Do you know the difference between shedding and breakage? Although they may seem the same to you, and many have trouble differentiating them, they are not the same. I have touched on this subject briefly in a previous post while talking about “When To Trim Transitioning Hair?“, however, today I want to give you a clearer understanding of it.
To give you some initial perspective on this issue, I would like you to think of shedding as something completely normal that everyone experiences and breakage as the consequence of an underlying issue with your hair.
Shedding As A Normal Thing
Did you know that the normal person has around 100,000 hair follicles on their heads? Although this number varies between individuals, I was actually surprised to find out that blondes are 10% above this average and reds 10% below. It’s funny, but I always thought brunettes ruled the world on this one (cue in Beyonce’s “Who Runs The World” with a slight lyric change). Oh, well we can’t win them all! Moving on…
Picture your hair undergoing a repetitive cycle of growth and rest that has 3 different stages: the Anagen (active growth), Catagen (end of active growth) and the Telogen (resting). The interesting thing about this is that our hair doesn’t go through this stages all of it at the same time! For example, a section of hairs in our head can have all three stages happening at the same time otherwise, at some point, we would all be bald, right!? Picture that!!
Nevertheless, the Anagen stage which lasts 2 -3 year, encompasses around 85% of all hair. So when does our hair fall? Once this growth stage ends, we start experiencing the end of the active growth, the Catagen stage, which lasts 2 – 3 weeks and is then followed by the Telogen stage. This last phase of the hair cycle covers around 10% of all hairs at any time and can last 3 months.
It is in this resting stage that our hair begins to shed only to enter into the Anagen stage again. According to scientists, we experience on average a loss of 100 hairs and you will know that your hair is shedding when you see its root or white bulb still attached to it, just as pictured below.
So When Can Shedding Signal A Problem?
Although I have said that shedding is a normal thing to happen, there are instances where you will need to seek professional help if you notice excessive shedding. How much is excessive shedding? It will be different for everyone and only you will know as you regularly care for your hair, you will notice that it will be above the average for you.
There are many reasons why this could be happening such as hormonal changes like in postpartum, diet, stress, medication, illness or even scalp condition which is why you need to address this issue seriously without panic and see a doctor.
Now hair breakage, on the other hand, is an event that those with natural, curly hair can experience quite frequently. This is so because our hair is inherently dry and the natural oils in our scalp have difficulty travelling along the curly shape of our hair. Consequently, as you may know by now, dry hair becomes brittle hair, and brittle hair leads to breakage (tired of listening to this drill too? Yeah, me too. But this is the sad truth for us curlies).
However, this can be avoided to a minimum if the hair is properly moisturised, as some breakage will be normal. Breakage can happen as a result of under moisturised hair, tight hairstyles (any), use of heat, chemical processes on the hair, over manipulation, illness, medication or the environment (high/low temperatures and the wind). You will notice your hair is breaking when you see broken pieces of hair, normally much shorter than your hair length, that have no white bulb attached to it. Instead, the hair will have split ends and/or single strand knots, just as pictures below.
I know guys, I know. Trust me I know! Everywhere we turn it seems like more bad news for us. It surely puts a gloomy sky on our transitioning path, and it seems we can’t escape it. Some of the factors contributing to breakage are out of our control such as hair shape, illness, medication and the environment. In a way, it’s true we can’t escape it. However, you can’t give up so early in the journey, trust me when I tell you that our curls are worth fighting for. You can control damage to a minimum if you provide your hair with proper moisture and nourishment by creating a hair regimen that facilitates this.
Final Thoughts & Task
I hope you now know the difference between shedding and breakage. Knowing the difference between the two will allow you to act accordingly. Don’t go freaking out if you shed 100 hairs a day, apparently, it’s normal (go figure!). It’s only when it’s excessive that you need to check it out.
Conversely, breakage is telling you that you need to inspect your hair routine and see where the root the problem is (oh wait did you see what I did there?! Inspect, root of the problem. Get it! Look for it because it’s not there it’s actually broken? Please tell me you got it and I’m not really bad at making jokes.). Anyway, I have a little task for you to do.
The next time you do your pre-poo or re-moisturise your hair and some hair fall, or you find some hairs on the floor pick them up and have a closer look at them. See if you know which one is which. If you have more than 10 pieces of broken hair you might have a problem. Why, because that will be the amount of breakage you see when you’re looking for it. Imagine what happens when you’re not looking?
If you’re having trouble controlling hair breakage and don’t know where to start or what to do you might want to take the 5 steps necessary to control it. All you need to do is print the worksheet guide with actionable tasks pictured bellow, and you’ll be able to identify the problem and correct it. Click on the link below to read The Ultimate 5 Step Guide To Natural Hair Breakage Control and print your worksheet. Happy homework!
Are you able to distinguish between shedding and breakage now? Have you suffered from any of them? What did you do?