How to Prevent Hair Breakage
I received an interesting email from a newsletter subscriber last week:
“Hi! My main concern is preventing breakage, because I had two areas where I had a little breakage.”
There are a couple of things that are important to note. In terms of age, the ends of your hair are the oldest parts of your hair. These ends have been exposed to more natural wear and tear than the rest of your hair – due to normal handling, styling and other elements like weather.
If you are experiencing excessive breakage, the first thing I want you to do is write down everything that you are currently doing to your hair. Read our natural hair 101 article if you need more information about exactly what you should write down. After completing that step, read the information below and see if you can identify what’s causing your hair to break.
Your Hair Needs Moisture and Protein
Since black natural hair usually has a tight curl pattern, it is difficult for natural oils from your scalp to travel completely down the hair shaft. This means that you need to specifically moisturize the ends of your hair as often as needed. If you’re currently experiencing dry hair, you should begin moisturizing your hair daily and make adjustments as you learn what your hair needs.
One way to help retain moisture is to pre-poo or perform a pre-shampoo treatment on your hair. This refers to applying oils and/or conditioners to your hair prior to shampooing the hair. You can leave the treatment on your hair for several minutes or over a longer a period of time – like overnight. If you decide to leave the treatment on overnight, you can use a baggying method (baggy job). A baggy job refers to applying moisturizer to the hair and then wrapping or covering your hair with a plastic bag, saran wrap or shower cap. After you moisturize your hair, be sure to seal in the moisture using butters or oils. For more about one of the most common causes of breakage, check out this article on moisture and protein balance.
Trimming Your Split-Ends
Have you ever heard of a search and destroy mission? In natural hair lingo, this means looking through your hair, especially the ends of your hair, to find split ends, knots or weak spots and cutting them out with hair shears. This technique of cutting split ends is really a form of preventative maintenance, because split-ends may eventually travel up the hair shaft – potentially making a minor split grow over time. Have you ever had a crack in your car windshield? They generally start small, but if left untreated (or repaired), then that crack will grow due to general weathering. Think about the split-ends on your hair the same way – if left untreated – they can continue to cause problems for your hair.
Tight Hairstyles and Accessories
You must resist wearing tight hairstyles – like tight ponytails and braids. When worn too tight, these hairstyles apply unnecessary stress on your hair and scalp. To be clear, these styles are fine as long as they’re not overly tight. When pulling your hair back or pinning it up, use clips and bobby pins when possible – never use tight rubber bands on your hair. Tight rubber bands and other tight accessories can cause unnecessary damage to your hair strands.
Satin Is Your Friend
If you are currently sleeping on cotton sheets or pillowcases and not wrapping your hair with a satin scarf or wearing some kind of satin head covering, then it is very likely that the cotton is robbing your hair of moisture every single night. The constant rubbing against a cotton pillow can cause excessive dryness and breakage. Using satin at night can also encourage 2nd day hair – that is a hairstyle that can last more than one day without needing major restyling. When wearing hats, you can tie a satin scarf around your head then put on the hat or try to find satin-lined hats.
Detangling and Styling
When detangling your hair, the Tangle Teezer and Denman Detangling Brush are products that we recommend on our resource page, but those styling tools may not work for everyone. If you are experiencing excessive breakage, make sure you are not over-styling with tools. Excessive combing or brushing causes constant tug and pull on your hair strands which can lead to unnecessary breakage. It is important that you make time to care for your hair properly and never rush through your hair care regimen or styling process. In addition, if you have the time, you can try finger combing as a way to detangle.
Heat robs your hair of moisture and applying heat to your hair may cause immediate damage. Even if it doesn’t, it can weaken your hair strands over time and eventually lead to breakage. It is critical that you eliminate or greatly minimize the use of heat on your hair. If you must use heat, do it no more than once per week – maximum.
To prevent breakage it is critical that you reduce the need to manipulate your hair and protect the ends of the hair strands. It’s important to note that protective styling is about more than wearing protective styles. Check out this article for more information on protective styling.