Broken Hair or New Growth

Broken hair
Photo: Ganka Trendafilova/Shutterstock
Q: How can I tell if the short hair I see is new growing hair or broken hair?
A: This can often be very difficult to determine, especially if the "short hairs" are in areas where breakage can occur (around the hairline, etc.). Your first task would be to examine the hair closely and look for signs of stress on the hairs - such as split ends, stretching, etc.
If there are signs of stress or damage, then breakage is the likely cause. This can be doubly certain in cases where breakage would be expected. For example: an individual wears his/her hair in, say, a tight ponytail and begins to notice short hairs at the forehead and temples.
You also need to consider the condition of your hair. If you regularly subject your hair to chemical processing (color, straightening and/or perming) you are far more likely to experience breakage as these processes can be extremely harsh to the hair and leave it weakened. This is especially true in areas where the hair is stressed by the style worn.
Breakage becomes less likely when the short hairs are found in places on the scalp that aren't exposed to significant stress from the styles worn. For example if you generally wear your hair loose and parted in the middle, but notice hairs that "poke up" between the other hairs on the scalp that are NOT along the parting, there is a reasonable chance that the hair is simply "new growth" in follicles that have recently shed their hairs.
This new growth of hair will not be found in great numbers. Since only 10% of the hairs on average are in a resting phase at any given time (the rest being in a growth phase) and the hairs are shed following the resting phase as the new hair pushes the old hair out of the follicle, you would generally only see 10% of the hairs on your head as these short, newly grown hairs. It should also be noted that each individual follicle follows its own cycle of growth, rest and shedding, and these cycles may not be equal in duration.
Regardless of the cause, however, you will want to take care to properly condition and care for the hair to ensure that it can grow in healthy and strong. Remember to condition the hair daily, whether or not you shampoo the hair.
See also:
What split ends look like
Chemical processes and hair breakage
What is hair made of and how does it grow?
I'm having hair breakage. Should I get my hair cut even?