When you're working hard to maximize your hair health, it can be frustrating to notice the appearance of short hairs sprouting around the upper half of your hairline, close to the scalp. Often we interpret these short hairs as a sign of hair breakage — just more evidence that we're impossibly far from achieving our hair goals!
But as it turns out, those flyaways might actually be a good sign. If those little hairs are baby hairs and not broken hair or split ends, rest assured that new growth is on its way. Here's how to tell the difference between new hair growth and breakage, plus some tips on hair care for new growth.
How to Identify New Hair Growth vs. Breakage
At first glance, it can be hard to differentiate between breakage and new baby hairs that are just beginning to grow. But there are a number of clues that can help you tell if those short hairs are a result of damage or growth.
"Baby hairs can be seen in both hair breakage and new growth and is often a point of confusion for me when I am assessing a new patient for hair loss," said dermatologist Dr. Anna Chacon. "Typically, a look at the overall pattern will provide clues as well as to whether hair breakage versus growth is present. If there is growth in one area, there will also be other growth in other areas, although there may be decreased hair density and baby-fine hairs. If there is breakage in a particular area, there will also be visible breakage and damage throughout the rest of the hair on the scalp. This can be seen on dermoscopy/trichoscopy, in which the hair follicles are examined at higher magnification. A hair pull test, which is positive if more than six hairs out of 20 pulled come out, can also indicate if there is active shedding or hair loss going on at the time."
You can spot flyaways caused by breakage because the ends will have a kinked, irregular appearance, with the strands varying in length since they've been damaged at the ends. "When a hair breaks, it leaves behind a coarse edge, but when a new hair is growing in, it has a tapered end," said NYC-based dermatologist Dr. Susan Bard. Since length is a measure of the time strands have been growing, healthy new growth will all be the same length or similar.
How To Avoid Hair Breakage
To avoid the short hairs caused by damage to your hair follicles or strand, it's vital to make sure your hair and scalp are well cared for. Here's how.
Use Heat Protection
If you frequently blow-dry your hair without using a heat protectant, you could be damaging your hair and scalp by making the strands repeatedly shrink and expand, eventually causing breakage. This goes for any other heat-styling tools you use, too. Before you use any heat on your hair, use a protective product in the form of a spray or a leave-in conditioner. Your tresses will thank you.
Evaluate Your Hairstyle
If you're a fan of updos and other pulled-tight hairstyles, pay attention to the hair at the nape of your neck and hairline. If your flyaways are the same length as the place where you habitually pull up your hair, the odds are that your flighty hair is caused by repeated strand stress that creates breakage along the hairline. Hair damage results from disrupting strands in their telogen or "resting phase," which is a hundred-day period where hair strands are completely formed.
Make Sure Your Hair Is Adequately Hydrated
Dry hair is more easily damaged than hair that's adequately hydrated, leaving your hair vulnerable to trauma. Using conditioner on wash days — plus occasional deep conditioning treatments — will ensure that your hair is coated with a protective layer.
Brush Your Hair With Care
If you hair texture allows, try to only brush or detangle hair while it's dry; brushing wet hair can cause tears and follicle damage. If you're a curly girl who simply can't fathom the idea of brushing out dry curls (we get it), make sure to brush gently when your hair is wet and covered in conditioner. Use your fingers or a wide-tooth comb to gently detangle
Add Scalp Massages to Your Hair Care Routine
Get to the root of the problem with scalp massages, either using your hands or a silicone scalp scrubber for deeper penetration after applying your favorite hair serum or foam to encourage thicker, fuller hair. Massage helps work products into your hair, and there's a growing body of evidence that regular massages stimulate blood circulation and provide strength and moisture to the scalp. It may even help to promote the growth of more new and healthy hair.
Taming Those Flyaways
Even after you've determined that those short hairs are, in fact, a sign of growth rather than hair loss, you might not be thrilled by the somewhat frazzled appearance a head full of flyaways can create.
A few drops of raw, cold-pressed marula oil will not only smooth down those flyaways but also can help hydrate thirsty strands and give your hair a beautiful glossy finish. Simply apply a few drops of oil and brush or finger comb through for frizz control and the perfect sheen.
However you decide to deal with your baby hairs, remember that growing out your hair out takes time. Even the frizzies can be part of the natural processes of your scalp's healthy growth cycle. As long as you're practicing good hair care and keeping your scalp and strands hydrated, you're well on your way to new growth!
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