Natural hair has long been compared to a garden: The drier your garden is the more likely all the nutrition will get zapped up and die. Watering your hair daily is a must that I, like most kinky girls, begrudgingly adhere to. Keeping your garden all natural, sans chemicals, is a great way to up the nutritional value and keep the healthy organisms that grow naturally — the same thing can be said for my 'fro. Diligently keeping up with the a simple, natural hair routine should keep my locks growing to its full potential of health and beauty.
It came as a surprise to me then, when I noticed some serious — ok not so serious, but alarming nonetheless breakage around the edges of my scalp. As someone fairly obsessed with my hair, I peered at the sections and recoiled in fear. What was I doing to deserve any kind of breakage? Had I done something bad in a past life to warrant these split ends? Was this my hair's passive-aggressive way of telling me that it was going to break off whether I liked it or not, or is there a key element of hair maintenance that I'm ignoring? A thinning hairline is just not something I was going to stand for.
The thing is, if you aren't obsessed with your hair, you may not notice hair breakage until it's become a serious problem. The hair that surrounds my face is almost like baby hair; it's hair is finer and thinner, which makes it way more susceptible to breaking. Luckily, there are some superb oils like black castor oil, coconut oil, and argan oil that can take even the barest scalp into a blooming array of curls. The main question is what is causing the hair to break off and thin around the edges in the first place? Don't think this is just a brown-skinned lady woe either — breakage truly doesn't see color or gender.
Here are a few suspected hair habits that I owe my newfound breakage to that I'll be stopping immediately — and you should too.
1. Too Much Focus On Ends
Kristin "Detangling" Collins Jackson is my true full name. I can be found detangling my hair at a bar, in line at the deli, on the subway, and my favorite of all places, in my bed. Not only does this mean I often leave a trail of curls behind when I've been at a spot for too long, but it also means that I pay a LOT of attention to those ends. This is great, keeping your ends detangled is super important for curly hair growth, but keeping your ROOTS in check is even more important for getting super long strands. Your hair grows from your roots (duh), so keeping your scalp hydrated and happy is crucial. Using a daily, moisturizing hair mist directly on those roots should keep them in check.
2. Braids, Twists, and Weaves
According to sources like Blackgirllonghair's site, traction alopecea is one of the leading causes of hair breakage. I am not trying to hate on these protective styles at all, since hair twists have made my hair and some of my natural gal pals' hair grow immensely. The shit of it is these protective styles can be ultra damaging to your scalp when they aren't applied properly. Having tight braids, twists, or a weave is a great way to delve into the world of some serious hair damage. The roots do not like to be pulled and the hair line is a vulnerable place compared to the rest of your scalp. If you DIY your braids and twists, keep them nice and loose. My motto is if I can feel them, then they're too tight. If your stylist is heavy-handed, tell her to chill. No one wants to be a dick to the person who has the life of their hair in your hands, but most hair dressers won't know your pain unless you speak up!
3. Wraps & Do-Rags
Sigh, my beloved head wraps, satin caps, and hats are the biggest culprit in my sad tale of breakage. Unless I want to be wearing a head-wrap or hat DAILY because of the severe breakage I've caused, I need to start wearing them in a way that will not pull my hair. Let's start with head wraps. Covering your hair completely is the best way to keep breakage at bay, you don't want anything sitting on your hair line because it can chafe the fragile area. Never tie them too tight — this doesn't mean you can't tie a tight knot on top of your hair, it means the first knot you make that holds the scarf in place should be slightly loose. The same goes for those satin night caps that us kinky folk devotedly wear at night. If you make sure your satin cap goes beyond your hair line, you'll have sweet dreams instead of nightmares of breakage.
Since I realized that I can ditch my satin bonnet at night since I literally sleep on a bed of satin, I have recently went satin-cap free. A wise woman on a wise blog once stated that allowing the hair to breath in the night stimulates hair growth. One major thing I hadn't considered in the summer: hair sweat. Going bonnet-free at night will let your scalp breath and not get sweaty underneath an extra layer. After all, sweat causes shrinkage!
Only this past year have I become a hat person. Once I saw my fashion-crush waltz into work with her locks tucked under a bandanna and a hat on top? I was rockin' it like I came out of the womb in my new boater's hat. Fortunately, it didn't take long for me to peek at my new look in the mirror and anticipate hair breakage. If you are wearing a hat, you should definitely put something between your precious locks and the hat that is going to keep moisture in and not be an additional cause of breakage. If I'm rockin' a scarf or if it's a hat day, you best believe that I have a satin cap on underneath. These looks are not for everyday either, because at some point your 'fro needs to come out and see the sun.
5. Facial Cleansers
Guess what my hairline hates? The baking soda in my face wash! In fact, the hair just by my ears takes quite a beating when I wash my face. It's incredibly hard to avoid getting baking soda in my hair and accidentally scrubbing into my hairline, especially when 90 percent of the time I am not wearing contacts and therefore am doing this completely blind. But, alas, I must be careful, because that is the area that I'm seeing the most thinning. The same goes for any facial cleanser, whether it's a natural product or an OTC product: Try to wear a shower cap or a satin bonnet while your washing your face if you can't escape getting your face cleanser in your mane.
6. Parting your Hair
For the first year of my natural game, I had a solid and almost permanent side part. You would have had to pry my side part from my cold, dead hands for me to ever give it up. That same style preference may that gave me unlimited hair compliments is also the same style that has given me some hair thinning in the area that I parted. Now, I alternate from each side, trying not to choose the exact spot I did my last part on the days where I am knee-deep in hair masks and hair cleanses. This way I can keep my side part and a healthy hairline! #Stoked
7. The Poof
Throwing my hair in an ouchless hair elastic has turned a sad 'fro into an adorable poof over and over again this summer. This is a go-to for lots of long-haired folks out there of all hair types. Weather got your hair looking all types of wrong? Throw it up in a cute bun! Away from home with sex hair? Throw it up in a cute poof! Yup, the bun or poof has been the solution to many of our hair trouble and you should still keep an ouchless hair tie wrapped around your wrist should you need a quick hair fix, just make sure your hair isn't too tight.
The same pulling effect applies here as with braids: If you feel your hair being pulled, stretch your hair tie out a bit more before trying to put it up again. Please, under no circumstances should you ever go to sleep with a hair tie in — you'll be pulling all night long.
Image: Giphy; Kristin Collins Jackson