Did you know that it can take as much as 3,500 brush strokes to induce a 1% likelihood of breakage in unconditioned hair? Whereas in conditioned hair, it could take as many as 25,000 strokes to produce the same likelihood!In another study, researchers found that chemical bleaching increased hair breakage. At the same time, they discovered that hair conditioners reduced breakage and damage. All these show that hair conditioning products can help save hair from splitting. The big question is, what is hair breakage in the first place? What causes it and how exactly can “conditioning” help keep the hair from breaking apart?

This post will answer all these questions and more, so be sure to read on!

So What Is Hair Breakage?

The human scalp has about 100,000 hair strands. On a daily basis, you lose about 100 of those strands, which is completely normal. Any more than that, however, can be a sign of abnormal hair loss or breakage. Hair loss is different from breakage in that the former falls off from the follicle itself. This means that the entire strand, from root to tip, detaches from the scalp. Hair breakage, on the other hand, occurs when the hair shaft breaks. The shaft includes any part of the hair strand that already grows out of the scalp.

In healthy hair, the cuticle (the outermost part of the shaft) has many scales that overlap each other. These “scales” consist of layers and layers of dead cells. Together, they protect the hair shaft and keep it together and intact. The thing is, these layers can splay every which way, which can then result in the scales falling apart. Over time, this dries out the hair shaft, thereby causing it to separate. Ultimately, this separation of the scales causes shaft damage, which includes breakage.

What Causes Hair Breakage?

The idea that applying 100 brushstrokes to the hair is a myth, as this can actually cause damage to your hair . That’s because even the normal way of brushing is already a form of frictional force. On its own, friction can damage the cuticle, which can then lead to the shaft breaking apart. Using fine-toothed combs or hairbrushes can make things even worse.

The extremely narrow space between each tooth or bristle compresses the strands. This then places more force against the shaft. As a result, the friction rate goes up as you pull the tool through your hair. Brushing or combing, however, is only one of the main causes of hair breakage.

Let’s take a closer look at the other culprits below.

Brushing or Combing Wet Hair

The rate of combing friction increases when the hair is wet. In addition, wetting the hair causes the strands to stretch by at least 30% of their normal length. Moreover, water increases the weight of the hair by 12% to 18%. As such, brittleness and breakage are more likely to occur when you comb or brush wet hair.

Excessive Use of Hairdryers

Granted, wet hair is more prone to brushing- or combing-induced breakage. However, this doesn't mean you should rely too much on your hair blower. Too much heat is one of the biggest reasons people end up having to repair dry and damaged hair. Excessive heat removes too much moisture from the shaft, which then makes it brittle. Add to this the frictional force of brushing or combing, and you'll snap your hair in no time at all.

Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation

The sun's UV radiation is among, if not the most common cause of hair shaft damage. UVA rays are powerful enough to change the color of your hair, while UVB rays can decrease hair protein. Either way, constant and direct exposure to the sun can result in severe hair breakage.

Hair Relaxers or Straighteners

Hair smoothening, straightening, and keratin treatments can help make hair easier to manage. However, they can also cause serious hair shaft damage, as they have a direct impact on the hair cuticle. For instance, hair straighteners or relaxers contain chemicals with high pH (alkaline) levels.

In some cases, their pH levels can even go beyond 12! After all, the higher the pH level, the "wider" or more open the cuticle scales can get. This "opening" is what allows the chemicals to straighten and smoothen hair. Unfortunately, it also causes the hair to become more prone to friction. In short, these "treatments" can weaken the hair and make it less resistant to breakage.

Regular Dyeing of the Hair

"Permanent" hair dyes alter the color of the hair through a process called "oxidation". This oxidation enables the hair dye to bleach or removes the original color of the hair. From here, the molecules of the hair coloring product dive deep into each hair strand.

The thing is, bleaching and oxidation can cause severe weakening of the hair. After all, they raise the scales in the cuticle so that the color molecules can penetrate deep into the hair. This, in turn, increases the hair's porosity. The more porous the hair strands become, the greater their risk of hair breakage.

Lack of Nutrients

In the US alone, almost one in three people are at risk for vitamin deficiency. Among the most common deficiencies include A, B, C, D, and E vitamins, as well as folate, iron, and magnesium. Unfortunately, all these nutrients play major roles in keeping the hair healthy. As such, if you're lacking on any of them, your hair can get very weak and prone to breakage.

Top Tips on How to Stop Hair Breakage

To prevent hair breakage, you need a shampoo specifically formulated for dry or damaged hair. The same goes if you have chemically-straightened or -relaxed hair. The right shampoo for dry hair not only hydrates each strand but also locks in the moisture. That said, consider using a shampoo that contains coconut oil extracts. According to researchers, coconut oil can help minimize hair protein loss. In this way, extracts of the oil can penetrate the hair strands deeper and nourish it from within.

In addition to using the right shampoo, here are other ways on how you can prevent and stop hair breakage

Moisturize With Nourishing Hair Products

As mentioned above, conditioners can strengthen and reinforce the hair. However, their effects still vary, depending on their actual ingredients. That's why it's best to choose a product with science-backed ingredients. Goji berries, for instance, contain eight essential amino acids. That's on top of its high iron, selenium, and zinc content. It also boasts of antioxidative effects, which can help combat hair shaft oxidation.

So, why not use a goji berry-based hair serum that can fight not only hair breakage but also frizz? Hair frizz, after all, can be a precursor to breakage. That's because it’s a sign of severe dryness, which is also why frizzy strands are rough.

Apply an After-Shower Hydrating Hair Mask

A hydrating hair mask infuses your hair with more moisture, seeing as it's a "leave-on" product. Meaning, you don't have to rinse it off, so it has more time to sink deep into each of your hair strands. At the same time, its "masking" effects add an extra layer of protection against heat and UV radiation. This, in turn, helps prevent hair breakage.

Shower Your Hair With More TLC During Summer and Winter

Extreme temperature lows (during winter) and highs (during summer) can cause the hair to dry out. In winter, for instance, the cold, dry air can lift the layers of the hair cuticle. This, in turn, causes the layers to separate, which can make the shaft prone to breakage.

On the other hand, the super-hot days of summer can remove moisture from your hair. It can get even worse if you expose your crown directly to the sun. The heat can also affect your scalp, making it more susceptible to dryness and dandruff. That said, make it a habit to give your hair extra care during summer and winter. Apply anti-frizz and leave-on hair masks before you head outside. Both can help lock in the moisture that can otherwise dissipate due to dry or very warm air.

Keep Your Glorious Crown by Keeping Breakage At Bay

There you have it, all the answers related to your question, “what is hair breakage?” Now that you know what it is and what causes it, you can prevent more breakage from occurring. So long as you follow the tips above, then you can say goodbye to splitting, snapping strands.

Ready to nourish and moisturize your hair from inside to out? Then please feel free to check out the ProBerry Hair Care System!