This post is inspired by a comment from one of my lovely readers. She said she experiences lots of breakage on wash days. Not too long ago, I was one of those people battling constant breakage. It was especially evident on wash day. I would see tons of C shaped pieces of hair all over the shower walls. To be honest, I dealt with worse breakage when my hair was relaxed and I thought it was totally normal and something that I’d always have to cope with. It was so bad that I had a friend argue with me about “shedding” hair all over his bathroom. Still, I didn’t think it was a huge deal or something I could fix. I really had no idea how damaged my double processed (relaxed and colored) hair was… As a natural, I still experienced breakage. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as my relaxed hair, but it was bad.
I finally got my breakage under control by making several major changes to my hair care regimen. I had to first realize and learn that my hair is both fine and highly porous and that contributed a lot to the breakage. Because of the natural state of my hair I had to cut out color treating all together because that was part of the problem. Next, I had to look at the products I used.
Changes I Made to Product Regimen
First, fine hair tends to need loads of protein. I got consistent with protein treatments and committed to using a cholesterol/collagen treatment weekly. Collagen and Cholesterol both work to fortify and strengthen the hair. I also add stronger protein treatments like Aphogee when needed and especially before and after straightening my natural hair.
The most likely cause of breakage is hair that is out of moisture/protein balance. Analyze your product regimen and figure out if your hair is getting as much protein as it needs. Weekly light protein treatments may help with breakage.
After I figured out what my fine hair needed, I had to battle the porosity issue. My hair is high porosity by nature. Because of this, I need something acidic (low pH) to close the cuticles of the hair shaft. There are products on the market that do just that (such as Roux Porosity Control). I haven’t tried any commercial products. I manage my high porosity hair by doing apple cider vinegar rinses (diluted 10:1) when needed. Diluted apple cider vinegar is a cheap fix for high porosity hair. I only have to do these a few times a year because I’ve been able to find products that agree with my hair and have a low pH.
Changes I Made to Styling Regimen
Once I figured out why my hair was structurally prone to breakage and made changes to products, it was time to change my technique. A low-manipulation regimen is key to keeping hair from breaking. If you pinpoint what step you lose the most hair- during washing, detangling, styling, etc…- you know where the changes need to be made. I was losing a ton of hair to breakage when washing or cowashing in the shower. At that time, I detangled my hair using a shower comb, then my Denman brush. At the end of detangling there were little C shaped curls all over the walls and shower floor. To prevent hair loss during detangling, I stopped using hair tools all together. I detangle my hair exclusively using my hands only. Finger detangling has really saved my hair. I am able to pull out shed hair and feel any knots or tangles and pull them apart with my fingers. What’s more, I don’t obsess about being able to rake through every bit of my hair. My hair is free from matting and tangling and I spend only a few minutes each wash going through it with my hands. I think as naturals, we are too concerned with detangling. Any hair type can finger detangle and they can do it quickly. I see some naturals on YouTube picking through their hair strand by strand with their fingers and that is absolutely NOT necessary.
I don’t believe every bit of hair has to be thoroughly detangled during every wash. Yes- detangling is a must…but not to the point where a fine tooth comb can go through your hair from top to bottom without stopping. I definitely had that mindset from my relaxed days. If you don’t reach every bit of your hair with a fine tooth comb or a detangling brush you will be okay. Your hair will be okay. I see naturals talk all the time about how their hair will matte and loc. I just don’t believe that. Locing hair is a very long process. I’ve tried it and after months with no combing whatsoever, no moisture, and no conditioner, my hair still unraveled on its own. I ended up just combing it out and moving on. Finger detangling is definitely enough to clear natural hair of tangles. It takes me no more than 10 minutes during cowashing and I have a ton of hair. I do detangle with several hair tools before straightening because I use a Maxiglide flat iron that has fine teeth on the plates. It’s been years since I used combs or brushes regularly and even after months of not using one, I can easily brush through my hair and use my Maxiglide without problems. Finger detangling has really turned my hair around and my breakage decreased significantly. Using my hands only allows me to have tangle free hair that is easily styled, without all the breakage and damage that hair tools cause.
Trimming is also hugely important in stopping breakage. In my case, my hair was breaking during detangling. The hair that broke was already compromised and weakened. The pieces of hair were small so I know they came from my ends only. When my hair got long enough for me to examine the strands closely, I could see where I had split ends, single strand knots, and breaks in my hair that were not quite split all the way. If I tugged gently on one of these strands, it would easily break off at the split section. Trimming regularly keeps split ends and single strand knots in check. I’ve heard some naturals say that they don’t worry about single strand knots, but from my observation, the hair right above a knot is almost always split. I trim my hair 4 times a year and usually take off about 1/4″ at the most. Maintaining healthy ends prevents damage later on.
These changes to my products and techniques have made a huge difference in how much hair I lose on wash days. I don’t manipulate my hair at all during the week, besides putting it into a ponytail and taking it down, so I knew I lost hair on wash days only. Following this low manipulation, finger-detangling routine has improved the overall health of my hair and allowed me to retain much more length. Detangling is something that can be somewhat controversial but even in my observation, those who detangle obsessively have the shortest hair…so what’s the benefit really.
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