My [broken] hair 4 years ago (Jan 2010)
So one one of the most frustrating things I find about having hair (especially 4c hair) is that it breaks… For me hair breakage is the main reason that I’m so scissor happy and I’ve big chopped 3 times in the last 4 years. Hair breakage is the reason why I’d hardly ever seen a black girl grow hair past her shoulders. It is the reason why I’d leave a trail of braids all over the floor at school/work only to get tapped on the shoulder to get told “I dropped my hair” (I know #smh).
Most of my life I thought that breakage was just my fate and whipping out the clippers when things got really bad was the only solution. But then again most of my life I thought that water was my worst enemy and that I needed to “suffer for beauty” by getting a fine tooth comb through my ‘fro… So yeah…
Because we have the most fragile hair type, hair breakage is a glaring reality but the good news is that you can prevent most of it.
The basic rule here is in order to prevent something from happening you need find out why it’s happening first then fix it from thr source. Let’s get into that:
Causes of Hair Breakage:
1. Lack of moisture
If your hair is super dry then it is more suceptible to breaking even when you handle it with care because the strands are not pliable/ elastic. Dry hair is hard to manipulate as it quickly reaches its limit and breaks off when handled. Hence the snap, crackle, popping whilst combing. Think of it as you would spaghetti; dry spaghetti breaks when you apply minimal pressure but if you have cooked it to al dente and it has soaked up the moisture from the water it is more difficult to break and way more pliable. So make sure you keep your hair sufficiently moisturised (and sealed) at all times especially when you are about to handle it.
2. Too much moisture
I was very surprised about this fact when I learnt about it because surely there can’t be a limit to moisture, can they? Oh yes there is… Continuing with the spaghetti analogy; you know when you forget that you left spaghetti on the stove because Scandal (or in RSA “The Fixer”) was playing on TV and you get back to find it has become all mushy because it effectively has absorbed too much moisture? It breaks as soon as you try to poke at it… Yeah, now imagine your hair go through that level of “hydral fatigue” and you want to manipulate it. That is what happens when you handle your hair when it is soaking wet and saturated, it is more susceptible to breakage. It is better to handle your hair when it’s damp to minimise breakage because it is that “al dente” sweet spot between too dry and too wet.
3. Rough handling (a.k.a “Suffering for beauty”)
Even if your hair is sufficiently moist if you comb through it in a rough manner ( to the point that your neck is jerking) then it will break. Try to finger comb gently or if you must then use a wide tooth comb. If your hands (or other people’s) are constantly in your hair, then it has more opportunity to break. Try and give your hair a break (excuse the pun). Lastly, installing tight braids, weaves and cornrows or slicking your hair back into a top knot will also break your hair. Yes, it looks slightly neater when it’s tight but you still want to have some hair left after rocking your hairstyle. So steer clear of stylists who handle your hair aggressively when braiding and if you must wear a top knot then try keep it in for as short as possible.
4. Lack of protective styling
A protective hairstyle protects the ends of your hair, which are the oldest parts of your hair, from the elements and constant manipulation thereby minimising the chances of experiencing breakage in the period that you are wearing it. Protective styles include braids, weaves, wigs, updo’s and headscarves. If you do not protect the ends of your hair often you might not be able to grow long hair as it will be prone to breaking faster or at the same rate that it is growing.
I know how we love our blow-outs and flat ironing our hair but truth is, that level of heat dries your hair out further and as I mentioned in point 1, dry hair breaks easily. It’s best to avoid all forms of dry heat (opposed to moist heat that you use when deep conditioning) or at the very least keep your contact with heat to a minimum e.g. only 3 times a year.
Colouring your hair is fun and it really is a great way to bring out your personality but it’s like any other chemical process that alters your hair’s structure and it effectively weakens the strands. Coloured hair is more prone to dryness and tends to need more moisture and TLC than “virgin” hair. If you colour your hair make sure to pay more attention to it and use appropriate shampoo’s, conditioners and styling aids. I made the mistake of neglecting my hair after coloring in 2012 and I paid the price, see those whispy ends?
More on hair typing and moisturising in the next blog posts
Have a Happy Hair Day (^^,)