As I mentioned yesterday on my review of the Dabur Vatika Hair Fall Control Styling Cream, I’ve been concerned with my shedding for a while now. It all started last year when I was adding amla to my henna in a bid to prevent curl loosening. I used it for approximately 4 months with weekly, then bi-weekly, and eventually monthly henna sessions. Each time I used it and kept it in for a prolonged time (with heat or overnight), I experienced a lot of itching, especially at my nape and a little redness and swelling around my temples. But, I kept using it. Then, in June 2010, I ran out to buy this cute headband from Target (another CurlyNikki induced “PJ” fiend). I put my hair up in a bun and started taking pics. I’d never taken pics of my hair until last year when I began to use henna (we’ll come back to that later). Reviewing the pics, I was loving my bun.
That is, until I got to the picture of the back of my head. What I saw in the pic made my jaw drop. “What is THAT?!?!”
I removed the headband and took another picture to confirm what I was seeing.
“WHAT THE FAH LA LA IS GOING ON HERE?!?!? Okay, breathe … BREATHE! Your hair has always been baby fine at the nape and not as dense. Maybe henna is thickening the individual strands, but it’s also making them dang near straight. Your hair isn’t as dense there nor as curly now, so just stop using henna on your nape hair.” And that’s what I did. But, I kept using amla. Then, in July, I wore the Senegalese Twists style about which I previously posted. I hadn’t washed or detangled my hair in two weeks, so I explained away this massive hair ball with that.
This ball is like post-partum shedding size ya’ll … and I ain’t had no babies=/. But … I kept using amla. I wanted to keep my curls! I also suspected that hormonal shifts due to my “advancing years” might be contributing to what I suspected was thinning hair. I constantly tried to find older pictures of my hair to determine if it was thicker in my late 20s/early 30s, because I swore it was. But, I’d never taken too many pictures, and especially none of my hair. That is, I didn’t take any until I started using henna and read CurlyNikki’s suggestion to chronicle your hair through photographs. So, back to my earlier comment, as I didn’t pay that much attention to my hair before (especially the back), I wasn’t sure if my hair was always that sparce at the nape! But, I knew I’d done damage with microbraids a couple of times over the years and suspected that it was thinner than it had ever been.
Then, I did the dumbest thing ever. I applied amla as a facial. Yup. After 30 minutes, I washed the mask away and watched my face turn pink, swell and a bumpy rash emerge. I finally had to face the truth. I might want to like amla, but amla didn’t like me. In my defense, I kept googling for information on allergic reactions to amla, but came up with mostly nada. I found only one comment on a forum where someone described a similar reaction from amla as a facial. So, I then contacted Catherine at Mehandi.com and she advised that amla is a strong astringent and if one doesn’t have oily skin, it might be over-drying and cause the afore-mentioned reaction. Around this time I had also started reading about how an irritated scalp can result in hair loss. *SMH* Lesson learned. Words of advice ladies: Listen to your scalp, your hair and exercise common sense!!
Anywho, at the beginning of the year, I saw a post on HerBestHair regarding black tea rinses. I started doing some internet research and what I read sounded promising. The caffeine in black tea blocks DHT, the hormone responsible for hair loss. So, I tried to find tutorials on brewing a rinse, but didn’t find any that really provided a formula/ratio except that the tea bags were left to brew for several hours to maximize the caffeine. I didn’t feel like leaving the brew overnight, so I brewed 8 or 9 black tea bags in approximately 2 cups of distilled water. Hey, the more caffeine, the better. Right?! I used these rinses every couple of weeks from January-March, but didn’t notice any appreciable reduction in shedding. I didn’t notice an increase either and boy was I grateful for that when I read this post on CurlyNikki.com in May. The article indicated that too much caffeine can actually cause more shedding!! I realized that I might have been doing more harm than good if I had continued with the black tea rinses at the strength I was brewing. Fortunately, I had given up on them as I didn’t see results and the process just added steps to my regimen and time that could be used elsewhere.
Then, about a month ago, I was in search of information on breakage v. new hair for a fellow GOC bogger. I came across a little blurb (that I can no longer find=/) that indicated conditioner on the scalp may result in excessive shedding because it softens the roots. I had a “whaaaaaa?!?!!” moment. I’d been a regular co-washer for years and with much success! But, I decided to do a little more googling and found a thread on longhairforums commenting on lots of shedding during conditioning (although different people seem to experience the most shedding at different times). I started pre-pooing and dry detangling due to the fact that wet hair is more fragile than dry. When I dry detangle, I shed, but I was losing so much more hair when I finger detangled after applying conditioner in the shower. I also have fine hair and small roots (it’s very difficult for me to see the white bulb on the end of shed hairs … I tend to feel the end of the strand to confirm the shed). Therefore, the “softening” of the hair at the scalp, due to conditioner, definitely seemed plausible to me.
So, during my subsequent wash days over the last month, I’ve been careful to avoid putting conditioner directly on my scalp. I apply it to my length and shampoo my scalp. I used to only shampoo once a month and would just rinse my scalp with water, but with exercising and sweating heavily, I feel I need to shampoo weekly (w/an SLS free poo). Well, this is the shed hair from my first two sessions avoiding conditioner on my scalp. The shed hair on the left is from the first time I employed this technique and the hair on the left is from the second time, a week later.
Think I may be on to something here ladies!!! So, if you like to co-wash, but lose a lot of hair during the conditioner/detangling process, you might want to see what happens when you keep the conditioner away from your scalp. Although taking photos of your hair or keeping it an a baggie may seem “obsessive” to some;-), the ability to actually compare your shed hair (and/or breakage) can be helpful in “diagnosing” whether it is consistent, increasing and/or decreasing with changes in your regimen and techniques. Again though, always remember to listen to YOUR hair and do what works best for YOU. These are just insights into my own hair that I think might be interesting and/or helpful to others. If black tea rinses are working for you or solely co-washing is, go for yours! As I said above, listen to your hair, your scalp and exercise your common sense in your routine=)!