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Broken hair at about 1" long
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sayga wrote in parenting101
A few weeks ago, I noticed that the hair on one side of my 5 year old daughter's head was really short and spiky in places. I asked if she'd been cutting her own hair, because she'd just had a friend over and you know 5 year olds. She denied it, and after looking more closely, I could tell that the hairs were pretty evenly spaced throughout her regular-length hairs, and I don't think it looks cut (or pulled).

Today I was fixing her hair and noticed her short hairs are all over the top of her hair. The hairs are half to 1.5 inches long, all more or less the same length (within 1/2 an inch either direction of 1" long), and it's probably fully 1/4 of the hair on her head. She looks like a freaking porcupine. She was pretty embarrassed about it and wouldn't take her hood off after I asked if she was pulling her hair out (I told her it was ok if she was, and we'd help her figure it out, but that it'd be good if she could just tell us if she is, and she said she's not).

I'm trying to figure out if it's breaking off (I am leaning towards yes) or if she pulled a bunch of hair a few months ago and it's growing back. She regularly gets big chunks of hair out in the comb, but her hair is fine and she tends to be a vigorous brusher, so I didn't worry before. We went gluten-free in May of this year but we have worked really hard to make sure the kids have a good diet. She is a good eater and I actually didn't have any concerns about her diet until I noticed this. We also moved over the summer, and she spent 6 (non-consecutive) weeks away from me and her dad with extended family (2 weeks with each set of grandparents, 3 sets), so there was stress too.

So, diet? Stress? Vitamin deficiency? What can cause hair to break off like that, and should I be rushing her to her doctor, or just ask next time we go (April)?
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Another possibility is that.it is breaking off from using too-tight rubber bands (or other such hair ties). Does she ever pull her her back?

It actually cuts off a lot shorter than one would think.

From where it is on her head and the (in)frequency she allows me to fix her hair, I don't think that's what it is. I stopped using the plain rubber bands a couple months ago because I thought it might be causing it, and it's only gotten worse. (I only noticed a few ends a few months ago and it was still well in what I would consider normal). When I do fix her hair, she likes the hairbands way to the back of her head, and never lets me do stuff like pigtails or anything in the front, but most of the broken hairs are in the front/on top of her head. I checked the back of her head, and it seemed fine. That's why I wonder if you ARE right, even if I can't figure out HOW you're right! I'm just plain confused!

Plain rubber bands are really bad for hair and might cause some breakage.

Then it's probably a good thing that she said that she stopped using them a couple of months ago, eh? ;)



I'd already been messing with her hair a bunch tonight and didn't want to make her upset by doing more to get a better picture, so I just brushed for a second to get some of it to show. It's much worse than this, and all over (it only shows when I brush her hair a different direction, so it's only showing on a small part of her hair in this picture). But you know, imagine this all over the place and super spiky.

What do the ends of the shorter hairs look like? Frayed = broken off, blunt = cut (but looking at the distribution that would be tough), tapered = new growth or regrowth (pulled out/fell out). Changes in hormones can cause hair to fall out and then grow back, too. Not that your daughter is an adult in my situation, but my hair looked exactly like this after the 3-month breast-feeding hormone changes caused me to lose some of my pregnancy hair and it started to grow back. If I had to guess, it would be new growth or regrowth.

It doesn't look like it's frayed (no split ends) but I can't really tell if they're tapered ends either. But I am starting to agree that it's likely a big rush of new growth rather than my other thoughts, which seem much less feasible. Thanks!

From your description and based on this picture, I would be surprised if she was cutting or pulling her own hair. If she was pulling it, you would also be finding the hair somewhere. Around the time my daughter turned 3, she was twiddling her hair so badly that she would end up with knots. Sometime she pulled the knots, and sometimes I ended up pulling out a good chunk when trying to get a knot out. When she did pull it out herself, I would find the knots near her bed. Also, she was doing this with only her left hand, so it was on one side of her head. This was almost 2 years ago, and she is still growing it out. (Her hair is finer than your daughter's and grows really slowly.) She wants long hair but understands that we need to keep cutting it until the short hair grows out -- this is what helped us break the habit.

Unless you are finding more hair than usual in the drain or on her brush, I would guess that she is growing new hair for some reason. She was probably embarrassed because she didn't know it was a thing until you pointed it out. I never thought to hide the hair on my legs when I was 10 until another girl asked (in the nicest way, without embarrassing me) why I didn't shave.

Do you ever see her pulling her hair? Do her nails look brittle?

I am probably projecting, since I had trichotillomania as a child, but her being embarrassed about you asking made me wonder. I lied to my mom about my hair-pulling because I was ashamed. I've never told her the truth to this day. Other people have noticed it, though, because I would pull my hair constantly without even thinking about it. I would ask her doctor, but not in front of her if she's already embarrassed.

Could the change in diet just have encouraged new growth? Or is it obviously broken off hair?


I didn't consider that the diet would ENCOURAGE more hair growth. That really could be it. Or her adult hair coming in, as others have said. I can't tell if it's broken off. It definitely doesn't look like there are split ends, or you know how sometimes when you stretch a hair till it breaks, it makes a tight curl at the end? None of that at the ends of those short hairs. But they also don't necessarily look tapered like new growth. But her hair is fairly fine, so seeing a tapered end is difficult anyway. Hmm, thanks for your take on it. I think it's a good idea.

I get that quite often. I have a ton of hair... but i find that every spring i have a whole lot more in the brush and in the drain (shedding).... and every fall i get new growth... maybe she is just growing hair for the winter. In about 2 more months it will be past the stick out stage, and will blend in with her own hair.

Same here - my hair has always looked like that. I have very thick, very coarse hair. Using a spray leave-in conditioner has helped a lot.

That's reassuring. Thick hair runs in my family (both thick hairs, and lots and lots of hair), and so maybe she's just growing some new hair in. A lot of new hair. I kind of dread how much she'll have when this gets long! :P

i see you just moved from arizona (warm climate) to Portland (cold wet rainy.. i live just north of Vancouver WA) .. the change from hot to cold could have brought on the new growth, like i said i grow more hair in the winter... She also could have lost some hair due to the stress of the move and is regrowing it back now.

With that even a distribution and so well mixed with the rest of her hair, I'd say that she's just getting new hair in. Give it a few months and it'll just be part of her normal, thick head of hair.

If it's evenly everywhere, I'd guess that it's new hair growing and not having reached the length where the weight would pull itself down. Are the ends split or fine? How is the climate? My hair isn't too fine, but it stands up more easily when it's dry winter climate (electrostatic).

We're in Portland OR, so it's wet and rainy. We moved from Arizona a year and a bit ago so that was the complete opposite. But that was long enough ago I don't think Arizona could have had anything to do with her hair. I bet it is new hair, and I think you're right that it is spiky just because it's not long enough yet, but I just couldn't understand WHY she'd grow so much new hair at once. It seems the general consensus is new hair, not that she's malnourished or anything, so I'm feeling a bit more comfortable with it. I just hadn't really considered it possible to just randomly grow in a bunch of new hair all at once till now.

Actually you keep growing new hair like that all the time, just usually not so visibly. If you changed her diet and moved, it could even be normal that this is a sign of improvement. Or as others mentioned, baby hair getting thicker.

Most importantly, talk to her that you worried without reason and that instead that her hair is growing well (yay, new surprise hair!) and just surprised you, so she doesn't keep this feeling of embarrassment... it would be a pity if she developed a wrong self consciousness because of that.

yeah, looks like new hair to me, too.

I'd switch her to a soft bristle brush instead of a comb. A comb can break hair as well.

We have soft brushes, hard brushes and combs. I will instruct her to use the brushes more often. She also likes to comb her hair when it's wet, which I know they say can break hair off. We'll stick to brushes just in case. Thanks!

It's really helpful to brush the hair prior to washing, then it isn't as tangled afterwards when wet! I have tailbone length, straight hair and I sometimes brush it when it's still wet... as long as you are gently and start from the bottom, it doesn't do much damage. The damage comes from vigorously pulling down on tangles from above. I actually have better results with regular brushes and just brushing smaller portions of hair (combs get stuck more often in my hair, strangely enough!). If she isn't gently yet, some conditioner might help to make it a bit easier to brush for her... although I've heard that fine hair can't take too much conditioner lest it get's heavier and weighs down. As long as she starts at the bottom she will be fine whether she combs with a comb, her fingers, a brush or soft brush!

Could it be that her hair is getting thicker and you're just seeing the new growth? She's about the right age to go from "baby hair" to her more permanent head of hair/texture...

Could be, and now I am thinking this is very likely. Thanks!

I'm thinking it's probably just her hair getting thicker?

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