I recently received an email from a woman who said she had very long hair. For the past several months, her hair had been shedding much more than what was normal for her. She had read on some forums that sometimes the weight from long hair can pull the hair shaft out and can result in loss. So, she wanted to know if cutting her hair much shorter could potentially stop her shedding. I have a definite opinion on this based on my own experience and research. I will share it in the following article.
The Difference Between Traction Alopecia And Shedding Hair: There are cases where wearing your hair in a very tight braids or pony tails can results in the hair breaking off or pulling out. This is called traction alopecia and it’s well documented. Usually, if you examine the hair, you’ll see that some of it has broken off. You’ll see short little jagged strands that indicate breakage.
Or, sometimes, the weight is so much that rather than breaking off, the hair will actually be pulled out. If you were to take one of these spent hairs and examined the tip, you’d likely see that on the end (at the bulb that comes from your follicle,) the dark colored sheath is still in place. If this is hard to envision, take one strand of your hair, grab it tightly, and pull. Then, examine the end. Since the strand was forcefully pulled out, the sheath that is supposed to protect it will still be in tact.
If your hair is coming out and shedding due to traction alopecia, then you should theoretically see this same sheath when you examine the strands that have come out (without your pulling them.) If this is the case, traction alopecia is an easy fix made by stopping the practice of too much weight.
Shedding Hair Usually Falls Out Rather Than Being Pulled Out: If your hair is shedding due to conditions like telogen effluvium (TE) or AGA (androgenic alopecia,) you will often see a bulb that looks somewhat different. Since the strand is coming out because something is bringing the hair to the shedding phase of it’s life cycle, instead of seeing the sheath, you will generally instead see a white bulb.This has nothing to do with the weight of your hair. It has to do with the growing and resting phase being altered in your hair cycles.
Admittedly, there are people who swear that their shedding improved once they cut their hair. I’ve had a few days’ reprieve from shedding in the days after I got a hair cut. But I would suspect that this has more to do with the fact that the beautician was manipulating the strands a lot during the cut. And so the strands that were going to come out in the next several days ended up on the salon floor rather than on your own floor. So after this, you’re going to be seeing less hair and you might assume that it’s the cut that helped your shedding. Unfortunately, as time passes, many people see the same volume of shedding eventually return, which was always the case with me.
Now, if your loss is due to the weight of your hair, then yes, getting a cut could potentially help this situation. But, I find that this is the exception rather than the rule. And if this is the case, you can sometimes see a difference in what you’re seeing on the end of the strand. In general though, usually this type of loss does not give rise to the high levels of loss that we see with shedding.
Trimming your hair can certainly help to improve it’s appearance. A good cut can make you feel better and can give the illusion of more volume. So, it can definitely be worth going for a trim. But making drastic style changes isn’t likely to stop some of the common causes of shedding like TE and AGA.