Hair breakage isn’t hair loss, but it can be just as distressing. If you’ve ever seen a strangely short piece of hair sticking out of your locks — you’ve had hair breakage. If you’ve ever seen small pieces of hair in the sink after brushing your hair — you’ve had breakage.
Unlike hair loss, hair breakage is mostly due to how you style or chemically treat your hair. Instead of the hair coming out of the follicle, as with hair loss, hair can start to break and fall off at any point along the hair strand.
How can you tell you have hair breakage?
Hair breakage can start as innocently as split ends. Eventually, that breakage at the end can start to travel up the hair shaft and cause a weakening of the hair.
This is why hairstylists always say regular trims are so important.
Split ends look frayed and can split off in a few different directions. When splitting travels up the shaft, it’s called “tree splitting” because it looks like small branches to a tree. (Not the best look, huh?)
What causes hair breakage?
The cause of hair breakage is normally something we’re doing to our hair on a regular basis; it can be how we color, style, brush or wash our hair.
Let’s go over what may be causing your hair breakage.
#1 Heat damage from styling tools
One of the worst offenders is heat damage. Chemical damage is pretty bad too, but we’re not dying our hair every day — but a lot of us are heat styling most days. Overexposing hair to flat irons, hair curlers, and blow dryers can really weaken and damage your hair.
Not to mention, if you aren’t using heat protectant or giving yourself a blowout. Brushing and stretching the hair under intense heat is a recipe for breakage and split ends.
#2 Chemical damage from hair dye
If you’ve ever taken the plunge to become a blonde — you know how much bleaching can ruin your hair if not done carefully. Bleach breaks down the protein in your hair to lift color to go lighter. Going too blonde too fast can leave you with horrible breakage, and frizziness. (Ever seen a Brad Mondo bleach fail video? Yeah, that’s that I mean.)
Damage is also caused by box dyes of all shades of color. These box dyes can have a 40 volume developer which is unnecessarily powerful and can quickly lead to breakage.
If you have chemical damage, start with getting a trim.
#3 Putting too much tension on your hair with tight styles
Tension styles can put a lot of unnecessary stress on the hair strand. This can happen if you have protective styles like braids or locks. If there is too much tension, it can lead to breakage.
#4 Rough brushing technique
Trying to get knots out of dry, damaged hair can be time-consuming, painful, and frustrating. Being too rough with your hair when trying to detangle can quickly cause breakage.
Detangling mostly happens after a shower, because when our hair is wet it’s very fragile. When the hair is wet, the structure actually changes, and it becomes easily broken.
The best way to detangle to avoid breakage is to start at the bottom and work your way up. This allows you to work in small sections while decreasing the amount of tension you’ll need to use to get through the hair.
Often, a prerequisite to serious breakage is having very very dry hair. Those with naturally curly hair often have more breakage than those with straight hair because curly hair is naturally drier. Overwashing can strip your hair of needed oils and cause your hair to become dry and brittle.
While using conditioner after shampoo makes your hair feel smoother and healthier, it doesn’t actually nourish the hair. Sulfate shampoos can do some damage to your hair and contribute to breakage.