals like hair dyes or relaxers because they penetrate so deeply into the hair strand that they damage the cortex. 

You can also experience breakage if your hair has too much protein, i.e too many protein treatments. An excess amount of protein in the hair can cause it to become brittle to the point of breaking, which is why a moisture-protein balance is so important for maintaining strong, healthy hair. 

How can I prevent it?

It’s all about the moisture and the protein. Your hair is mostly made of a protein called keratin and it can get pretty weak when put under a lot of stress. It’s important to replenish the protein in your hair, but also balancing it out with moisture. 

Always look for water based hair moisturizers (aka the L in the LOC method), since these are going to deliver high levels moisture to the hair. A good rule of thumb for knowing if a product is going to be moisturizing: read the ingredient label — if the first ingredient isn’t water, put it right back on that shelf! Water must be the first ingredient on any product that’s labeled as “moisturizing,” otherwise you’re getting something that’s going to potentially suffocate your hair rather than save it. 

You also want to know your hair’s porosity level, because that will determine when you apply oil to your hair. Oil keeps moisture in the hair, then the cream seals everything in. Or you can switch the cream and oil steps depending on your porosity level or your personal preference (it’s not uniform for everyone!). Always add oils second or last — they’re hydrophobic, so putting it on your hair first will keep moisture out! 

Lastly, keep up with a deep conditioning/protein treatment schedule. This will help keep your hair moisturized, soft, and strong from the inside. 

Tips for preventing breakage and over-shedding

Don’t towel dry your hair!

Always brush and comb from the ends, up.

You can have too much of a good thing! Too much moisture or too much protein can be detrimental to the hair, so keep up with a consistent routine but don’t overdo it, sis!

Try alternating protein treatments and deep conditioners every week, or every other week, for a couple of months. Always remember: balanced hair is healthy hair.

A word on: Single Strand Knots

These are a special type of knot that’s common in kinkier hair types. They happen when a curly hair grows and loops around itself, or even other strands, creating knots. 

They can also be caused by friction and they pop up a lot on the nape of the neck. All in all, they’re kinda painful, and they can lead to breakage. 

A good way to prevent them (which is really hard because hair really just does what it wants) is to make sure you detangle your hair when it’s wet. Detangling dry hair is only going to lead to more damage and breakage. 

Doing it with wet, conditioned hair will have it soft, easy to manipulate, and with a perfect level of slip. 

You can also use satin pillowcases, or just a satin bonnet at bedtime. Satin is very soft on curly hair, so it won’t snag or cause friction like cotton can!

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