Monday, October 25, 2010

Reader Question: How Do I Get Shedding Under Control? How Much Shedding Is Normal?

"Hi Nik! For the past few weeks my shedding has been out of control. I'm so afraid I am going to lose all of my hair, I was thinking about relaxing again. Is this normal? PLEASE help!"
Determine if your hair is shedding or breaking off: Simply put, hair that is shedding usually has a white bulb attached to the beginning of the strand. Hair that has fallen due to breakage is usually shorter without a bulb.

Next step is to determine if the shedding is normal or abnormal: First lets get a basic idea of the growth cycle. Hair goes through several cycles throughout it's stint on your scalp; the first cycle is the anagen phase. The anagen phase is when the hair is actively growing, this typically lasts about 2-3 years [although this is just a rough estimate; the final number of years is genetically pre-determined]. The second cycle is what is known as the catagen phase. This is the phase that signifies the end of the anagen cycle and stops hair growth [typically lasts about 2-3 weeks]. The third and final phase is the telogen phase. This phase is what is known as the resting phase of your hair follicles [typically lasts 3 months]. Healthy hair should shed during the telogen phase at about 50-100 hairs per day.

Abnormal Signs of Shedding:
It is normal to loose from 50-100 shed hairs daily, however your hair should always grow back in it's normal density. If you notice any of the following patterns, this may be a sign of abnormal hair loss:
  • You are noticing small/large bald spots
  • You are noticing significant thinning
  • Hair is growing in thinner and malnourished
Chronic shedding can also be the unfortunate result of a relaxer: 
A relaxer that is improperly applied, or left on the hair for too long can cause chemical burns. One of the many side effects of chemical burns is a weakened hair shaft. It is at this time that you may experience chronic shedding and possibly irreversible hair loss.

>> Also keep in mind that the less you shampoo or comb your hair throughout the week, the more hair fall you will notice. It isn't because the hair is shedding more than usual, it is because most of the shedding tends to fall when you are styling, combing/brushing or shampooing.

Not sure if you are experiencing abnormal shedding?
Wash, detangle and dry your hair. Grab about 20-25 strands of hair holding on securely with your thumb and middle finger. Gently tug on that section of hair taking note of the number of shed hairs. Repeat test over several different areas of your hair. Normal shedding should be about 1-2 hairs per section [as 10% of your hair is in the shedding phase], and abnormal shedding would be about 5 plus hairs per section [based on the theory that hair sheds at a rate of 50-100 hairs daily].

Do you have abnormal shedding? It can occur for numerous reasons such as:
Seasonal Shedding [I typically notice more shedding during the winter months]
Starting or stopping birth control
Recent immunization 
Postpartum shedding
Thyroid issues
Major surgery
Nutrient/Vitamin deficiency
Low protein intake 
Medication Side effects
Sudden change in diet
Crash diets 
Chronic illness [Lupus, Sickle Cell, Cancer

If you experience prolonged shedding, or your symptoms worsen or persist after three months [remember the telogen last for about 3 months] it may be necessary to consult a physician to diagnose possible underlying health issues.

Natural Remedies For Excessive Shedding:
Create an essential oil blend: Some essential oils contain healing cell regeneration properties that helps penetrate the cortex to repair damaged follicles and extend the anagen phase [growth cycle]. Essential oils can also stimulate hair growth and nourish the follicles resulting in healthy hair growth.

My favorite essential oil blend:
4 ounces of Jojoba Oil - Found at most health food stores in the cosmetic section or online {here}
4 drops of Rosemary Essential Oil - Found at most health food stores in the cosmetic section or online {here}
3 drops of Lavender Essential Oil - Found at most health food stores in the cosmetic section or online {here}
3 drops of Thyme Essential Oil - Found at most health food stores in the cosmetic section or online {here}
2 drops of Cedarwood Essential Oil - Found at most health food stores in the cosmetic section or online {here}

** All of my Canadian, UK, Japanese, Portuguese & Chinese Curlies can order the same products {here}[New Directions Aromatics is a trusted vendor I have ordered from many times in the past] 

To Use/Store: Combine all ingredients in a dark amber bottle and store in a dark, cool place. To use, massage scalp with treatment oil every other day before bedtime. 

Practice a healthy lifestyle: It is important to note that most cases [cases caused by metabolic abnormality] of chronic shedding can usually be self-corrected by eating a diet rich in proteins [as well as keeping up with the recommended servings of fruits and veggies], as well as practicing proper stress management techniques. 

Ayurvedic Treatments: Ayurvedic treatments work very similar to essential oils in that the properties help cell regeneration and also nourish the follicles and cortex to promote a stronger hair shaft.

Ayurvedic treatment for shedding + hair loss:
Brahmi Powder - Can be found in most Indian Grocery stores, or online {here}
Enough water to make a paste

Mix powder and water until it's a thick yet spreadable paste. Apply liberally to damp unwashed hair [apply throughout entire head], cover and allow to sit for 30minutes to an hour. Rinse well, shampoo and style as usual.

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  1. This is great all the info I needed! I noticed a lot of shedding this past summer. So I started to massages my scalp starting with olive oil (too heavy for my hair), so I then switched to sweet almond with about 4 drops of lavender oil. Once or twice a month.

    I have noticed a lot of difference as far as shedding and a scalp massage is always great. My favorite is Ylang Ylnag it's sooo moisturizing and Argan Oil. Def worth the try.

  2. my hair was shedding for a few months then i switched conditioners. That little change helped alot.

    My latest post: When seasons change

  3. Nik, great information about shedding. Shedding can also change from season to season. During my years working as a hair stylist, I noticed many people had excessive shedding during the winter months. One of the worst things we can do if we notice our hair shedding excessively is to worry about the shedding. Nik mentioned stress as a contributing factor for shedding. Stop worrying the hair off your head.

  4. I do weekly black tea rinses which has really brought my shedding to a minimum since I started (I've been doing them for about 4 months). And whenever I feel like my shedding is starting to increase I take garlic supplements for a few days and add the liquid from one of the pills to my weekly pre-poo.


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