Hair breakage is one of the most common and worrisome problems faced by women trying to grow out their hair. Having healthy, long hair is important to many women, which means hair that is shedding or breaking excessively can be a cause of great concern.You can stop your hair from breaking and shedding by taking good care of it. In this article we’ll go over some things you may be doing which are unintentionally damaging your hair.
Black Women and Hair Breakage
The curly, coily, kinky hair of African American women may LOOK strong and durable, but it’s actually much more delicate and prone to breakage than the Type 1 and 2 hair of Asian, Latin and Caucasian women. Black women’s hair types tend to be Type 3 and 4 – curly to kinky in texture. Growing your Type 3 and 4 hair requires especially delicate handling, different products, and greater awareness of the causes of hair breakage.
Where is Your Hair Breakage Occurring?
Many women suffer not just from generalized breakage at the ends or mid-strand, but from hair breakage and hair loss in one particular spot on their head.
Common areas of hair breakage are the crown of the head, the nape of the neck, the hairline on one or both sides, or in the back of the head. It’s smart to pay attention to the sudden onset of hair breakage – ignoring it can have lasting and possibly permanent effects on your hair health and scalp.
How to Stop Hair Breakage
Healthy hair is judged by these three properties:
(1) Hair Elasticity: The ability of your hair strand to bend and flex and gently elongate without breaking. Elasticity is a measure of your hair’s moisture content.
(2) Hair Porosity: Defined as the ability of your hair strands to absorb and retain moisture. Hair can be too porous, balanced or have low porosity.
(a) If your hair is HIGH POROSITY, it means that due to the raised cuticle layer, hair absorbs too much water (moisture). The raised cuticle also means that your hair is unable to retain moisture that you put on, so it always looks and feels dry. In most cases a raised cuticle indicates damaged hair. Chief characteristics of high porosity hair is that it is dull and dry-looking, sometimes feeling crunchy and rough to the touch.
(b) If your hair is considered LOW POROSITY it is resistant to moisture, and conditioning products just seem to ‘sit’ on the hair. In this case the hair cuticles are sealed tight, extremely compact and overlapping. However, once you lift the cuticle and your hair can absorb moisture, it is capable of holding it. In other words, this hair type has excellent moisture and protein retention abilities. Low porosity hair often looks very healthy, but in most cases it lacks elasticity and breaks easily when the hair is handled.
(c) NORMAL POROSITY hair absorbs and retains moisture adequately. The hair looks healthy with a nice sheen. When handled or styled, the hair is resilient with appropriate elasticity, and full of body (or “jump” as it is referred to in the natural hair industry).
(3) Hair Strength: The strength of your hair refers to its overall ability to withstand handling and its resistance to breakage. Protein content moreso than moisture is the primary factor in hair strength.
Twelve Tips to Stop Hair Breakage
After talking about hair breakage with hundreds of naturalistas both on and offline, I’ve concluded that there are about 12 things we do that contribute to or are the direct cause of hair breakage and hair loss.
1) Improper Cleansing Routine: Sufferers of dry, breaking hair should always protect their hair during the cleansing process by finger detangling and doing a pre-poo conditioning treatment with natural oils before shampooing.
Using natural oils on your scalp protects porous hair from absorbing too much water, thus increasing tensile strength. Every week before I cleanse my hair, I do an overnight oil treatment. Favorites are Vatika oil, Neem and Argon oil, or a blend of olive/avocado and coconut oils. I’ve found that pre-pooing with oil greatly helps protect my hair from breakage during the cleansing process.
Choosing the right cleansing product is also important.
If you use shampoo, clean your hair with a sulfate free shampoo. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, commonly referred to simply as sulphates, sulfates or SLS are inexpensive foaming agents found in many commercial shampoos. Sulfates give hair that “squeaky clean” feeling, but they are extremely drying to the scalp. Sulfates have been associated with skin rashes, hair loss, dandruff and other scalp problems, and allergic reactions.
I along with many other women prefer the “no-poo” method of cleansing which involves washing with conditioner (co-washing), or using non-shampoo cleansers such as Bentonite Clay and Rhassoul Clay. I find that my hair responds positively (little to no breakage) to enriching clay blends than any type of shampoo.
2) Poor Handling of Hair When Wet. Breaking hair is delicate hair, and when your hair is wet it is even more delicate and susceptible to damage than when dry. Frequently co-washing or washing your hair should be avoided… do you really need to wash your hair more than once per week?
Also avoid brushing your hair when it is wet. Though there are many laymen hair experts with videos on You Tube brushing their wet hair into submission with Denman style brushes, their hair is not yours. Your hair is breaking. Your hair is falling out. Which means that YOU need to handle your hair accordingly with the most respect and gentleness.
This could be a good time to try an apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse. ACV rinses help to remove some types of build-up from the hair while also closing the hair cuticles (see the chart above for reference). Being that hair has a naturally low (slightly acidic) pH of 4-5, things like vinegar rinses can help restore the pH balance of the scalp and hair and promote blood circulation in the scalp, thereby promoting new hair growth. It can also help give the hair a healthy looking sheen.
Aloe vera also soothes and stimulates the scalp and helps seal the cuticles. Apply Aloe Vera juice or gel to the hair and scalp. Leave it to soak in for 5-10 minutes, then rinse with cool water.
If you prefer to try the ACV rinse, mix 1 Tablespoon of raw Organic ACV with 2 cups of room temperature distilled water. Use it for your final rinse after cleansing your hair to close the hair cuticle of porous hair. Your hair will feel amazingly smooth to the touch and will hold moisture much better than you’ve ever experienced.
3) Failure to Properly Condition the Hair. Apply a deep conditioner to the hair, cover with a plastic conditioning cap and leave in for 20-45 minutes before you rinse it out. You can buy commercial deep conditioners, or you can make your own. Favourite conditioning mask recipes of mine are on the site and include wholesome, nutritious ingredients like avocado, coconut crème, eggs, yoghurt, honey and banana.
After deep conditioning your hair you should ALWAYS apply a water-based leave-in conditioner to your hair to retain moisture. Look at the label and try to use conditioners without additional protein to maintain the proper protein/moisture balance in your hair.
Your moisturising conditioner should then be “sealed” into the hair with a heavier oil or butter. Popular oils are castor, Argon oil, avocado oil, coconut oil and Jojoba oil. Hair butters to try: Shea, aloe, mango and avocado butter – or you can make your own “whip” by combining your choice of oils with your favourite butter.
If you are using quality conditioners, using a leave-in and sealing your hair, but your hair doesn’t seem to be responding and still feels dry, you may need to clarify. Clairfying your hair will remove product build-up and residues which can also contribute to hair breakage by preventing your hair from absorbing needed protein and moisture. How to clarify hair with baking soda can be found here.
The rest of this article is presented in Why Is My Hair Breaking – Part 2.
About the Author (Author Profile)Blogger, writer, relationships/dating expert, fitness trainer and natural hair enthusiast since 1997. Sharing information from grandmomma, books and scientific journals, as well as my personal discoveries and experiences with natural hair as we journey from relaxers, flat irons and weaves together.
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