I sometimes hear from people who are noticing a lot of broken hairs coming out. Often, they also see very dry or flyaway hair with the presence of split ends. I heard from a woman who said: “I’ve been noticing a lot of fallen hair on my clothing. But, when I examine the hairs very closely, there isn’t a root on the end. So, I think that the hairs are breaking off. I have a friend who went through a bout of hair loss last year and she says that perhaps I have telogen effluvium. I did some research online and I’m not sure if this is correct? I’m not sure if this type of hair loss causes breakage in addition to hair fall.” I will try to address this concern in the following article.
Hair That Falls Due To Telogen Effluvium Sheds Out From The Root. It Usually Doesn’t Break Off. (Although You Can Have Some Breakage.) I’d like to clarify what happens to a hair when it is affected from this type of hair loss. Essentially, something makes it change where it is in its growth cycle. This may be stress or some medical issue or illness. But true shedding of this type changes hair from the growth phase to the shedding phase. And, as a result, that same hair sheds out. What this means is that the root is no longer becoming nourished in the growth phase so the next part of its life cycle is to fall out. That’s why you can typically look at this type of hair and see a root, a white bulb, or a dark sheath around either one of these.
What the woman in the above scenario was describing was something different. She wasn’t seeing any evidence of a root. She was seeing broken hairs which meant that the roots were probably still in tact and her affected hairs were likely still in the growing phase which is not indicative of telogen effluvium. There are other possibilities though. Often, you will see this type of breakage with some sort of damaging grooming practice like hot irons, or very harsh chemical processes like hair straightening, perming, coloring, or keratin treatments. Anything that you can make your hair dry or brittle can cause this type of breakage or fall.
Now, here is where it can get a little confusing. Sometimes, when you have telogen effluvium, your hair can become dry and flyaway since it’s no longer being actively nourished. And when this happens, some of those hairs can break off. So, it is definitely possible to see some spent hairs that have roots and some that do not. In this case, you would have a combination of two different processes. However, if you have this type of shedding hair loss, you would see a good deal of hair with roots and you would typically be talking about a large amount of hair that is coming out. Generally speaking, if there’s a lot of hair, most of what you are seeing has a bulb or root, and you can identify a medical issue or trigger, then telogen effluvium is certainly possible. But, if you don’t have a trigger and you are seeing a smaller amount of broken hairs, then think about whether you’ve participated in anything that could dry out or damage your hair. Because to answer the question posed, although TE hair can sometimes break off, you generally see this more with hair that has been damaged by a harsh high temperature or chemical process.