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July 20, 2011

Breakage or New Hairs?- Natural Hair Tips

by Shelli of Hairscapades

While surfing the GOC blogs, I would often find naturals who were concerned that they were experiencing breakage because they were finding short hairs. Their posts were filled with consternation because they were practicing healthy hair habits and couldn’t understand why they were experiencing breakage. So, this made me want to write a post for those who suspect breakage when they are doing everything “right.” Guess what? Those short hairs may be new growth!!

via hairfinder-
Q: How can I tell if the short hair I see is new growing hair or broken hair?

A: This can often be very difficult to determine, especially if the “short hairs” are in areas where breakage can occur (around the hairline, etc.). Your first task would be to examine the hair closely and look for signs of stress on the hairs – such as split ends, stretching, etc. If there are signs of stress or damage, then breakage is the likely cause. This can be doubly certain in cases where breakage would be expected. For example: an individual wears his/her hair in, say, a tight ponytail and begins to notice short hairs at the forehead and temples.

Breakage becomes less likely when the short hairs are found in places on the scalp that aren’t exposed to significant stress from the styles worn. For example if you generally wear your hair loose and parted in the middle, but notice hairs that “poke up” between the other hairs on the scalp that are NOT along the parting, there is a reasonable chance that the hair is simply “new growth” in follicles that have recently shed their hairs.

This new growth of hair will not be found in great numbers. Since only 10% of the hairs on average are in a resting phase at any given time (the rest being in a growth phase) and the hairs are shed following the resting phase as the new hair pushes the old hair out of the follicle, you would generally only see 10% of the hairs on your head as these short, newly-grown hairs.
In addition to the above, a few things one should think about when trying to diagnose breakage are:
  • Are the ends of the short hairs tapered or blunt? Tapered hairs tend to be new growth whereas blunt and split hairs or hairs with white ends are indicative of breakage.
  • Does the majority of the hair on your sink or in your comb/brush, have “roots” (white bulbs) attached or are many/most strands rootless? Strands with white bulbs are shed hair and not breakage.
  • Do you hear *snap, crackle, pop* when combing or manipulating your hair? If you do, it’s probably breakage and the best thing to do is handle your hair more gently and ensure that it is well lubricated/saturated (with a pre-poo or conditioner – some prefer wet hair and others on dry) before attempting to detangle slowly from ends to roots. I prefer to finger detangle first as I’m able to feel the bad knots and tangles in order to gently ease them out, rather than ripping through them with a comb/brush.
  • Do you have a lot of split ends and/or SSKs? Both of these can cause breakage as the splits and knots can/will snag on adjacent hairs and cause additional damage. I’m a fan of the S&D method to keep knots and splits to a minimum.
  • Do you use heat often and/or forgo heat protection? Do you re-apply heat to “dirty” hair? Try reducing or eliminating direct heat. Opt for roller sets and silk wraps rather than a flat iron if you want straight hair and always use a heat protectant. Keep the passes over your hair to a minimum (1 0r 2) if you must use a flat iron or curling iron. Only “press” freshly clean and 100% dry hair.
  • Do you use hair tools with metal parts or materials that can snag or tear? Do you protect your hair at night? Opt for barrettes, clips and hair elastics without metal parts, such as Goody Comfort Flex Barrettes, Ouchless ponytail holders, banana clips and satin scrunchies. Sleep on a satin pillowcase and/or wear a satin scarf or bonnet.
  • Is your hair well moisturized or is it often dry and brittle to the touch? If so, are you moisturizing with a water based styler or leave-in and sealing with an oil or butter? Have you tried weekly deep conditioning treatments with a moisturizing DC? (There is an ongoing debate on the hair boards about the effectiveness of DCs and DCs with heat, but I am a believer. I believe the only way for you to know if they will make a difference for you is to give them a try.) Are you overdoing protein DCs and/or not using a moisturizing DC as a “protein chaser?
  • How do you style your hair? Too much tension on the hair, especially fine and fragile curly hair, can cause damage. I personally opt for low manipulation and protective styles that I can wear for 2-5 days. I’ve also grown MBL hair with WnGs, so it is possible. However, everyone’s hair responds differently and to different things. The key is finding what works the best for you.
That being said, in 2010 I experienced two things. One, I had breakage along my center part in the Winter of 2010, which I suspect was caused by using a protein-based gel (my hair and protein don’t get along well). In addition, my hair began shedding like crazy and I think that was caused by using amla in my henna, which my scalp did not like. I stopped using that protein gel last Spring and it appears that I have finally resolved my excessive shedding problem by discontinuing use of amla and avoiding getting conditioner on my scalp. As I don’t see a lot of breakage, rarely hear a *snap, crackle and/or pop* and it appears that the end of my short hairs are tapered, I believe my hair is in the recovery phase where the hairs that broke and shed are regrowing. Although I’m certain the short hairs represent more than 10% of my hair, knowing that I’m taking care of my hair as well as I can and am employing a well-founded regimen and techniques, I don’t worry about it. If you think that you are experiencing mechanical damage, then take a closer look at your regimen and/or techniques. However, if your regimen and techniques are on point, breathe a sigh of relief because those shorts hairs are most likely new growth and the result of your healthy hair efforts!!


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CurlyNikki says;

I've experienced a halo of new hairs twice in my life. The first time, it scared the hell out of me... a little pee came out.

I had been a faithful henna'er for maybe a year, and I noticed all these 2-4 inch long hairs at my crown and along my edges. After some research and investigating what were tapered ends, I concluded that it was new growth. The henna had strengthened my hair so much that it was allowing hairs that were maybe to weak to grow before, hairs that may have otherwise broken off, to flourish! My hair thickened considerably over the next year. Win!

The second time is occuring now. I had a HUGE shed 6 months post G Boog. I now have a million 1-2 inch long hairs coming in all over. It gives a frizzy effect that I'm not very fond of but I know that it means in the coming year, my hair will be thickening back up!

12 Chime in!:

bluej said...

thanks for this post. i recently experienced an abundance of shedding and concluded that it was a result of the amla i added to my henna. i've since removed amla from my henna treatments and will be on the look out for short hairs that may actually be new growth versus hair breakage.

Sue said...

This post is very insightful. Thank you!

Shake said...

omg!!!!! thank you for this post!!! i have been experiencing the 'halo' for some months now and it's been scaring me so badly!!! i've been extra gentle since i've noticed it getting worse (well "better" is the more appropriate term now i know lol). now that i've read this i'm pretty sure it's just new growth but i'm not sure how i feel about that. i have ENOUGH hair as is. lol. but i'll consider it a blessing from the hair gods anyway. phew that's a weight off my shoulders! ok, what's next?

Anonymous said...

Oh wow I did not know that about our hair. When ever I washed/ wash my hair & I see a lot of hair regardless if it was new hair or shedding or breakage; I Always told myself that its old hair so that I won't freak out. But now I'll inspect my hair & if I see a white bulb I'm good. But I don't get the diff between tapered & blunt; I think I need to see a visual. .......

S

Anonymous said...

This article came at the perfect time for me. I just started noticing a bunch of small hairs around the center of my head. I've been having a ton of shedding lately, then when i noticed the short hairs I was afraid there was breakage too. But now I know it's new growth (YAY for new growth!!!)

Kimmels said...

OMG this post is right on time for me. I washed my hair on Tuesday and let it air dry in braids. As I was taking the braids down to style I noticed a small patch of really short hairs near my crown/middle area. I was freaked out because I hadn't noticed any out of the ordinary shedding or breakage. I am so relieved to no it doesn't have to be a bad thing. :)

hairscapades said...

Yeaaaa!!!! So glad this was helpful. I mean, it's still important to look at all factors and examine your ends and the hair you lose to determine if you have breakage or just shedding. But, I felt that a lot of people might be freaking out about something that was actually good because they didn't know the difference or didn't even know about the possibility of new hairs sprouting. I know I didn't until I started researching it! So, glad to help some of you breathe a sigh of relief=).

Shelli

Anonymous said...

This post is soo timely. I have noticed these short hairs in odd places like the middle of my head where there is no stress from my styles and wondered what the..I am also struggling with rough ends, SSKs and spent a lot of time today researching treatments for split ends and even watched BrwnBarbie's video on how to treat SSKs :-)

I am reading your post as I sit with a treatment on my hair (sectioned into perhaps 10 plaits(-) with a treatment consisting of 1 tsp honey, 2 tbsp olive oil and a beaten egg yolk. The mixture has transformed my plaits into shiny smooth creatures, and I am waiting to shampoo it out with my castile soap + coconut oil shampoo. I plan to follow it up with an emulsion of boiling water and olive oil in equal parts under a baggie and towel left on overnight. Wish me luck and thank you for this post....I hate seeing the frizzies in the middle of the length of my hair and assumed that it meant I had split ends there... maybe it's new growth.

Jax

mmhaiti said...

I never thought I had thin edges - till they started growing back.
My baby hairs are out of control!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. Like other commenters I thought that I had severe breakage. I'll be sure to nurture these new hairs.

Anonymous said...

So grateful for this post. I swear I was just in the mirror wondering why these alfalfa sprout looking hairs were coming up between my plaits because I don't remember any reason that my hair should be breaking there. Lets hope its new growth! Anxious to try the henna. Is it ok to do while nursing?

Dawn Brame said...

This is happening to me right now. I'm hoping it's shed or weak hairs growing back and not just breakage. The short hairs wouldn't bother me if they weren't tangling my roots so bad. Detangling is a struggle because the shorts hair re-tangle very quickly. Ugh hopefully I can get them to grow out some more and I'll be pass this phase.

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