Natural Hair and Shedding- What is Normal?
Natural Hair and Shedding- What is Normal?
by Shelli of HairScapades
If you are one of those lucky souls who
barely seems to shed a hair during the week or on wash day, this post is
not for you. *lol* Seriously!! I’m sooooo jealous when I read
statements like, “My shedding is almost non-existent.” Or when I see a
YouTuber doing her hair and don’t see even one strand on her hands. I’ll
be squinting hard, nose to the screen, just hoping to see one or two to
make me feel better about the ball of hair that is inevitable any time I
detangle my hair, wet or dry. So, this is a shout-out to all my ladies
who see those dang shed hairs every step of their wash day and styling
process!! HOLLA!!! *lol*

Read On!>>>
Okay, let me stop being silly. I really do have a point. I know many of us are often concerned about
the amount of shed hair that we see, me included! And, we’ve probably
all heard that shedding 50-100 hairs a day is normal. And, we know that
most of the hairs we are seeing are shed and not broken, because we see
and/or feel the bulb on one end of the strand.
Natural Hair and Shedding- What is Normal?
But, despite all that, when we see those
strands falling free on days that we wear our hair down (HIH is often an
accomplice) and see that hair ball getting bigger on wash day as strands litter
the bathroom floor, shower walls and drain, it can be unnerving and
anxiety-inducing. Well, at least it can be for me!

And, when I become concerned about my hair, I
put on my research cap and try to understand what is happening.
Hopefully, what I’ve learned will be of benefit to others! So, here is a
little information about the three phases of the hair life cycle.

Natural Hair and Shedding- What is Normal?

Anagen Phase – Growth Phase
Approximately 85% of all hairs are in the growing phase at any one time.
The Anagen phase or growth phase can vary from two to six years. Hair
grows approximately 10cm per year and any individual hair is unlikely to
grow more than one meter long.

Catagen Phase – Transitional Phase
At the end of the Anagen phase the hairs enters into a Catagen phase
which lasts about one or two weeks, during the Catagen phase the hair
follicle shrinks to about 1/6 of the normal length. The lower part is
destroyed and the dermal papilla breaks away to rest below.

Telogen Phase – Resting Phase
The resting phase follows the catagen phase and normally lasts about 5-6
weeks. During this time the hair does not grow but stays attached to
the follicle while the dermal papilla stays in a resting phase below.
Approximately 10-15 percent of all hairs are in this phase at an one
time.

Now, I’ll issue a couple of disclaimers
here. First, all sources don’t agree on the length of time of the
Telogen Phase. I’ve found other sites that indicate that it can last as
long as 3-4 months. However, the point is that this phase lasts a
significant amount of time. In fact, one of my hennaed grey shed hairs
is what prompted me to find information on how long the Catagen and
Telogen phases last. I had a hair that was red to the tip and I hadn’t
hennaed in two months. So, if that hair had been growing, I would have
expected to see an inch of grey at the roots. But I didn’t. Now I know
why.
Natural Hair and Shedding- What is Normal?
The second disclaimer is in relation to the
Anagen phase. The sources can’t seem to agree on how long this lasts
either. Some indicate 2-6 years, whereas others indicate 3-5. However,
what is even more interesting to note is that the studies that
determined this were extremely limited.

[W]hat many people do not know is that the widely quoted
scientific figure is in fact based on 2-3 small scale studies which
account for as few as 2 individuals. There are in fact no studies which
actually track a reasonable group of individuals over a period of years
to firmly determine how long the hair growth cycle actually is.
Furthermore there is evidence that this 2-6 year widely accepted
length could be considerably wrong. One interesting study which measured
hair length of visitors to US theme parks and hair lengths recorded
online on long hair sites, came to the conclusion that the average
normal length of the anagen phase could be as long as 12 to 14 years.

Interesting, right?!? Anywho, all this being
said, there are a few things to consider when attempting to determine
if the amount of hair you are shedding is normal for you.
  1. How dense is your hair? The more strands of hair
    that you have on your head, the more hair that you can expect to shed
    given that 10-15% of your hair is in the telogen phase at any given
    time. I even notice that the denser left side of my head sheds more than
    the right side. (Check out this article on CurlyNikk.com if you’re not certain how to determine your hair density.)
  2. How long is your hair? As your hair gets longer, it
    can create the “optical illusion” that your shedding is increasing. But
    remember, the same number of hairs that you shed when your hair is
    shorter will appear like more hair the longer that your hair gets. Ten
    waist length hairs are going to look like a lot more hair than ten TWA hairs. 
  3. Is the volume of your shedding consistent? If
    you’re like me, you never paid too much attention to your shedding until
    you started a “healthy hair journey.” You have only a vague
    recollection of how much your hair shed as it didn’t really concern you.
    Then, you discovered natural hair online. Goodness. LOL!! But, even if
    you don’t know what your hair shed looked like previously, evaluating it
    at consistent intervals can allow you to determine whether it’s
    increasing, decreasing or remaining constant. Some ladies go as far as
    counting their shed hairs and/or placing them in a baggie to compare
    from week to week. That would drive me crazy. So, I just look at the
    size of my hair ball and try to make certain it looks relatively the
    same from week to week on wash day.
  4. Are internal or external factors affecting your shedding rate? As
    many know, pregnancy hormones can cause the hair to “stick” in the
    anagen phase, resulting in longer, fuller, thicker hair. A few months
    after having a baby, all the hair that got “stuck” in the growing phase
    during pregnancy gets “unstuck” and shedding can decrease dramatically,
    resulting in bald spots. Hormonal changes due to the aging process can
    also cause an increase in shedding. Stress can cause excessive shedding
    as can nutritional deficiencies. Finally, a product that “disagrees”
    with your scalp and causes irritation can cause shedding above normal
    rates (e.g. Amla caused me to have a horrible bout of shedding for
    months).
So, all that being said, although I hate
seeing that dang ball of hair every wash day, I know that what I’m
seeing currently is normal for me. I try not to compare my hair
shed to that of others as it would drive me crazy. When I see the
amount of shed hair increasing, I try to make the appropriate
adjustments. Hence, when my hair was coming out like crazy after using
amla for a few months, I stopped using amla. (I also tried black tea
rinses, but that didn’t really do much for me.) When my hair was
shedding/breaking excessively last fall, I discovered that I was
over-conditioned and introduced protein into my regimen and the hair
fall decreased dramatically.
Now, I definitely don’t have all of the
answers. And, if you think that the amount of hair that you are shedding
is increasing or abnormal, you should consult with a medical professional.
But, I just wanted to share what I have learned in hopes that it will
help others understand and analyze their own hair  in order to diagnose
what is normal and find solutions for what isn’t. Hope that it worked!
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How do you know if your shedding
is normal or abnormal? 
What techniques and/or products have you found to
be effective in controlling excessive shedding?