What to Know About Hair Breakage

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on November 23, 2022
4 min read

In the natural day-to-day grooming of your mane, you are bound to lose some hair strands. Daily hair shedding is expected through hair drop and shaft breakage, especially during certain seasons of the year. In most cases, hair replenishes itself by growing back to maintain a full head. However, you may experience unusual hair breakage due to stress, illness, hormones, or aging. Simple observations and daily assessments can help to keep your hair healthy for as long as possible.

You can expect to lose about 100 hair strands daily if you are healthy. If your hair's natural growth cycle does what it is supposed to, new ones should grow to replace the hair strands you lost. When you start to have more loss of hair strands than grow back, you have hair loss. 

There are several general causes of hair loss and hair breakage, including:

  • Brushing wet hair
  • Styling products with long-lasting hold
  • Tightly pulled hairstyles 
  • Perming, relaxing, or coloring hair
  • Lack of healthy nutritional levels
  • Overly brushing or styling your hair
  • Not using conditioner

One of the more common causes of hair breakage is acquired trichorrhexis nodosa. It is more common in those of African heritage and is directly affected by hair grooming and styling practices and proper cleansing product use, as suggested by scientists. Risk factors for this relating to reasons the hair shaft breaks include thermal styling tools. Think blow dryers and flat irons. Also, hair perming and permanent dye. These all damage the outer layer of the shaft of the hair, which is the protective cuticle. A damaged cuticle can alter the protein structure of the hair. This causes the fiber to be exposed, leading to weakness and breakage.

Hair loss is different for everyone. Common symptoms of hair breakage and loss, depending on what is causing it, could include:

  • Breakage along the shaft
  • Split ends
  • Dry hair
  • Frizzy, rough texture

If you have African heritage, your hair may be more curly or tightly coiled. This increases your risk factor for having hair damage and loss from trichorrhexis nodosa. This is due to the difference in structures in the hair shaft. The hair fibers are asymmetric in shape and curvature. This makes the hair weak in certain areas of the shaft. It is also harder to keep curly hair hydrated, and dry hair breaks easier. With trichorrhexis nodosa, hair can break at the center shaft with minimal grooming. The hair may be uneven, with areas of shorter hair on the scalp. You may see white nodes on the hair, which are near split ends. Breakage may occur at the level of the hair where it was previously processed, and new hair has grown out. It may seem as if your hair is not getting longer, and the scalp is often irritated.

According to doctors, cleansing is vital to healthy hair. Improper cleaning of the hair or scalp can lead to product residue build-up. This can result in irritant dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis. So once breakage begins and continues, treatment is sought. More common hair loss treatments are meant to treat female and male pattern hair loss. This could include:

  • Different medicines are used over the counter to apply to the scalp. First-line treatments usually include Rogaine for thinning hair. You may move on to prescription strength Propecia for male pattern baldness.
  • Some people opt for a hair transplant. With this procedure, your doctor will remove hair from an area of the scalp with lots of thick hair. The thick strands will then be transplanted and implanted into the areas of the scalp with the thinnest hair. 
  • Platelet-rich plasma is another invasive treatment. Your provider will draw a sample of your blood and separate the plasma. The platelet-rich plasma will then be injected into your scalp. This treatment can encourage new hair growth and decrease hair loss.

Hair conditioning is one of the most important steps to treat breakage and engage in a healthy hair routine. Conditioning increases hair's manageability and temporarily mends hair shaft damage by eliminating static electricity. Hair conditioners come in many forms, including deep-conditioning, rinse-out, leave-in, and protein-containing formulas.

You can do many things to keep your hair healthy and prevent breakage. Eat a balanced diet that includes iron, protein, and enough calories to sustain growth. Deal with stress and anxiety in healthy ways. Try not to wear hairstyles that pull the hair too tight. If you have medical illnesses, make adjustments to prevent breakage. Properly manage diseases like the thyroid that can lead to loss. Some oncologists recommend the use of a cooling cap when undergoing chemotherapy. 

Avoid pulling your hair too tight if you wear hair extensions or braids. Hairstyles should not be painful. Some recommend removing braids or extensions every 6-8 weeks. This is to avoid the build-up of product and debris and prevent the hair's locking, which can lead to damage. Hair products should not include alcohol. Try not to manipulate hair when it is styled with firm-holding products. Trim damaged ends often, and wash products out of the hair when you get ready to restyle. 

If all else fails, visit a dermatologist. They specialize in hair, skin, and nails and may be able to create a hair regimen just for you and rule out a fungal infection or other issues.