A lot of women with afro-textured hair (natural or relaxed) experience hair breakage at some point in their hair journey. In fact, it is a key reason why a lot of women fail to achieve longer hair, and unfortunately go on to believe that their hair doesn’t grow past a certain length.
Self-proclaimed hair care guru’s claim to know how to eliminate hair breakage, but I honestly don’t think it is possible to do so completely. However, I believe it is possible to minimise it significantly. Before we delve into prevention strategies, let’s explore the common causes of it.
Common Causes of Hair Breakage
- Hair dyes/colouring: The cuticle is the outermost layer of your hair shaft. It protects the inner layers of your hair – the medulla and cortex. It also helps to seal in moisture into your hair shaft. Read this post to learn about the basic structure of afro hair. For your hair to remain healthy and retain moisture, it is important that your cuticle lays flat at all times. When you apply dyes to your hair, they raise your cuticles and alter the protein structure of your hair to allow the colour in. Adding permanent colour to your hair causes your hair fibre to swell, and makes it prone to breakage and split ends. It can eventually result in your cuticles detaching completely from your hair shaft, leaving you cortex completely exposed and your hair completely damaged.
- Heat styling: Frequently using heat styling tools like flat irons, curling irons, and blow dryers (on high setting) can permanently alter the protein bonds in your hair. Once this happens, your hair will no longer return to its original curl pattern. Heat styling also destroys your cuticles, and once damaged your hair becomes highly porous, brittle and more prone to breakage.
- Excessive manipulation: Aggressively brushing and combing your hair frequently can cause wear and tear to your hair. In addition, wearing braids that are too tight or using hair bands and bobby pins that snag on your hair can lead to damage.
- Poor hair care routines: To allow your hair flourish and reach its true potential, it is important to have a good hair care routine. If you go weeks on end without cleansing your hair, deep conditioning it or moisturising it, your hair will inevitably break off and never retain its length. I know many hair care guru’s say products don’t grow your hair, but I disagree completely. I’m a firm believer that products grow your hair. If your hair products do not cleanse your hair properly, condition and moisturise it, and seal your cuticles, you will NEVER get long hair.
How to prevent hair breakage
Once you know the causes of hair breakage, it is straightforward to prevent it. Technically, all you need to do is avoid all the things that cause breakage.
- Minimise heat styling with direct heat from curling and flat irons. Save that for only special occasions. If you’re not confident about flat ironing your own hair, go to a trusted professional.
- Avoid colouring your hair. If you must colour it, choose an ammonia-free colouring kit. Ensure that you get protein treatments regularly to help you seal the holes that hair dyes put in your cuticles. Take note that protein treatments are only a temporary fix and once you wash your hair, you wash away the proteins. So it is important you treat your hair with a protein deep conditioner regularly.
- Trim your hair as often as necessary to get rid of split ends so that they don’t travel up the hair shaft and cause more damage.
- When detangling you hair, try to use your fingers initially to remove large tangles and knots. After that, you may use a seamless comb to get rid of more difficult knots. Never rip knots out of your hair, get a pair of hair shears and snip them out so you don’t create split ends.
- If you hair is long enough to put in a bun, only use hair ties without metal parts that can snag your hair. Also avoid using bobby pins that do not have a rounded end as they also snag your hair and cause breakage.
- When deep conditioning your hair, ensure you wrap your hair with a warm towel or sit under a hooded dryer to allow the conditioner penetrate your cuticle. This ensures that your hair is properly conditioned and moisturised, which will minimise hair breakage.
- Cleanse, moisturise and seal your hair often. Afro hair needs as much moisture as it can get. Unless your hair becomes too mushy or too elastic (at which point you need a protein treatment), moisturise, moisturise, moisture!
- If your hair is breaking excessively after colouring or heat damage, I would suggest that you get a strong protein treatment. Look for a product that contains hydrolysed proteins in it such as hydrolysed keratin, hydrolysed wheat, corn or soya proteins. Hydrolysed proteins can effectively penetrate the hair shaft. Using eggs or mayonnaise will not do the job because the proteins are far too large to penetrate the hair shaft. The Aphogee two step protein treatment (not a natural product) is a good strong protein treatment. You must not use it more than once every six weeks or else it will dry your hair out and lead to more damage. After using it, you can maintain the protein in your hair by using a milder product such as our restorative deep conditioner.
I hope this post has given you some insight into hair breakage, and on the ways to prevent/minimise it. Remember that some breakage is inevitable. However, if your hair is breaking so much that you are unable to retain length, or you have several areas with short hairs, you may need to pay closer attention to your hair care practices.