Excessive Shedding: Could Co-Washing Be the Culprit?


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.

(Why do we all roll our hair into a hair ball? lol;)

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=)!

Lata Gatas!




21 responses »

    • You’re lucky then. I shed like crazy=(. If I didn’t know better from reading the shedding complaints of others, I’d be traumatized by you saying that you don’t see a lot of hair now! *LOL!*


  1. I’ve been anxiously awaiting this article. I started to experience loads of shedding after the birth of my son in 2010 and I knew that was normal but it’s STILL happening a year and a half later. It drives me crazy. I tried black tea rinses and saw no difference so I gave it up as well. I did notice that my conditioner bottle instructs users to apply the conditioner to the bottom half of the strands. I thought that it was just because that is the part of the hair that needs the most attention. But maybe they know something we don’t know! I will give this a try and if I see a difference, I will offer up some feedback. Thanks for this post!


    • HI Valencia! I’d definitely be interested in knowing either way! I apply the conditioner to as much of my hair as I can without getting it on my scalp. Conditioners tend to tell you to keep it away from roots for races whose scalps produce a lot of oil so as not to weigh the hair down at the roots, where you want volume. So, I think their reason for indicating that and this are different. But definitely let me know how it goes!!


  2. lol obsessive yes! I’m cowashing with absolutely no shedding at all. However, maybe it’s just the amla that is causing you residual pain?

    With the henna, you know what I’m experiencing? Curl relaxation after the treatment but then when I cowash, the curl comes right back. But then again my hair isnt’ really curly. It’s S-ishy so maybe there’s no loosening at all? all in my head? probably 🙂


    • I never had a problem with co-washing before either, as far as I noticed. However, I was pulling out wads of hair lately and it was freaking me out. Since I’m washing with shampoo anyway, it’s not a big problem or change for me to just avoid my scalp. Again though, I’ve always been a heavy shedder. I’m always jealous of those who seem to lose very little hair! *lol*


  3. Pingback: Got Skills?: Henna Questions and Shedding « hairscapades

  4. Pingback: Co-washing and thinning hair? - CurlTalk

  5. very nice, and interesting article. I appreciate it very much. I have a question: Do you still detangle in the shower, with conditioner, but only on the length? Or are you continuing to do dry detangles and no finger-combing at all in the shower? I have thought it should be ok to detangle in the shower, but no conditioner on the scalp, because then there’s nothing to make those roots softer, just wanted to know.


    • Hi Anon. Yes, I still detangle in the shower. I dry detangle/de-shed when I pre-poo, but once I’m in the shower and after I shampoo, I finger detangle with lots of conditioner and under the shower stream. I don’t necessarily work hard to avoid my scalp, but I also don’t apply conditioner directly to my scalp. So yes, I think detangling in the shower is fine.


  6. Pingback: bad news - cowashing is thinning my hair! - Page 2 - CurlTalk

  7. Pingback: Massage causing hair loss? - CurlTalk

  8. Pingback: Cowashers BEWARE - cowashing has thinned my hair - CurlTalk

  9. Thanks for your post! I was thinking of trying co-washing but I guess I’m sticking with scalp-shampooing.
    And from what I’ve heard, conditioning the scalp actually clogs the hair follicles with excess oil, thus leading to hair fall 😮


  10. Hey there! Congratulations on your bundle of joy! I’m hoping you can shed some light or help me work through this. I am 5 months post-partum (pp) and breastfeeding. I started shedding hair around 3months pp. I’ve watch my thick beautiful locks vanish! My hair is thinning out drastically and more pronounced at the front hairline. I dread detangle or wash day. To see it coming out from the roots in clumps is so depressing. I’ve heard this is normal post baby but I’m not quite sure. Wondering if it has anything to do with breastfeeding as well.

    Have you had any issues as of yet? Any suggestions?



    • Thank you and congrats to you too!!! The shedding is very normal. But, from what I understand, breastfeeding typically reduces/delays it because the pregnancy hormone levels remain elevated for longer than non-BFing mothers. I haven’t quite hit 3 months yet, which is about when hormone levels return to normal/pre-pregnancy levels. So haven’t started shedding. But am certain it will happen. From what I’ve seen, most regain the lost hair, it’ll just take a little while. And edges seem to take the heaviest hit, but again, I’ve seen all my friends regain the hair. My plan is to keep my hair stretched because of the shedding causing such bad tangles. I’ll probably wear it straightened or super stretched a lot once the shedding starts and until it ends. Also, pre-pooing and lightly finger detangling before washing will be musts. HTH!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s