When it comes to us and our hair, if there are two things that I wish could be retired and thrown in the back of the dumpster, never to return, is the term "good hair" (what in the world?!) and the misconception that we can't grow our hair, just as long as other ethnicities do. It's not that our natural crowns aren't glorious or that we can't gain inches, right along with the best of 'em; it's that, because our hair is a different texture, when it comes to hair care and maintenance, we simply have to take a different approach. Otherwise, we could end up with breakage and never reach our ultimate hair goals.
On the hair tip, that's what we're gonna tackle today. 10 reasons why a lot of us experience more breakage than we ever should, along with some food for thought on how to avoid it in the future, so that we can come to love every inch of the GOOD HAIR that God has richly blessed us with.
BREAKAGE CAUSE #1: You’re Not Aware of Your Hair Type
When it came to me figuring out this hair of mine, probably what kept me from gaining inches the most was not knowing exactly what my hair type is. It's kind of a long story but basically, our hair ranges from straight (type 1) to super curly (type 4). Aside from whatever number your hair is, it also consists of the letters A, B or C (because there are different levels of curly within each curl pattern). Knowing what your hair type is helps you to determine what kind of products and overall hair care approach that you need to take; in part, because the straighter your hair is, the easier it is for the natural oils from your scalp to go down your hair shaft and moisturize your tresses. The curlier it is, the more difficult it is for the oils to move about; not compensating for that can lead to dryness and brittleness, if you're not careful.
When it comes to figuring out what your hair type is, a lot of people figured theirs out via what is known as "the water test" (check it out here). You can also take a hair type quiz (do that here). I've also got an overall video breakdown for you to learn more about your hair here.
BREAKAGE CAUSE #2: You’re Not Deep Conditioning Your Hair
Personally, unless I'm trying to get rid of a ton of product in my hair (which isn't often because I typically don't use much), I don't use a shampoo that has sulfates in it. Sulfates are a lot like a detergent and, if you apply them too much to your locks, they can end up drying your hair out. A sulfate-free shampoo is much gentler. But whether you go with a sulfate or non-sulfate shampoo or not, it's always important to follow washing your hair up with a conditioner.
Honestly, something that I used to really underestimate is how important it is to do more than just leave a regular ole' conditioner on my head for a couple of minutes. What I mean by that is, my hair actually started getting a lot softer and more manageable once I made a point to deep condition it. Doing that gives your hair more elasticity, more moisture and even more sheen.
What I personally do is mix some Chebe powder into a rich conditioner (one that I've recently been really enjoying is Tropic Isle Living's Strong Roots Red Pimento Conditioner; its growth oil is actually pretty bomb too). I apply it to my hair and let it sit for a couple of hours (sometimes overnight if I've really got time). Once I rinse it out (with lukewarm water; hot can also dry out your hair), my locks are super soft and actually remained that way until my next wash day (which, on average, is 10 days later). Yeah, never skip the deep conditioning step. Your hair won't be nearly as healthy as it could/should be, if you do.
BREAKAGE CAUSE #3: You’re Not Dusting Your Ends
While it is sho 'nuf a myth that trimming your hair makes your hair grow faster, if you do make a point to get rid of your raggedy ends, that can help to keep split ends away. Know what else? It can also reduce the amount of snagging that happens when you comb or brush your hair due to the tangles and fairy knots that can happen when your ends aren't trimmed enough. While I personally think that the "every 4-6 weeks rule" for trimming your hair depends on how well you care for it, dusting your ends that often can be a really good idea. Dusting is when you simply trim a very little bit of your hair; so little, in fact that, so long as you've got a good pair of shears (dull ones can also snag your ends), you can dust your ends yourself. For tips on how to do that, check out this video.
BREAKAGE CAUSE #4: You’re Not Using a Thermal Heat Protectant
In the article, "Top To Bottom: 10 Tips To Strengthen Your Hair Follicles & Protect Your Ends", I talked about how you should towel and blow dry your hair. I also lightly touched on the importance of applying a thermal heat protectant, but I want to go into a little bit more detail about why it's also such a smart thing to do. Back before I was using it, sometimes I would notice that my hair was frizzy or that I'd have an increased amount of split ends. Basically, what thermal heat protectant does is seal in the moisture that your hair needs while smoothing your cuticles so that the heat from your styling tools doesn't zap out your moisture which can lead to dryness, frizzing and breakage. A heads up—if you've got thick hair like I do, it's best to go with a cream-base thermal heat protectant than a spray. Otherwise, your tresses may laugh at the product and still you could still end up with all of the frizz that you're trying your best to avoid.
BREAKAGE CAUSE #5: You’re Dyeing Your Hair Too Much (or the Wrong Way)
Back in the day, I used to change my hair color, just about as much as I changed my clothes. But now that I care more about the health of my hair (and my health overall) than the hue, I don't do it as much. I also avoid permanent hair dyes and stick to rinses (because they are far less damaging) or hair wax for fun. Still, if you're someone who likes to go the more permanent route, while some people seem to have no problem with using box brands of dye, in order to get the results that you want with less breakage, I recommend going to a beauty supply store and selecting a color and developer and mixing the two. Anyway, the bottom line here is that dye swells up your cuticles (especially when you choose to go lighter due to the peroxide that's in it) which can definitely lead to dryness, damage and hair breakage over time. That's why it's important that you always deep condition color-treated hair, that you don't touch up your roots less than every 4-6 weeks (longer, if you can stand it) and that you follow all directions when applying to dye.
Side note, real talk, I really think it's smarter to go to a professional stylist if you've got length that you want to keep. But if not, make sure to baby your hair as much as possible. Dyed hair is mad fragile and needs all of the TLC that it can get.
BREAKAGE CAUSE #6: You’re Overstretching Your Locks
This might be the "something new for the day" revelation for some of y'all. Oftentimes, when you hear people offer up no-nos when it comes to blow-outs and flat ironing, heat is the reason. But did you know that there is actually such a thing as overstretching your own hair?
Word on the street is, if we constantly stretch our natural curl pattern beyond 30-35 percent, it can start to damage our hair's cuticles over time and ultimately lead to breakage. This is something to keep in mind if you're someone with natural hair who is constantly doing whatever you can to stretch your locks out and reduce shrinkage.
Oh, and when you do decide to stretch your hair (whether it's blow drying, braiding or even threading), make sure not to do it when your locks are wet; it's super fragile in that state and you could definitely cause breakage. It's best to stretch your hair after it has air-dried about 70 percent. That way, it will be strong—and still flexible—enough to handle your stretching techniques (so long as you use them sparingly).
BREAKAGE CAUSE #7: You’re Always Styling Your Hair the Same Way
Tension is something that our hair, especially the roots of it, do not need. But whenever we settle on a fly hairstyle that we just can't seem to get enough of, that is oftentimes just what our hair follicles have to put up with. Something that I personally like to do is wrap my hair up in a bandana and put a knot in the front. It's cute and y'all can't tell me nothing, but I had to start switching things up a bit when I realized that I was experiencing a bit of breakage, right where the knot would go. Black hair is dope because it's versatile as all get out. Reduce breakage possibilities by changing up your look, at least a couple of times each week.
BREAKAGE CAUSE #8: You’re Not Drinking Enough Water
Not too long ago, I wrote an article for the site about the oftentimes overlooked signs of being dehydrated. While I did happen to mention dry skin, what I didn't talk about is dry hair. The reality is, no matter how many moisturizing products that you may put on top of your tresses, it's not gonna matter much if your system isn't getting enough water too. Matter of fact, what a lot of people don't realize is when you're not drinking enough water, your hair can end up becoming dry and frizzy because your scalp is parched and your hair follicles aren't getting enough fluids to properly disperse the vitamins and nutrients that they need in order for your locks to thrive. So, if you're not a huge water lover but you definitely want longer hair by the new year, perhaps this point is what will inspire you to take a few more glasses in, on a daily basis.
BREAKAGE CAUSE #9: You’re Not Tying Your Hair Up at Night
Friction is nobody's hair's friend. Yet when you're tossing and turning around in bed, for 5-9 hours every night, that can literally wear your hair out and ultimately result in breakage. That's why it's so important to make sure that you tie your hair up at night with either a silk or satin scarf or bonnet (you can check out a DIY bonnet video here). While we're here, it's also a good idea to give your hair a break from bobby pins, barrettes, clips, etc. First, dab some oil onto the ends of your hair and then either braid or twist your hair or put it up into a pineapple. The oil will prevent your hair from losing extra moisture while you sleep and the braids, twists or pineapple will help to keep your ends from taking a real beating (from all of your moving around) at night.
10. Your Diet Sucks
Your hair follicles need nutrients, just as much as the rest of your body does. When you want to keep your hair moisturized, so that it breaks less, it's important to consume the kinds of foods that will give your hair the moisture that it needs. In walks the article, "These Foods Will Give Your Skin & Hair The Moisture They Crave". When you get a chance, check those out. Also, try and avoid eating a lot of the foods that are literally bad for your hair. For starters, sugar is bad for your locks because your hair is made up of mostly protein (keratin); when you've got a lot of sugar in your system, that can prevent your body from absorbing all of the protein that it needs. This means that white starches pretty much suck too because they turn into sugar whenever we eat them. Oh, and try and limit your consumption of alcohol while you're at it. A nutrient that your hair needs in order to thrive is zinc and, while alcoholic drinks like red wine have lots of health benefits, a not-so-good thing that they can do is slow down how zinc is processed in your system; plus alcohol can also dehydrate you which, we already discussed can wreak all kinds of havoc on your hair.
Yeah, this was kind of a lot. No one said that growing long beautiful hair was exactly easy, but best believe it is very possible. Start with setting hair goals and avoiding breakage-causing patterns. Then watch how your hair shows out on you, in the best ways possible, once you do!
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