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:

StagesOfHairGrowth.jpg

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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