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Seven Reasons For Excessive Shedding or Breakage

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Hair sheds naturally each day. This occurs when a hair strand has reached the end of its growth cycle and falls out, making room for the new strand.  On average a person sheds up to 100 hair strands a day. Naturally shed hair usually has a white tip at top and will be near to full length. However, at times you may experience more shedding than usual for a number of different reasons. As you know your hair better than anyone, you can monitor the shedding of your hair and spot when it becomes excessive. Shed hair is usually evident after detangling, combing, or styling. At times the shedding may increase to an uncomfortable level. Seven reasons why excessive shedding may occur are as follows:

 

Protective styling

The benefits of protective styling are evident. However there is a way to do it safely to minimize damage to the hair. Weaves, braids and wigs should not be too tight and it is better to have a break in between protective styles so your hair is not constantly subject to tension. Excessive protective styling, done poorly can lead to traction alopecia,  Traction alopecia is more prevalent in black women than any other group. After taking out a protective style, you may find that you have a lot of shed hair. This is perfectly normal as shed hair is built up for as long as the style is kept in. Monitor the amount of shed hair that accumulates each time you take out a protective style. If this amount increases dramatically after a particular style, damage may have been caused.

Deep conditioning for too long

Deep conditioning is a vital part of our hair care regimen. However there seems to be a growing idea that the longer it is left in, the better. Some women choose to leave their deep conditioner in overnight. This is considered unnecessary by some  hair care experts. It is important to note that hair is more fragile when saturated in deep conditioner that is water based. While sleeping, a person is likely to move around a lot, turning their head numerous times. This may cause a lot of rubbing and hair strands may be tugged and pulled in the process, which may result in broken or weakened strands.  This may cause them to shed before their time or break off easily when styling the next day.

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Product ingredients

Glycerin is a humectant that absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. It is a great ingredient to create long lasting moisture for the hair. I like to use ‘glycerin heavy’ products when  putting my hair in a protective style, so the moisture can last a few days without having to reapply frequently. However sometimes I find that my hair becomes more fragile after this and this can result in excessive shedding.  After washing my hair and simply using water for moisture, along with oil for sealing, I experience much less shedding. Glycerin can weigh the hair down and keep feeling damp for longer periods of time, this may weaken the strands. The amount of glycerin used should be limited, as a little goes a long way. If too much is used, it may be better to wash your hair sooner, so it doesn’t  build up and become detrimental to the strength of your hair.

Protein/moisture balance

Too much emphasis on moisture may result in weaker hair strands, as the hair needs protein to rebuild and reinforce itself. However constantly using products that contain protein may cause excessive dryness. Hair that is too dry also becomes brittle. So the protein moisture balance is important for healthy hair. Substitute every forth deep conditioner for a protein treatment and avoid using products that are protein heavy unless necessary.  Alternatively, simply examine your hair regularly and decide if it is in need of protein at that time, instead of your usual deep conditioner.

Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when the body starts to lose more fluids than it takes in. Hair is one quarter water and water carries vital vitamins to the hair root. It hydrates the entire strand from the inside. Water is also the main source of energy for hair cells, including the ones that promote growth. It also clears the body of pollutants, which cause hair loss. Suffering from dehydration causes a shortage of a water supply to the hair. Water is then rationed to vital parts of the body, such as the brain and heart. This leads to excessive shedding and the roots will not be stimulated enough for new hair growth. So drinking plenty of water is crucial to the health of your hair. It is recommended that we drink six to eight glasses of water a day.

Medication

Hair loss may be a side effect of certain medications, so check the labels of your prescriptions. Some particular medications that may cause excessive shedding include blood thinners, antidepressants, and birth control pills. For birth control pills, the American Hair Loss Association recommends that all women interested in using oral contraceptives should only use low-androgen index birth control pills. If there is a strong predisposition for genetic hair loss in your family, they recommend the use of non-hormonal forms of birth control. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your medication.

Stress

There are different types of stress.  Telogen effluvium causes a large number of hair follicles to go into the resting phase of the hair growth cycle. The affected hair might fall out suddenly within a few months when simply combing or washing. Trichotillomania is when a person feels a sudden urge to pull their hair from the scalp to cope with  stress and anxiety.  Lastly, alopecia areata is one of the more serious forms of hair loss. This is a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing hair loss. This can also be caused by stress. This can be reversed with better stress management techniques, exercise and reducing your caffeine intake may help for instance.

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Leyla of FushionofCultures has spoken about dealing with Trichotillomania

Dieting or poor nutrition

Crash dieting or failing to maintain a healthy diet, may have a negative effect on your hair. The hair is the last part of the body to receive nutrients, as major organs are prioritized. Hair needs the right vitamins and nutrients to be healthy. Two vitamin deficiencies that can particularly cause excessive shedding, or breakage, are vitamin A and iron.

Have you experienced excessive shedding or hair loss? If so, what  was the reason?

 

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Top tips for going natural

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Going natural may not be a huge declaration or momentous occasion for some.  Perhaps you have taken your hair out of braids and want to delay using chemicals for a while. You may never look back.  Some may have experienced breakage due to relaxers and believe going chemical free is best.  Whatever your reasons for going natural, here are some tips to get you started on the right track.

1. Big chop boldly

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Decide whether you want to big chop or transition. The big chop is simply cutting all of the relaxed hair, right up to the new growth. For this, you must be willing to have short hair; a TWA (teeny weenie afro) or shorter.  You may have seen videos on YouTube of women drastically shaving their heads to big chop.  You do not have to do this.  The Amber Rose look isn’t for everyone! You can choose to wait until there is a sufficient amount of new growth to showcase a TWA. If you are only going to be comfortable with hair long enough to put back in a ponytail, perhaps transitioning is more suitable.

I have a round face, so I was hesitant about having short hair.  I never thought very short hair could look good with my face shape.  However, I found that afro textured hair framed my face well, better than a short straight cut would have.  I certainly didn’t’ shave my head, I wore braid outs with my relaxed hair to blend in the little new growth, until it grew out adequately.  For me personally, I knew playing around with two textures was not going to work.  So I big chopped soon after giving up the chemicals.

2. Transition with care

Transitioning is holding off on cutting the relaxed hair and growing your natural hair out gradually. This is done until you are happy with the length. For this, you have to be willing to care for two different hair textures at the same time.  If you decide to transition, you may want to wear braids, weaves or wigs in the meantime.  Be careful that these styles are not installed too tightly because your edges may thin or you may experience breakage in other areas.  This would be a terrible set back so soon into your journey.

When transitioning, avoid falling into the trap of using heat on your new growth, to blend the two textures.  A small amount of sweat on the scalp will cause your new growth to revert back to its natural state.  You may find yourself using heat daily as a result.  When it is time to big chop, you may be left with heat damaged hair.

For transitioning, start doing braid-outs and twist-outs to get the feel of curly or kinky textured hair, and to get out of the mindset of straight hair.  Check out styling tutorials on YouTube, such as FusionofCultures who transitioned for two years.  Roller sets, two strand twists, bantu knot-outs and flexi-rods can be used for styling your transitioning hair.

 3. Keep it simple with products

Keep your approach to products simple at this stage.  Perhaps it would be best to continue to use the products you are already familiar with, unless you found that they were damaging to your hair. Focus on getting familiar with styling and caring for your hair. It is your skills that make the difference, not the products. While styling and maintaining your hair, start to research natural shampoos and conditioners and the ingredients you should avoid.  Know the reasons why they should be avoided.  Educating yourself about ingredients will ensure you choose the best products for your hair.

Don’t fall for marketing ploys. Products that claim to give you a certain curl pattern or accelerated growth for instance, or products that claim to be natural but aren’t.  I see too many naturals become super focused on product brands, expecting a product to ‘fix’ their hair, while failing to learn good hair care practices.  Most of these products do not do anything that water, natural oils and butters don’t do, unless they contain chemicals or unnatural ingredients.

You may not be too concerned about using products that are 100% natural, do what is best for you. As long as you have the sufficient knowledge, you can make an informed decision. The most important thing you can do for your hair is learn how to take care of it: how to comb it correctly, how to finger detangle, how to deal with shrinkage, when to use protein treatments, when to trim, to name a few. You don’t need to invest your time trying every product on the market and over spending as a result.  The reason we used relaxers was for them to ‘fix our hair’, do not have the same attitude towards products.

 4. Keep the use of heat to a minimum when dealing with shrinkage

Shrinkage is one of the main challenges for any new natural who has passed the TWA stage. Remember that shrinkage is a good thing; it shows you that your hair is healthy and simply reverting back to its natural curl pattern when wet. However, if you have very kinky hair, it may be best to keep it stretched out as much as possible, especially for styling. Check out my posts on this and practice techniques that ensure you do not have to rely on blow dryers and flat irons. Frequent use of heat can create dryness, breakage and heat damage. Heat damage is when your hair doesn’t revert back to its natural curl pattern and you are left with straight strands, in some sections. If you develop good habits in the early stages of your hair journey, you will continue this good practice for years to come. Unfortunately, bad habits are hard to break.  Besides, the longer your hair gets, the less problematic shrinkage becomes. If you invest in good hair care practices now, you will reap the benefits later.

5. Go natural for you, not for others

Personally, I couldn’t care less what men on YouTube say about women with natural hair, whether positive or negative.  I choose not to pay attention to general opinions about natural hair. Whether men, other women, people of other races or even employers like natural hair; I had to decide to embrace my natural hair regardless.  Anyone who says they don’t like natural Afro textured hair, I put in the same category as those who say they don’t like dark skin; ignorant and not worth arguing or wasting my time with. Positive attitudes are great and welcomed, but these can change like the wind. So be secure with your natural beauty, such security must come from within and not be based on the opinions of others or on trends.

What advice would you give to anyone who is considering going natural?