1. CHEMICAL OVERLAP
Using too many chemicals in a short time period is the perfect recipe for excessive breakage. When speaking of chemicals, I am referring to dyes, relaxers, bleach and keratin treatments. These treatments can wear down the hair’s protein bonds, which makes it weaker and more susceptible to breakage.
Solution: Use these treatments as little as possible. Try growing out your roots longer or stretching your relaxers. If you must process your hair, please make sure you are doing regular protein treatments. These will help strengthen the bonds in your hair to help keep your strands intact.
2. EXCESSIVE MANIPULATION
Each bend in a curl/coil represents a weak point. The more you manipulate your hair (combing, brushing, or styling) the more stress you put on your already fragile strands.
Solution: I know it’s hard to resist playing in your hair. To avoid this temptation, try wearing your hair up and away in a protective style. I had major hand-in-hair syndrome before I started wearing protective styles regularly. Putting my hair up and away is one of the main reasons why I’ve been able to achieve long natural hair. I will go into more detail about protective styling and its effectiveness in next week’s post.
3. HEAT USAGE
Many people love to flat iron their hair on the highest setting possible, which usually ranges between 450-500 degrees. Hair burns at 451 degrees Fahrenheit. These high temperatures definitely increase the chances of getting heat damage that can permanently alter your curl pattern. If you are not using a heat protectant, then you are at a greater risk.
Solution: Even the kinkiest textures can achieve a sleek look without going up to 450 degrees. Smaller sections allow you to get your hair straighter with less damage. Though hair burns at 451 degrees, I recommend trying a lower temperature if you plan to do multiple passes with the flat iron. Be sure to use a heat protectant that provides protection up to 450 degrees. If you’d like to use a natural heat protectant, you could apply a small amount of Grapeseed oil to your hair before blow drying/flat ironing. It provides protection up to 420 degrees. Start with a small amount first to avoid accidentally weighing down your strands. If you straighten regularly and experience a lot of breakage, try eliminating the heat for a week or two each month to give your hair a rest from the heat.
4. SUN DAMAGE
Ultraviolet rays break down protein bonds in the hair shaft, making it easier for your hair to break.
Solution: Wear a hat to create a protective barrier if you know you’ll be in the sun for a while. Use an antioxidant rich leave in conditioner/moisturizer before you go out in the sun to help lessen UV damage. A few antioxidant rich oils to look out for are Avocado, Sunflower, Grapeseed and Vitamin-E oil.
5. IMPROPER DETANGLING METHODS
Fine toothed combs have no place in a curly girl’s detangling routine. Well, unless you are using them to make neat parts. Otherwise, attempting to detangle your hair with a fine toothed comb will usually lead to one of two things: broken comb in hair, or broken hair scattered across your bathroom’s counter. Attempting to comb out curls on dry, un-lubricated hair creates a lot of friction that could result in you trying to force the comb through your hair, which equals more breakage. Never force the comb!
Solution: Finger detangling hair that is thoroughly lubricated is the gentlest way to detangle, and your safest bet for decreasing breakage. Finger detangling allows you to feel all of the knots and tangles with your fingers so you can gently separate them instead of ripping through them with a comb. You could use a nourishing oil to detangle your hair before washing, or detangle using a slippery conditioner or leave in. If you choose to use a comb, just make sure it is wide toothed and seamless.
6. ENVIROMENTAL DAMAGE
Wind, dry air (cold or hot), hard water and artificial heat can all cause breakage. Cold winds dry out your hair and create friction among your strands. Dry heat (from arid climates or artificial heat) can zap moisture out of your hair after prolonged exposure. Winter is the harshest season for hair, because winds increase, air becomes colder, and we use more drying artificial heat to keep warm.
Solution: Keep your hair moisturized and away in a protective style to minimize friction and retain moisture longer.
7. SLEEPING ON COTTON PILLOWCASES WITH UNCOVERED HAIR
Sleeping on a cotton pillow case without a scarf is tempting, but can exacerbate your problems with breakage. Cotton creates friction and easily absorbs moisture from your hair while you’re sleeping.
Solution: Combat the drying effects of cotton by covering your hair with a satin/polyester scarf before bed, or use a satin/polyester pillow case. You’ll also preserve your style longer by keeping your hair protected at night!
8. YOU NEGLECT YOUR REAL HAIR WHEN WEARING PROTECTIVE STYLES
It can be easy to forget about the needs of your real hair while you are wearing a wig or extensions. Neglecting your real hair may cause additional breakage when you take down your style, which would ultimately defeat the purpose of wearing a protective style (unless you aren’t wearing the style to grow out your hair).
Find ways to cleanse and moisturize your hair before you get the style, so you can make sure that you can adequately care for your real hair underneath. If you are wearing braids or twists as a protective style, you can easily moisturize your hair using a spray bottle and wash just your scalp. Those with wigs can use a thick, creamy moisturizer before putting the wig on. I recommend taking down the braids every 2 weeks to wash and condition the hair.
9. YOU USE A SULFATE-RICH SHAMPOO
Sulfates are very drying and cause the hair to become weak and brittle over time. This makes it break off much easier when you try to style your hair after shampooing.
Check to bottle of your favorite shampoo to make sure it is sulfate free. If not, toss that bad boy! Terrene Fusions Clarifying Shampoo is a sulfate free alternative that will thoroughly cleanse your hair without making it feel uncomfortably clean.
Hair needs a balance of protein and moisture to be strong and healthy. Since protein makes up approximately 91% of your hair strand, it is required to prevent chronic breakage. All protein on the human body is made up of amino acids. Amino Acids have been shown to strengthen the hair and improve its porosity by filling the gaps in the hair’s outer cuticle, which provides additional protection to the inner hair fiber. This amino acid “shield” also increases the hair’s ability to retain moisture. Many women who use amino acids report shinier, smoother hair after heat styling, increased curl definition and stronger, more manageable hair.
WHICH PROTEINS SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
Hair that’s lacking protein can feel brittle or break easily. You may want to do a protein treatment if:
Wet one of your shed hairs, then hold each end of the hair and stretch it.
If you discover that your hair does need more protein, you should do a protein treatment the next time you wash your hair. I recommend Terrene Fusions Replenishing Deep Conditioner. It contains 16 vegetable amino acids derived from non-GMO soybeans, silk amino acids, molasses and hydrolyzed wheat protein, which work together to strengthen the hair and improve moisture retention. It also contains slippery elm for easy detangling, and moisturizers like castor oil and aloe vera.
I recommend doing protein treatments once a month or less, depending on your styling habits and protein sensitivity. Those who use heat should use protein more frequently to decrease the likelihood of getting heat damage. If you find that your hair needs more moisture, you should do a deep conditioning treatment. I deep condition my hair every 1-2 weeks.
I hope that you found this information helpful! I will dive deeper into other causes of breakage in my next post. If you have any questions or suggestions for a new topic, please leave them below.
Do you struggle with breakage? How often do you use protein?
Many women want to escape the drying effects of shampoo, which is one of the reasons why co-washing has become so popular over the years. Sebum (which is the natural oil that our scalp produces) has difficulty traveling down the bends and coils on curly and kinky textures, which is why we naturals have to moisturize our hair throughout the week to reduce dryness and breakage. Co-washing has become an alternative because the right conditioner can gently cleanse your hair without stripping it of its natural oils*. However, a shampoo is needed every once in a while to thoroughly cleanse your hair of product residue. Many store bought shampoos are extremely drying because they contain surfactants (cleansers) called sulfates.
THE LOWDOWN ON SULFATES
Sulfates are used because they are cheap, effective cleansers. So effective that they strip the hair of every bit of residue, even its natural oils. This is why sulfates are so common in liquid dish soap! For curly girls, this typically results in dry, tangled, squeaky-clean hair that can become a hassle to manipulate, especially if you haven’t detangled your hair prior to shampooing. When I used sulfate shampoos, I’d notice that my hair felt stripped and became very hard to manipulate after rinsing . I’d have to use heaps of conditioner and oil before I could even attempt to separate my hair for detangling.
Those with naturally straight hair may find that their scalp becomes oilier when using sulfates. This is because the removal of the natural oils causes the sebum glands to become overactive and work to replace all of the sebum that was just washed away. This causes greasier, weighed down hair that you’d have to shampoo more often, which is perfect for those shampoo manufacturers since you’d have to use more of their product to remove the excess oil that the shampoo caused. The trickery!
These troubling sulfates come in many different titles, such as:
Ammonium Lauryl, Laureth Sulfate, Triethanolammonium (TEA) Lauryl, Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
In addition to creating oily or dry, tangled hair, these sulfates have the potential to act as irritant to those with sensitive skin. Prolonged use can exacerbate scalp problems and cause painful, lingering eye irritation. You may also notice that the overall health of your hair declines with regular use of sulfates. If your hair always feels rough and brittle, your shampoo could be the culprit.
SO WHAT IS SAFE TO USE?
Sulfates aren’t your only option if you want clean hair. Cocamidopropyl Betaine (aka Coco Betaine) is a very mild cleanser derived from coconuts. It effectively removes product buildup without stripping the hair. It is also one of the few sulfate-free cleansers that actually removes silicone buildup. If you use synthetic products but want to avoid sulfates, a shampoo with this ingredient would be your best bet.
Decyl Glucoside is another ingredient to consider when looking for a sulfate free shampoo. It is so mild that it is frequently used in baby shampoo. This gentle cleanser is derived from coconuts, and/or corn.
A few other gentle cleansers are:
THE IMPORTANCE OF SHAMPOO
If you are an avid co-washer, please remember that it is important to thoroughly cleanse your hair with a shampoo every once in a while to ensure that you don’t have months of product build up marinating in your strands. I use Terrene Fusions’ Olive & Aloe Clarifying Shampoo at least once a month to rid my hair of any product residue. It contains Coco Betaine and Decyl Glucoside, making it a very gentle, yet effective alternative to the sulfate-ridden store bought shampoos. In addition to cleansing, this shampoo also:
IS CLARIFYING NECESSARY?
Not sure if you need to clarify your hair? Check out the infographic below. If you are interested, the shampoo is available in multiple scents and sizes in my shop. Feel free to share this post or leave a comment if you found it helpful.
*For a more detailed post about the pros and cons of co-washing, please visit last week's post titled "Cowashing Revealed".
How often do you clarify your hair?
PROCESSING TIME: 5 -15 BUSINESS DAYS (Dependent upon order size & volume). FLAT RATE $6.95 SHIPPING FOR ALL DOMESTIC ORDERS. TERRENE FUSIONS, LLC. 2019