Shedding … Ughhh.

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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*

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.

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.

via Follicle.com

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.

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.

The Natural Haven via BlackGirlLongHair.com

[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. How are you styling your hair between wash sessions? If you wear your hair in protective styles that you aren’t manipulating between wash days, then you will see far more shed hair than someone who is styling their hair from day to day or wearing lose styles. This is because the hair that would normally fall is effectively “trapped” in the protective style. So, those 50-100 hairs that one would expect to shed each day all accumulate until you manipulate your hair again. That means that if you wash every 7 days, you could lose between 350-700 hairs on wash day! Woah, that’s a lot of hair! Buuut, it’s normal.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. Shedding can increase in the spring and fall due to seasonal changes in the environment. 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?

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13 responses »

  1. Love that you made this post this morning! I am definitely not one of those with no hair kn my hands on wash day! I put my hairstopper and the little metal mesh drain cover to WORK every wash day!

    Since I have started taking better care of my hair, I have noticed that there is a significant decrease in the amount of hair I am seeing on the floor of the bathroom (and On the wall, ceiling, and on the mirror(it really gets everywhere). I think the biggest change I made was dramatically decreasing the amount of heat (now, I rarely use heat) and moisturizing regularly.

    I must admit, I am usually one of the Luther’s to your site! I like seeing posts like this, that relate more with the problems I am learning to overcome.

    Thanks for keeping us informed!

    Angel

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  2. For my hair, I expect a decent amount of shed hair since I only do a complete wash/deep condition every two weeks (I wear mini twists for 2 weeks at a time) I do get shed hair especially as I style my hair for the day or when I take out the protective style at night. It’s not excessive (like a huge ball, just a few strands), but can be annoying. I want to try black tea rinses and see if that will minimize shedding on wash day. Thank you for this article.

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  3. You’re holding the hair in your hand…I couldn’t do it. My least favorite part of going natural is the shedding. Can’t stand the wet strands clinging to my hands, body parts, shower walls, and clogging up the drain (drano is my friend). I used to think there was something wrong with shedding as much as I do, because I’d watch a plenty youtube video and none of them have one shed hair. Not fair. However, I am more conscious of how much I shed and am working a protein/moisturizing combo to cut it down just a little. Wet hair…hibby jibbies

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  4. I have no clue if my shedding is normal or abnormal. I think it’s a little excessive since I always have some hair in my hand at every step of the wash and styling process. I have discovered if I wash/co-wash every 3 days then I have less shed hairs and breakage from when the shed hairs get tangled with the rest of the hair.

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  5. Dear Shelley – I saw this on CN.com today and wanted to get your opinion.

    I don’t have a lot of shedding (but read on). My hair grows quickly (currently wearing tapered TWA) but I don’t understand why my temple/edges have such a short life span! I henna and notice new growth (virgin white) hairs as well as henna’ed hairs with white roots. It’s the virgin white hairs that are freaking me out! o_O

    It is so maddening! I don’t know if the new growth is from damage, breakage, or a short anagen phase.
    Is edge hair is considered vellus or terminal hair? Does it have the same life span?\
    Thanks!

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    • Hi Truth.

      Okay, so my delay in responding is because you made me really put on my research cap again!! It was really hard for me to find info on the temple hair. Using “vellus” didn’t lead to the information I was seeking. I finally found my best lead when I googled something about hair between forehead and scalp or something like that. The best info I found was on sites related to hair implants! HA!!

      Seems the hair between the vellus hair on the forehead (which is that peach fuzz type hair) and the true scalp hair is a transition zone. I think this means that the hair has a shorter terminal length … meaning it has a very short growth phase and a long rest phase. I can’t say that totally for sure, but here is some of the info I found:

      “Most hairlines are transition zones between the bare forehead and the thick hair of the scalp. Some people have a wider transition zone than others. Some people have solitary hairs in front of the transition zone, while others have a tight frontal hairline. We are all different. When I create a hairline, I always build a wide transition zone between the forehead and the scalp hair behind it so that the point where the hairline starts does not come on strong.”

      This was from another hair restoration site:

      The Transition Zone

      If one carefully observes a frontal hairline, one does not see a “line,” but a soft feathery zone produced by a gradation of follicular units of increasing size and density.

      In women, a “vellus blush” produced by finer hair, is often noted at the frontal hairline. In men, the aesthetic contribution of these vellus hairs is much less significant, if they are present at all. It has been the practice of some transplant surgeons, using more traditional techniques, to harvest donor hair at the nape of the neck in order to capture some of the fine hair that grows in this area. We advise against this practice because the incidence of unacceptable scarring is quite high in this region and the hair in this location may not be permanent. The use of single hair follicular units can generally produce completely natural results, especially in men, where, in contrast to women, thick terminal hairs are commonly seen along the frontal hairline of the mature individual.

      Now, the thing is, I don’t know how wide this zone of finer/shorter hair is at your temples. But, given that a transition zone can have various widths and is specific to the individual, it may be your natural hairline. If it seems like it’s thinning and the hair in parts is the thickness of your other scalp hair, then you make have breakage. But, I suspect it may just be the baby hair in your transition zone. I think that hair is terminal hair as vellus really seems to apply to the peach fuzz hair. I think this hair is terminal hair and not vellus hair. It’s fine and has a short growth phase, but it’s not as fine or as short as vellus hair and has a very short terminal length in comparison to terminal scalp hair.

      HTH!!

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  6. Thank you Shelley – this confirmed my fears – my temple hair likely has a shorter growth phase. It appears I have a “wide transition zone” since it’s not “peach fuzz”. I guess using JBCO couldn’t hurt!

    I’m gonna stop “lurking” because you put a lot of hard work into your blog! Thanks so much for your answer!
    Thetruthisoutthere

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  7. Pingback: How Much Do You Know? ANSWERS! « hairscapades

  8. Hi Shelly

    Thank you so much for the information. I have fine hair that looks similar to yours and I have a lot of shedding. Can adding eggs to your home made DC suffice as a protein treatment in aiding with shedding?

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    • Hi Cathy!! You are very welcom. As to eggs helping with shedding, I’m not certain. The protein in eggs is not small enough to penetrate the strand and fill “gaps” in the cuticle the way that hydrolized protein does. But, I don’t know what helps with the shedding. So, I say try it and see if you notice a difference. One thing, don’t use heat when adding eggs to conditioner. You’ll end up with hard-boiled eggs stuck in your hair;).

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  9. Pingback: Quick Henna Gloss with Hairscapdes Goat Milk Conditioner | Just Curly Me

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