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What Causes Hair Breakage?

author image Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell
Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.
What Causes Hair Breakage?
An excess of vitamin A can cause hair breakage. Photo Credit: Hlib Shabashnyi/iStock/Getty Images

The average person sheds anywhere from 50 to100 hairs every day, and when you suffer from hair breakage, that number can increase significantly. Hair breakage can often be prevented by eating a proper diet, limiting the use of hair care products and refraining from overzealous hair-care practices.

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Hair-Care Devices

The regular use of heated hair-care devices like blow dryers, curling irons and flat irons can damage your hair. The American Academy of Dermatology (ADD) says the warmth that is produced by these devices penetrate the hair shaft, causing it to become brittle and more vulnerable to breakage.

Styling Products & Chemicals

The regular use of dyes, bleaches, curl relaxers and perms can lead to hair breakage. The harsh chemical agents such as peroxide and hydroxide ions that are contained in these products can be very hard on your hair. The AAD recommends they be used sparingly to preserve your locks.

Hair Accessories

Hair accessories and certain hairstyles have the potential to damage your hair. Rubber bands and hairpins that are worn too tightly can lead to hair breakage. The AAD recommends choosing loosely fitting barrettes and clips. Place them in different areas of your head on different days so the same hair is not repeatedly subjected to wear and tear.

Aggressive Grooming

The old adage that brushing your hair 100 strokes a day leads to healthier hair is not only incorrect, it may actually damage your hair. Too much brushing, combing or vigorous shampooing can cause your hair to break off. Gently massaging your hair with shampoo that is appropriate for your hair type and applying a leave-on conditioner should help prevent further breakage.

Vitamin Deficiencies

A deficiency of vitamins B and E and iron may lead to hair breakage. Good sources of vitamin B include meat, poultry, milk, bananas and broccoli. Vitamin E-rich foods include nuts, salmon and spinach. Too little iron in your diet can also cause your hair to break off. Iron can be found in clams, organ meats, soybeans, pumpkin seeds and iron-fortified cereals.

Weight Loss

Hair breakage can sometimes be a temporary side effect of weight loss. When you lose more than 15 pounds, you may experience hair loss several months after you drop the weight regardless of how slowly the weight is shed. The health of your hair will eventually return to normal.

Medical Conditions

Dry, brittle hair that easily breaks off can sometimes be indicative of a medical problem. This includes eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Hypothyroidism -- a condition in which your thyroid gland fails to produce a sufficient supply of vital hormones -- may also cause hair breakage.

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