Ahhh! Why so much hair fall after braids?
A question I have been asked in person a few times is a variation on the above. Looking at recent google searches bringing people to this site, I found:
"Why does hair fall out a lot after undoing braids?"
"Why am I shedding a lot after taking down my sew-in?"
I remember being distressed when I used to have my hair done in braids by haircare professionals. In fact, it was one of the reasons I learnt to install braids on my own hair. Yes, I learnt how to apply extensions to my hair. It was that serious!
Like many women, I would leave braids in for a couple of months (three at the most) and then find that my hair was coming out in clumps as I removed the hair extensions. When I started installing the braids myself, this improved somewhat because I was making bigger parts and not putting on very heavy extension pieces in comparison to my own hair. However, what really allowed me to not lose so much hair - and allow others to do my hair without fear - was learning what was at the root of the hair fall.
There are three things to consider.
1) Was it shedding?
Shedding is the natural process of the hair completing its growth cycle and the root being extruded (pushed out) from the scalp. The hair grows over 3 to 6 years, going through Anagen (growth), Catagen (resting) and Telogen (shedding) phases. On any given day, 80% of hair are in the growing phase, 5% are resting and 5-10% are shedding. With around 100,000 hairs on each head, this can be between 50-150 hairs a day!
Now, in a braided up style lasting a few months, that shed hair cannot be combed down and removed daily. Hence, shed hair is the majority of what you will see when you take down the style. Phew! Wait though, what if the hairs are breaking off?
2) Was it breaking?
Breakage is when the hair strand splits and cracks at points of weakness. This can be because of harsh grooming practices (like using a fine-tooth comb on tangled hair) or weak hair strands (protein loss from daily wear and tear, heat styling or chemical processing). Another point of weakness is between chemically-processed ends and naturally curly/kinky roots. Whatever the cause of the weakened hair strand, it breaks off and thereby shortens that hair strand. The higher up it breaks, the shorter the strand becomes! Now, if you installed your braids without having treated your hair to a good protein treatment beforehand, your hair may be limp within the style and come take-down day, it will split and break off.
Now, how do you distinguish broken hairs from shed hairs?
That's actually quite simple. A shed hair will have a white bulb (from the root of the hair that was pushed out) on one end of it whilst a broken hair won't. A further clue will be looking at the ends of that hair strand: broken hairs tend to be thinner at one end as these have often split in two before breaking!
3) Was I looking after my hair in the braids/ sew-in?
This is the main step I was missing after learning to install my own braided hair extensions. Without a daily moisturising regime, my hair was dry and felt like straw when I took down the style. I often found that I had matted roots because I let dirt build up during the style.
A simple routine for caring for braided hair is simply spraying the roots and length of the hair daily with water or diluted conditioner. If you have hair that is chemically processed (coloured or relaxed) or regularly heat-styled, you may want to add an element of protein to your spray mix. I used Infusion 23 to keep my hair strong but moisturised each day.
The second part of your routine is your wash day. You need to clean your scalp (and hair) from the debris that builds up from the week (working out, product build up and lint...let's be honest here!). I recommend using a diluted sulphate-free shampoo to clean your scalp and hair. You can then use a conditioner for a few minutes to soften your roots. Some people use diluted Apple Cider Vinegar to clean their scalp and hair: this also seals the cuticle of the hair by bringing it to the optimum pH of 4.0- 5.0.
The final piece of the puzzle is being patient on take-down day! Yes, give yourself plenty of time and use the right tools to take down that hair. The only part of a fine-tailed comb that should come near your hair is the point! Use a wide-toothed comb or your fingers to detangle your hair. Furthermore, diluted conditioner or aloe vera juice (image below) sprayed onto loosened sections for 5 minutes before detangling, works to smooth the hair strands and helps the tangles (shed hairs) slide out.
So there you have it. Your hair is not ALL falling out! It is mostly the shed hairs that have been trapped in your braided style that are making their way down.
I hope you found this helpful. If so, say hello below and share this post.
Later, ladies and gents!
I'm Lola - a hair obsessed doctor who stumbled into running long distances and baking all the cupcakes.
I blog about life, running and of course, hair! I'm an Altra "Team Red" Sponsored Athlete, so I will do the occasional running shoe or gadget review.
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