Shedding, Breakage, and Split Ends … Oh, My!

Photo Credit: Fabiana Zonca

I have a confession to make (stands up and addresses all curlies): I am obsessed with long curly hair! (lets out a sigh of relief). Believe me. I don’t think long hair is any better than short hair or teeny weeny afros (TWAs). I just find myself ogling lengthy, bountiful curls. My weakness for length fuels my hair goal—to achieve waist length hair.

Before achieving my current length, I’ve made several errors and had many hiccups along the way. Now that I know how to care for and maintain my curly mane (and am constantly learning and sharing this information with you), I know that I can achieve this goal. Come back again, and I’ll update you on my progress. For now, let’s talk about a few pesky items that often get in the way of our hair’s health and growth.


While this doesn’t get in the way of hair growing, it should be explained and distinguished from the items that do. Hairnistas say that everyone’s hair grows at different rates, and the average rate is a half inch per month. They also say that you’ll lose about 100 shed hairs per day. How do you know what are shed hairs? They’re the strands with the white bulbs at the end. These bulbs literally come out of the root, as the hair has reaches the end of its days. There is nothing to worry about unless shedding is excessive aka you’ve created a carpet made of hair! If you do experience extra shedding, you may want to see a doctor/dermatologist about whether this is linked to an illness or an imbalance in hormones and/or stress.


Now that you know how to identify shed hairs, let’s separate this from hair loss due to breakage. If your strands are missing a bulb, this is typically hair that has bid adieu because of breakage. These strands, which are typically shorter in length, are damaged by a variety of reasons. They include:

1. Heat – Ah, the gift and the curse. While I like to use blow dryers to speed up my styling time, please refrain from blow frying your hair to death. This includes burning your hair with flat irons and pressing combs.

2. Harsh Chemicals/Perms – Our hair is very delicate and prone to breakage from anything that loosens up the follicles. Hair color and lye, the active ingredient in relaxers, can be dangerous culprits. According to LIVESTRONG.COM, “Lye, or sodium hydroxide, penetrates the hair shaft and breaks down some of its structure, effectively loosening its natural curl. Thus, chemical relaxers’ real function is to damage your hair and make it weaker. This process can’t be reversed.” Yikes!

3. Tight Ponytails and Braids – Yes, they’re cute when done right. However, when styled too tightly (and you can see skin pulling at your crown), you’ve done did it now! Your hair can be literally pulled and tugged from the roots or become broken.

4. Roughing It Up – If you’re a curlie who thinks thrashing and hacking her hair with a comb and brush will tame it, stop right there! This excessively harsh treatment will cause your hair to break.

5. Over Moisturizing – Too much moisture can actually be a bad thing. Yes, believe it or not. It can cause limp, noodle-like tresses that are prone to breakage. Please read more about this in my post on how to moisturize natural hair.

6. Too Much Protein – This can cause your hair to dry out due to the lack of moisture. As you should know, dry hair leads to ____(fill in the blank). 😉

7. Product Build up – Product that piles high on our strands leave little room for the good stuff (moisture) to get into our tresses. When this happens, guess what’s the result? Seeing a theme here?


When your ends fray, there is little to no solution to fixing it. There are products that claim to moisturize those older ends to prevent the split from worsening. You can also moisturize your ends to prevent splitting, but ultimately, split ends need to be trimmed away. Time for them to literally split!
Now that you know what damaged hair looks like and how it’s caused, please pay close attention to your curly mane. Even if you’re not seeking length, these tips will help you to get healthy hair. Be kind to your curls. Mend all splits or cut them off for good, so you can positively progress in your hair journey.

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