Understanding the difference between hair shedding and breakage

      So, what’s hair shedding and what’s hair breakage? Are they the same thing? No. They’re not. Hair breakage occurs when your hair breaks off at any point along the hair shaft. It is usually due to damage to the hair, excess protein, excess moisture, etc. For more information about hair breakage, I wrote a little post about it: HAIR BREAKAGE 101.

On the other hand, hair shedding occurs when your hair falls off from the bulb root. If you see a small whitish bulb, this confirms that you’re experiencing shedding. (This bulb is not the actual root growing from within the scalp so don’t panic!). The strands from shedding are usually longer than the hairs that fall off from breakage. If you see only a little hair, don’t worry: it’s a normal physiological process. Most sources say that we all shed between 50-100 hairs a day. Some even give allowance of up to 150. However, if you’re experiencing more shedding than normal, you have to do something about it.

     So, what’s the science behind shedding?

Your hair grows in 3 phases: anagen, catagen and telogen. Every hair strand is at its own stage. That’s why all your hair doesn’t usually fall out at the same time.

The anagen stage is the growth phase and can last anything between 2 and 8 years. In this stage, the hair shaft grows outwards and longer while the follicle grows deeper into the deeper layer of the skin (dermis) for nourishment.

The catagen stage lasts between two and four weeks. The hair stops growing out and the follicle shrinks and finally breaks off from its blood supply. The hair still remains on the scalp at this stage. During this phase, a new hair begins to grow in its place within the dermis.

The rest or telogen phase is the final stage of the hair growth cycle. The hair doesn’t fall off just yet. About 8-10 % of all hairs are in this stage.  It is in the return to the anagen stage that the new hair pushes out the old hair shaft. This is what results in hair shedding.


One of the implications of this natural growth cycle is that you might experience increased shedding when you start a hair loss treatment. If you have a lot of hairs in the telogen phase, this growth aid stimulates your hair to return to a new anagen phase thus resulting in increased shedding. (This might be explain why some people experience hair shedding when they begin using Jamaican black castor oil.)

Some factors that can increase hair shedding include medications, stress, pregnancy, poor diet & nutrition, improperly managed hair, vitamin deficiency, etc. During my last two pregnancies, I didn’t experience any shedding but I’ve noticed quite a bit of shedding during my current pregnancy.

Is there anything that can be done to control shedding? 

I wrote this post as a response to one of my loyal blog followers. I haven’t personally tried the therapies I’ve suggested here but I trust their sources because these are respected people in the world of hair blogging. At the time of writing this post, I have a weave on. Before I put it in, I was experiencing quite a bit of shedding. If it persists when I take off the weave, I’ll definitely be doing at least one of the following treatments and I’ll do a video review.

1Doing a coffee or black tea rinse. 

Caffeine stimulates growth and is believed to extend the  life of your hair strands.  Brew between 10-12 teabags of black tea in 300 ml (about 10 ounces) of boiling water for 5-6 hours. Apply it to your hair after shampooing and leave it for about 20 minutes. Do not rinse out just yet. Apply your conditioner on top of it. You can then rinse it out. You can do this one to two times a week. To watch a video on  this, visit K.I.S.S’ youtube channel by clicking HERE.

2Using garlic to deep condition your hair.

This can be done in different ways. The first method is to add garlic powder or garlic supplements to your hair oils or deep conditioner. Add 1 teaspoon of garlic powder to 60 ml (about 2 ounces) of oil. Apply it to your scalp and rub it in. Leave it on for a few hours before washing it off with shampoo. You can do this regularly to control shedding. K.I.S.S has a video on YouTube you can watch by clicking HERE.  If you have a sensitive scalp, you might skip this one because garlic powders can cause your scalp to burn.

The second method involves marinating 8 sliced cloves of garlic in oil for 48 hours in your refrigerator. Drain off the garlic and use the oil to condition your hair. To watch Nunaavane’s YouTube video of how to do this, click HERE.

If you don’t have time for all this, don’t worry. There’s a garlic deep conditioner available for purchase. Alter EGO Impact Ego Hot Oil Treatment with Garlic

3. Using aloe vera juice spray. Pour 100% aloe vera juice into a spray bottle and put it in the fridge. Part your hair into sections and spray it on your scalp 2-3 times before moisturizing your hair. I got this tip from my hair mentor, Hairlicious. Read Stop shedding fast.


Taking Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) supplements to prolong the anagen phase. Examples of supplements that contain MSM include GNC Ultranourish Hair, Hairfinity, etc.

 ** If  your shedding is extreme and/or persists for longer than two months, please see a dermatologist: it might be due to a serious medical condition, for example thyroid disease(hypo or hyper),etc.**

Well, I hope I’ve helped someone understand the science of hair shedding and I hope you’ll be able to control your hair shedding if you’ve been experiencing it. Take care.

Read more

Hair breakage 101

Determining why your relaxed hair is breaking part 1

Determining why your relaxed hair is breaking part 2

Determining why your relaxed hair is breaking part 3

 Sizzling Mommy Signature

**Post updated 27th December 2012**

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Image courtesy of http://www.vetguru.com

About the author
Dr Fomsky

Nigerian-born Dr Fomsky is a God-lover, a wife, a mom of three, a medical doctor by day. Plus she owns a Nigerian-based online hair product store called Sizzelle.
Dr Fomsky is very passionate about hair, skin and weight management. Since she's had her babies, she's been struggling to keep her weight and her tummy down!
At night, she likes to read books, write blog posts and leave comments on other blogs. She lives in Alberta, Canada and is also the author of Solving your relaxed hair breakage book .
LAST RELAXER DAY: December 15th, 2016
BIG CHOP: January 14th, 2017
Natural Hair, Unknown Porosity, Fine Hair strands, Low to Moderate Density

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12 Comments to Understanding the difference between hair shedding and breakage

  1. That is really a great information to learn. Now, I much understand the different of hair shedding and breakage. Thank you so much for the great information you have here and the product you are suggesting. I like your blog because I’m learning lot of things here.

  2. Bethany says:

    I´ve heard before about the caffeine thing, its very interesting, I have a friend who says she tried it and saw her hair grow way faster. I wonder if using garlic in your hair will make it smell.

  3. Joseph says:

    I told my sister in-law about the caffeine treatment she said it was just BS but getting her to read it here is enough confirmation backed by Bethany’s endorsement.

    • Dr_fomsky says:

      I have this principle that there’s no harm in trying: she should give it a try. If it doesn’t work, then she can come back and leave me a comment. Thanks Joseph

  4. […] Understanding the difference between hair shedding and breakage […]

  5. […] Understanding the difference between hair shedding and breaking. […]

  6. […] Shedding – This occurs when you see strands of hair with white bulbs on the root. Hair goes through a natural shedding period, so if you’re taking care of your hair and it suddenly starts shedding a bit, don’t be alarmed. If you are worried, try using garlic or a black tea rinse to stop the shedding OR seeing a dermatologist. […]

  7. […] Hi everyone. I decided to take joint supplements a couple of weeks ago. Not that I have any joint issues but since I do a lot of high impact exercise, I am taking them as a precautionary measure. When I read the ingredients of the bottle I bought, I learnt that it also contained MSM. YAY! An added hair benefit for me! I have talked about the benefits of MSM for the hair. You can read that HERE and HERE.  […]

  8. […] Yesterday, I talked about foods that contain MSM. You can read that HERE. MSM is believed to prolong the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle. Read more about the hair growth cycle HERE. […]

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