Archive | June 2017

Shedding vs Breakage- The Science of Curly Hair (Part II)

All hair withers over time but curly. coily and kinky hair are more prone to wearing and tearing. If preventative measures are not made, the hair eventually breaks off.

What is breakage?


Breakage is when parts of the hair shaft break off. This mainly occurs on the ends of the hair but in severe cases, it could break in the middle of the hair shaft. The diagram above shows the stages in which the hair may go through before it breaks off.

How does it occur?


The above images are close-ups of my hair strand and as you can see, there is a single-strand knot (SSK) on the end of the hair shaft. Single strand knots are the number one culprits to breakage because they create a weak point in the hair. If they are not cut out, they will lead to split ends and breakage.

Single-strand knots can be caused when a shed hair gets trapped on a healthy hair strand. With curly/afro hair, this happens a lot because shed hair does not fall out easily like straight hair. I sometimes notice them when detangling but I have managed to minimise them over the years. However, it should be noted that they are inevitable on curly hair in general because the hair tends to curl in on itself.

When I leave my hair weeks on end without washing and detangling, that is when I notice the most single-strand knots. Occasionally, there are even multiple knots on one strand. Also, over-manipulation can cause unnecessary single-strand knots, so try not to constantly touch your hair. 


split ends

The second cause of breakage is splitting. There used to be a big misconception that afro hair does not split, but this is clearly false. The above diagram displays various types of splits but the most common ones I  tend to get are ‘thickening’, the normal ‘split’, ‘baby’, ‘right angle’, ‘knot’ and ‘taper’. When I used to blow-dry and straighten my hair without heat protection back in 2011 and 2012, I would get deep, long splits and even mid-shaft splitting. Nonetheless, the easiest option to get rid of them is cutting them off. Frequent trimming has truly helped me – I trim my hair anywhere between 2 and 4 months whereby I cut off about 1/4 of an inch.

Curly hair splits when it is constantly brushing against harsh fabrics like cotton and wool. Also, frequent combing can wear and tear the hair which eventually leads to breakage. Dryness on the ends can also cause splitting over time. 

Whilst shedding is to do with the scalp, breakage is to do with the ends of the hair. For this reason, it is crucial that you ‘baby’ your ends, otherwise, the hair can break even higher up on the shaft. As I have very fine strands, my hair cannot take constant manipulation and anything that will weigh it down. I found that even applying things like Castor Oil and Shea Butter to the ends of my hair every week was breaking it. It was not the oil itself that was the problem (because everyone knows Castor oil is amazing), but it was the fact that the oil is too thick for my hair texture. Today, I mix it with other oils to achieve a lighter-weight concoction. I ‘baby’ my ends by having them constantly lubricated with conditioners and oils so that even if I am wearing a wool jumper, my hair does not get caught in the fabric. My hair can glide through the fibres and not break.

Ways to prevent/eradicate breakage:


  • Ideally, one should wrap their hair with a silk/satin scarf or bonnet at night. If not, a silk pillowcase should be used.  Cotton fabrics dry out curly hair but silk retains our natural oils so you will wake up with moisturised hair. The strands are able to glide easily without frizzing, tangling, splitting breaking.




  • Deep conditioning– hair that is dry will split and break off, therefore, I like to incorporate and alternative between moisture rich and protein rich deep conditioners. Shea Moisture Haircare products are my fave! Hair that is well moisturised and strengthened with proteins will have a solid cuticle and is less likely to wither. Click here to see the products I like to use.
  • Improving Elasticity–  focus on the overall moisture-protein balance of your hair (it may not be 50-50 or equal- for example, the perfect balance for me is more protein than moisture). If hair is moisturised (not feeling limp and ‘mushy’) then it will have good elasticity. It will not need to frizz up in search for moisture in the air. We want to eliminate frizz because it is associated with dryness which is the prodigy of breakage. If your hair has enough protein (not feeling brittle or looking dull) then it will be able to withstand certain manipulation. Overall, it will be strong and will also have good elasticity so if you pull it taut, it will be able to bounce back without breaking off.
  • Co-wash if shampoo dries your hair out –  sulphates, in general, are drying to the hair but if you have already switched up to ‘non-sulphate’ or ‘sulphate-free’ shampoos and they are still not working for you, try co-washes. As I Am Coconut Cowash is very moisturising to the hair and cleans it without stripping curly hair of its natural oils (sebum). You can co-wash with regular conditioners also; I tend to find that Tresemme conditioners leave my hair moisturised and my ends well detangled. I get less split ends now that I have incorporated co-washing.
  • Protein-based styling products – as I have explained in my previous post, grow your edgeslook for products that contain proteins to strengthen the hair. If you have breakage in your hairline or anywhere else, ‘Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen, Grow and Restore Edge Treatment gel’ is superb. I have never suffered from breaking/thinning edges but having used this for several months now, I have noticed that my hair has thickened around my hairline. Otherwise, you can simply purchase actual Castor oil and massage it into your ends and scalp.
  • Oil rinses and Hot oil treatments– in the beginning of my hair journey, I did these a lot and it improved the state of my hair drastically. I would apply an oil mix to my hair, put on a plastic bag and leave it in for 20 to 30 minutes. When I rinsed it out, my single strand knots would basically be gone. It was like magic!
  • Trimming frequently– ultimately, cutting the damage off is the best remedy for split ends and SSKs. If you create a practical regimen for trimming and stick to it, you will see that the overall health of your hair will improve. This is because you are not giving a chance for your hair to continue splitting up the hair shaft. You are cutting it before the damage spreads. I also incorporate the ‘search and destroy’ method which is where I actually look for the odd split or knot and cut it right above the damage. This is beneficial for the upkeep of your hair in between your trims. It is advised to trim every 6 to 8 weeks but for us curlies, I would say anywhere between 2 to 4 times a year, depending on the health of your hair.


How do you prevent breakage?

Click here to read about ‘Shedding’

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Shedding vs Breakage- The Science of Curly Hair (Part I)

I am sure some of you have misused the terms ‘breakage’ and ‘shedgiffy 3ding’ at some point in your natural hair journey. Don’t worry! #Igatchuboo 

       Hair Cycle:


Shedding occurs naturally when the hair has reached the end of its cycle. This is called the Telogen phase whereby the hairs begin to drop from the follicles on the scalp. This is a natural occurrence and we usually shed around 50 to 100 strands of hair each day, so do not be alarmed if you ‘lose’ a lot of hair when you take your hair down from your braids after several weeks of having them in. Do not be afraid! Your hair is not falling out! With straight hair, shed hair can easily leave the hair and drop properly but for curly, coily and kinky hair types, the hairs do not easily fall out and therefore tend to get trapped within our hair, thus, causing knots when it is time to wash and detangle. Nevertheless, it may look like we shed a lot but it is perfectly normal.

On the flipside, do keep track of how much your hair usually sheds because this will let you know when your shedding is abnormal (excessive) – ask yourself whether you are shedding more than average. Of course, this depends on how thick (dense)Collage 2017-06-05 23_01_22-1.jpg your hair is. For me, I know that I have medium to high-density hair and for this reason, I recognise that shedding a size of a £2 coin each week is normal for me. If this size changes; I now start shedding a fist size a week or more, I know I am doing something wrong in my regimen. Contrarily, if I shed less than my average, it is probably because my follicles have been strengthened with protein treatments or perhaps more of my hair is in its growing phase (Anagen). Shedding less is a good thing. We want to keep our hair on our head. 

How to track your shedding patterns:

Initially, it may be difficult to know how much shedding is ‘normal’ for you but I suggest you form a weekly regimen and see how much you shed each week, and do this for several weeks. Once you find how much you shed weekly, it will be easier calculating whether your amount of shedding is normal after several weeks of having a protective style installed. For example, I know I shed this amount ^^^ (see above photograph), ^^^ so if I kept my hair in a bun or in mini twists for 3 weeks, I should shed triple this amount. Similarly, this is how you should measure yours.

Reasons for Excessive shedding:

I read a while back that if 90% of your hair is growing, the other 10% should either be shedding or in resting (Catagen) phase. If the ratio is different, then you should re-evaluate your weekly regimen. Your hair may be shedding excessively for various reseasons:

  • Not enough water intake– water is the building block to life. When your body is dehydrated, it functions less efficiently and this can hinder hair growth as well as your overall health. Think of your hair like your skin. When there is a water deficiency, the skin becomes chapped, cracked and dry. Even though our hair is made of dead cells, the follicles are alive and creating cells and need that hydration to produce stronger cells.
  • Over-manipulation– combing, brushing and pulling can be too harsh on the scalp. You may be involuntarily pulling hairs out directly from their follicles before they have even reached their full life cycle. Another form of over-manipulation is the infamous ‘hand-in-hair’ syndrome. As I have stated in a previous post, constantly touching my hair was a big issue for me when I first started my journey. Overall, you may think your hair is ‘thinning’ but it is not.
  • Vitamin deficiency may also lead to hair loss– women with iron deficiencies or diets that are low in protein should take supplements if advised by their doctor. Also, in extreme cases, make note of any changes in your hormone levels.
  • You actually have a diagnosed medical condition that affects your hair/scalp
  • Scratching the scalp – when our scalp itches us, we always feel compelled to scratch but this destroys the follicles and causes the hair to shed prematurely. If done harshly, that area of the scalp can become tender.
  • Physical Stress – when we get stressed, Cortisol (hormone) is released causing further problems to the hair follicle. This can trigger a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium. Hair loss often becomes noticeable three-to-six months after the trauma. Remember that our mental state also affects the physical state of our body.
  • Trichotillomania – it is classified as an ‘impulse control disorder,’ causing people to compulsively pull their hair out. Unfortunately, this constant pulling can actually strip the head of its natural protection, so it sheds more.


Ways to prevent/eradicate excessive shedding:

  • Unless you actually have a hair loss problem, finger-detangling instead of brushing will minimise shedding.
  • Shampooing when needed – sometimes when there is a lot of lint (dirt and oil) on our scalp, it can clog our pores and this can prevent the necessary nutrients actually getting to the root and moisturising it. This essentially, makes the follicle weaker and therefore, more hair falls out. Shampooing at least twice a month will clarify the scalp and successfully remove build-up.
  • Cold water rinses – this shocks the cuticle shut and makes for stronger hair. Although most people only apply cold water to their ends, I also like to rinse my scalp with cold water because it always makes my hair feel strengthened and cools my scalp if it has been irritated. It also speeds up hair growth so less hair sheds.
  • Scalp Massages (with oil) – rubbing the scalp with the pads of your fingers is essential in not only lifting dirt from the scalp but also for hair growth. Some hair follicles simply need to be woken up and the motion of massaging truly opens the follicles so that they can work properly. When I massage my scalp with oil, it doubles its effectiveness as my scalp usually feels stimulated afterwards. Tea tree and Rosemary oils are great essential oils for the scalp because they possess anti-oxidising, anti-inflammatory and clarifying properties.
  • Try to cut out stress – whether it is a person or thing,cut it giff.gif cut it out. Try to do things that make you happy, whether it be exercise, listening to music, reading, anything! We want to produce endorphins (happy hormones) that will stimulate the scalp and minimise hair fall out.
  • Balanced diet – our hair needs proteins, vitamins and minerals like Biotin, B2, B5, B6 and B12, Folic Acid, Niacin (B3) and much more to flourish. When we eat foods that contain these essential ingredients, our hair thanks us. Hair and nails are the last places to receive nutrients so make sure you are eating enough for it to reach the scalp.
  • Take multivitamins – this is only necessary if you are not getting all your daily nutrients from the foods that you eat. I personally like to take A-Z Multivitamins regardless because it improves my overall well-being. It eventually improves the state of the hair follicles.water on natural hair.gif
  • Drink a lot of water – this is pretty much self-explanatory. Water improves everything!
  • Deep conditioning/ protein treatments – the hair is made up of about 88% Keratin and therefore, proteins in the form of Keratin, Wheat Protein, Silk Protein and amino acids are so important for your hair and scalp. A lot of Shea Moisture hair masques contain these proteins. A strong scalp will support more hair. If your scalp is well balanced in its moisture and protein content, the follicles will be able to sustain the hair strand. Consequently, the hair strand will be able to reach its optimum length in its hair cycle before shedding.


How do you minimise shedding?

Click here to read about ‘Breakage’

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This entry was posted on June 7, 2017. 1 Comment