The non-linear composition of afro-textured hair is uniquely different than the linear hair composition of other ethnicities. Our hair naturally intertwines and bends in various directions. This curly/coily pattern is why our hair is more prone to breakage, tangles, and knots. Afro-textured hair is also the reason why combing and styling is more difficult without the help of detangling products. It is important that we understand that textured hair is very fragile, and the cuticle is thinner in comparison to the cuticle of Caucasian and Asian hair. Based on the characteristics of afro-textured hair, breakage during grooming is normal. However, how you groom and maintain your hair can dictate the severity of the breakage. So do not stress if you see minimal amounts of breakage and little broken hairs during styling. Be mindful of your hair regimen and how often you do your regimen. Now that we've gone over the characteristics, let's get into the common causes of and preventatives to breakage.
Whenever, I see new hairstyle trends on social media, I always notice the amount of styling products, twists, bends, pins and pokes the hair is enduring. Minimal breakage during styling is normal because the hair is being manipulated. However, constant manipulation and the use of certain styling tools and products can create excessive breakage. When you are styling your kinky/coily hair into a clean and neat style, you are more than likely going to use holding sprays, gels, or pomades. Those products are often formulated with drying alcohols and various ingredients meant to create intense hold and sleekness. When you apply those products to the hair and begin styling, those products can increase the fragility of the cuticle and cause breakage.
Two-strand twists and braids are the go-to hairstyles for those who want to protect their hair from the elements and decrease manipulation. Did you know that even those styles can cause breakage? Afro-textured hair is already intertwining and bending naturally, so by twisting and braiding the hair within itself, you can create extra tension in an already fragile area. If your hair is loc'd, you can also experience breakage at the root due to increased tension during a re-twist session. Whether you style your own hair/locs or have a professional do it, be mindful of the tension being used when styling your hair and speak up to your loctician/beautician if you are uncomfortable. Each curl and coil is sensitive and should be treated with extra care when creating any hairstyle.
2. Color Processing
I love dyeing my hair, so I understand the urge that people get to change up their look. Coloring your hair can be done in different ways, you can use permanent hair dye, semi-permanent hair dye, or even temporary hair wax. The downside to hair coloring is that it can cause damage to the structure of the hair cuticle. Hair dye works by opening the cuticle and bonding to that cuticle thus changing the color of your hair. By coloring your hair, you are also changing the structure of your hair; which is why your hair porosity can change after dyeing it.
It is the change in your porosity that can result in damage if gone uncorrected. Most people are unaware that the porosity of their hair determines the method in which their hair is cared for. Low porosity hair has tightly closed cuticles which require heat or warm water to lift the cuticle, while high porosity hair is porous and requires a sealant or cold water to close the cuticle. Hair dye can also damage your hair by using a dye that is too strong for your cuticle which can weaken the cuticle and result in breakage.
3. Thermal Straightening
I love a fresh silk press as much as the next natural. Seeing how much length I have retained and getting an accurate trim removing all the dead ends is relieving. Where we go wrong with thermal straightening is the process in which we go about it. Heat rearranges the hydrogen and disulfide bonds within the hair shaft. Straightening our hair with heat breaks down the protein in our hair which if broken down too much can cause heat damage. It is similar to cooking an egg, heat causes the protein in the egg to weaken which takes an egg from its natural state to scrambled. Unfortunately the protein and amino acids in the egg were broken down so much that the egg can no longer return to its natural liquid state. Heat damage can result in breakage if not properly treated because the center point where the coil and straight hair meets is a weak point that is ready to break with minimal to high manipulation.
The preventatives to the three common causes mentioned are not preventatives to normal breakage caused by manipulation. They also may not prevent breakage all together. Your hair regimen must be consistent and may require change as your hair continues to grow.
The best method when styling your hair is to be gentle and take your time. Rushing through styling your hair can cause you to miss the areas of your hair that need extra attention. In most situations, the crown of the hair is often neglected when moisturizing and detangling; followed by the ends of your hair. When combing your hair, it is safe to do so with a leave-in conditioner or moisturizer that makes detangling easier and creates less friction. Shameless plug, the Lavender & Plum Oil 2-in-1 Leave-In Styler was formulated to melt away tangles and soften the hair which decreases friction, knots, and tangles. Finger detangling may also be great for preventing breakage because your fingers can feel where the knots and tangles are versus the comb which would just rip through the hair.
If you decide to dye your hair whether you are using permanent or semi-permanent color, it is important to do your research first. If you decide to color your hair at home, make sure to research which box dye brands are the safest and most effective. If you are going to a professional, be sure to ask questions about the dye they will be applying and ask about the proper maintenance required to take care of your hair. After coloring your hair, your regimen may need to change, especially if your porosity changes. Chemically dyed hair may change to high porosity meaning your hair is now porous and needs products that are created for high porosity hair. You may also need to moisturize your hair more often because high porosity hair loses moisture quickly if not sealed in properly.
Heat damage can occur from the processes we skip before the actual thermal straightening process. Due to protein being the bond that breaks during heat styling; applying a protein treatment to your hair after shampooing is important. Adding that extra protein to the hair will strengthen the protein bonds making your hair less susceptible to heat damage. Also using shampoos and conditioners that are designed to prepare the hair for heat styling is key to achieve the silkiest and softest silk press. Before heat styling, you should also use heat protectant to lubricate the hair strands, making it more difficult for the heat to penetrate the cuticle and burn the hair stands.
If you found this blog helpful, be sure to share this blog with your fiends and family so their hair can flourish too. If you have questions, concerns or want to share your own hair care tips that your hair loves, leave a comment down below.