Understanding the Difference Between Shedding and Breakage, How You Can Tell These Two Apart

Shedding vs Breakage

Hair shedding and breaking are two different processes that some people mistakenly use interchangeably.  Knowing and understanding the difference is an important part of any healthy hair regimen.  Understanding the difference between these two forms of hair loss can help yo u to appropriate address the issues that cause these problems.

What is Shedding?

When hair has reached the end of its growing cycle, it falls from the scalp along with the tiny, white “root” attached.  The white root you may see attached to shedding hair is not the actual hair root — it is the bulb or base of the hair strand.   The hair stops producing melanin at this point in the growth cycle, giving it a “white” color.  Hair strands that do not have the white bulb attached is not shedding hair, it is actually hair that is breaking.  Shedding hair is usually longer than broken hairs in length.

Shedding hair should not be a cause for major concern.  It is a sign of a normal, healthy functioning scalp.

What Can I do about Shedding?

Because shedding is a natural, internal process, it may not respond to topical, external treatments. Some have had success using garlic shampoos or “garlic scalp rubs” for reducing shedding, but there’s no clear consensus on the effectiveness of garlic as a remedy for shedding. It’s really hit or miss. Shedding is also not easily solved by protein or moisture treatments because it really has nothing to do with the hair shaft itself. Hair shedding 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 lasts 4-6 years, it sheds and starts the growth cycle all over again. This cannot be prevented.

What is Breakage?

Broken hairs, unlike shed hairs, do not naturally fall from the scalp.  Broken hairs are usually a sign of mishandling or abuse.  Before hair ultimately breaks, the hair usually becomes discolored and experiences cuticle loss.  Later, the hair fibers begin to split and lead to breakage.

Hair can be damaged by anything from rough handling and sun exposure to color and straightening chemicals.  As the hair gets older, breakage becomes more common.  These older hairs (typically the hairs nearest to the ends) have the greatest tendency to break due to normal wear.  Lack of moisture in the hair strands is another common cause of hear breakage.  Breaking hair should be resolved immediately  (trimming the broken ends) in order to prevent further damage to the hair.

How to Handle Breakage

Though hair is a strong fiber, it is also very delicate.  Unfortunately, it is impossible to prevent every single strand of hair from ever breaking.  Having a few strands of hair to break is no cause for concern.  However, when you begin to notice a large amount of breakage, that it when it is time to take control.  Usually, broken hair must be trimmed so that it can grow back healthy.

To prevent and minimize breakage, be as gentle as possible when handling and working with your tresses.  Try to think of your hair as the rarest, most expensive fine silk head covering. Only handle it with clean, smooth, well manicured hands. No hang nails, or rough dry callouses! Gently maneuver your way through tough tangles and keep your hair soft and moisturized daily. Tie your hair up at night to protect your strands from your nighttime tossing and turning.


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