Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Let's Talk Hair: Shedding vs Breakage..What's The Difference??


Hola Chicas/Chicos..I pray all is well with everyone..

So, this is a great topic mainly because I have had a plethora of natural lovelies inquire about their hair shedding and the assumption that natural hair does not shed..WRONG..I can attest by personal experience because I shed like a St. Bernard whenever I wash my hair..and that's no lye :-)))

Understanding the difference between hair breakage and shedding is an important part of any healthy hair regimen. Many people use these terms interchangeably to refer to any hair that falls from the head; however, this misinformed language can be a recipe for hair disaster. You must be able to properly differentiate between these two very specific forms of hair "loss" in order to effectively address even the smallest of your hair needs. This post will educate us on the difference between hair shedding and hair breakage, and offer strategies to help you combat both hair problems.


Just What Is Shedding??

  • In its truest sense, shed hair is hair that has reached the end of its growing cycle and naturally falls from the scalp along with its tiny, white "root" attached. 
  • This is not the actual hair root that is secured deeply within your scalp, but it is the bulb root or base of the hair strand found on the scalp-originating end. 
  • It appears white because the hair stops producing melanin (color) at the point in its growth cycle right before it gets ready to fall. 
  • If your actual hair root came out along with the hair, you would no longer be able to produce hair from that same place on the scalp ever again! 
  • If a hair does not possess this white root bulb, then it is not a naturally shed hair, rather, a broken one. Shed hair tends to be longer in length than broken hairs which are generally short pieces of varying lengths.
  • In general, shedding should not be a major concern for you and should be seen as a sign of a healthy, normal, functioning scalp. There is no need to fear shedding unless it is tied to a medical issue. If you notice rapid hair loss from shedding or hair loss accompanied by a host of other problems, please consult a medical professional. Most shedding, however, is simply nature taking its course.

Shedding..Did You Know
  • It's important to understand that because shedding is a natural, internal process, it may not respond to topical, external treatments. Some have praised garlic shampoos or "garlic scalp rubs" for reducing shedding, but there has been no clear consensus on the effectiveness of garlic as a remedy for shedding. Shedding is also not easily solved by protein or moisture treatments because it has nothing to do with the hair shaft itself, but is a response to hormonal influences on the hair follicle and is dependent on growth cycles. When a hair completes its life cycle, which generally last s 4-6 years, its final act is the shedding we experience. This cannot be prevented.

  • Also, our hair naturally cycles in and out of seasonal shedding phases which may last days or weeks at a time in some individuals. Research suggests that peak shedding rates occur during the fall season. A healthy head of hair may shed as many as 50- 100 hairs per day, though I personally believe this amount to be a grand stretch. You should be concerned if your shedding suddenly increases to a rate that was uncommon to you before, or if the shedding seems to be prolonged over the course of several weeks or months.

  • Do keep in mind that there are special periods in the human life cycle where shedding is naturally increased. For example, women who are undergoing a bout of postpartum shedding after having a baby may have to deal with increased shedding for several months until their normal hormone levels return. Other conditions which may increase your shedding rate are: (I also go into more detail about shedding in this article here )

  • styling methods that place stress on the follicles
  • birth control/menstrual cycles/menopause
  • pregnancy
  • heredity (runs in the family)
  • crash dieting/ low protein diets, poor diet
  • illnesses with high fever as a prevailing symptom






Please consult with a medical professional to diagnose any prolonged, abnormal shedding or other unusual scalp conditions.

 Sooo..What is Breakage??

  • Breakage on the other hand is not natural, and is an indication of an imbalance of important forces within the hair strand. 
  • Broken hairs do not fall naturally from the head, but are typically a sign of mishandling or abuse. In the stages before a hair ultimately breaks, the hair first becomes discolored and experiences cuticle loss. Eventually, the fibers begin to split and ultimately there is breakage. 

Breakage..Did You Know??
  • So what causes breakage? Hair can be weakened and damaged by anything from rough handing and sun exposure to coloring and straightening chemicals. 
  • Breakage is also more common with a hair's age; older hairs, usually the hairs nearest the ends, have the greatest tendency to break due to normal wear and tear. 
  • When breakage isn't a response to physical manipulation and abuse, it is most often triggered by the lack of moisture in the hair strand. 
  • Other types of breakage may be caused by the over- structuring of the hair strand with protein treatments done in excess. 
  • A prompt, and proper response to breakage will help you stop breakage in its tracks. 

Breakage..Ways To Minimize It
  • Moisture: Hair needs water to maintain its elasticity, or ability to stretch. Since water is the ultimate moisturizer, water-based products are best for really getting the greatest moisture benefit. Moisturizers are simply products that are water-based and nourish your hair deep within the strand. Products with moisturizing properties tend to be your conditioners and other specific moisturizer sprays or creams. Good moisturizers will not contain cheap, filler ingredients like petrolatum, mineral oil, propylene glycol or lanolin. If possible, try to avoid products that claim moisturizing benefits and contain these ingredients. There is nothing moisturizing about them! Petrolatum and mineral oil are sealants that seal out the precious moisture our hair needs. 

  • Seal In The Moisture: Our hair naturally contains moisture, but because our hair is also naturally porous, keeping the moisture inside is a difficult task. Providing additional sources of outside moisture, or external moisture supplementation, is a must for black hair care. Water molecules and moisture from these supplemental moisturizing products easily pass into the hair shaft, but they pass out just as easily. The moisture you apply needs to held in by something. Oil. Natural butters such as shea, mango, cupuacu or avocado butters seem to love my hair best. A light coating of oil or butter after your daily moisturizer will help seal the moisture inside. Oils are made of large molecules. These molecules are too large to absorbed by the hair strand. Applying oils to the hair and scalp will coat them and trap the moisture that is inside on the inside and the moisture that is outside on the outside. The key is to use the oil to "lock in the moisture." If you use oils without a moisturizer or before one, the oil will seal the moisture out of the hair strand and lead to a coated feel and eventual dryness.  

  • REMEMBER! Oils DO NOT Moisturize: Perhaps a words like "nourish" would be better than moisturize. Oil alone will not and cannot moisturize within the hair shaft. An oil (grease) can only coat the outside of the strand, and give it shine- the illusion of moisture. Oil molecules are hydrophobic which means they repel and do not readily mix with water. Remember, if you apply an oil product to your hair before you have added a moisturizing product, you have created a seal on your hair strand that water and moisture cannot penetrate. This is why I always recommend using my Natty Butter on damp hair..or you can use it in conjunction with a water based moisturizer like distilled or filtered water, our Natty ACV Hair & Scalp Mist, your Natty Moist leave in or your own moisturizer of choice.

  • Handle Hair with Care: Be sure to be gentle when brushing combing and even finger detangling the hair. It's best to detangle on hair that is damp, while under the shower or with at least some natural oil applied to the hands, such as coconut, to help loosen tangles. 

Naughty Hair..When Nothing Seems To Work

You handle your hair gently, you've tried the moisture, you've tried the protein . . . but nothing is working! What gives?
Well, bottom line, there is no way to prevent absolutely no breakage..but minimizing breakage is the key. So, if you are experiencing excessive amounts of 'breakage', be sure to take a step back and access what you may be doing or not doing that causes it.


Sooo...What To Do??
  • Clarify: Time to clarify to remove an over abundance of product..Try the O'Natural clarifyer..the Bentonite Clay Treatment w/ ACV and Aloe Vera Gel. This wonderful natural goody does wonders with removing all things gone buildup in the hair..remember, always follow up with a deep conditioner afterwards, as clarifyers remove natural oils and moisture, so you must replenish.

  • Protein: Treat yourself to a protein treatment as well..you can do an all natural protein treatment. Protein can help to strengthen the hair, especially if you have highly porous hair (check out my post on porosity here ). There are many on the market, however, I normally opt for a DIY protein treatment or henna. For a simple DIY protein treatment, check out my post here )

  • Deep Condition with a moisture based conditioner and add honey and extra virgin olive oil for an extra burst of moisture. A great quality deep conditioner should work its magic within 20-30 minutes. After that time, there is normally no more enhancement or penetration a deep conditioner can do, so leaving it on for longer periods of time is simply for comfort or habit. For me, I simply use our Natty Cupuacu & Rhassoul Deep Conditioner each time I cleanse, which is ever 2-3 weeks. Place a plastic cap over your head, sit under your steamer or  sit under a heat cap for 30-40 min.

  • Whew: At this point, your hair should be cleaned and conditioned and you should be able to determine whether or not your next product step needs to include more moisture or more protein.






Happy Healthy Strong Hair

credits: some info found at www.associatedcontent.com/article/278612/the_fine_art_of_protein_and_moisture.html?cat=69















4 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I was so lost as to what to do with my hair. I thought I WAS moisturizing with all the oils I've purchased and were using. Thanks again!

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