At birth we are gifted with a head full of hair follicles. These eventually develop and hair starts to grow. For some this is an effortless physiological occurrence until nature takes a turn at old age. For others biology can cause some interruption to this process. Or our hair care practices lead to barriers to hair growth. Assuming that all things are equal and you either a) have a head of virgin hair- unprocessed hair- or b) do process your hair either via straightening, dye, bleach or some other form of alteration. What particularly in these things can cause your hair to fall?
The different types of hair fall
- Hair fall patches/thinning: hair can completely fall out from the root leaving a bald patch. Or hair onset of sudden or gradual thinning of hair. It can have a genetic, medical ailment, or social trigger (stress). These are forms of alopecia and you need to have it looked at by a doctor.
- Close scalp breakage: hair breaks off right at the scalp. Hair continues to grow and continually breaks off. No visible bald patches. But hair seems not to get past a few cm at a time. This is most likely friction breakage.
- Midway length breakage: your hair grows to about 10 -15 cm and the ends split and shed. The hair continues to grow from your scalp but it seems to stay around your shoulders.
- Full length breakage: your hair grows beyond your shoulders but seemingly gets stuck.
Scenario one: Natural hair
You have a head of natural hair and do not apply chemicals but your hair is breaking.
Scenario two: Processed hair
You do apply a relaxer or a bleach and a colour.
The rules for maintaining beautiful hair:
Beware of pulling (brushing, braiding, styling)
Beware of heat
Reduce the amount of friction on your hair
Check for lesions and build-up of dry scales or wet scabs.
Check the state of your scalp and make sure that it is clean or free from scales from dandruff, dry scalp and that there are no lesions that can cause infections.
Ask someone to help you look in the hard to see places and see if you have any buildup on your scalp. Sores and blood cloths have to be seen by a medical doctor.
One of two other scenarios is possible. Either you have a dry scaly scalp or you could have excessive oil build-up. Dry scalp issues: if you have a sensitive scalp look into using non-allergenic products. Stay away from menthol, alcohol and strong fragrances in your products. Oily scalp issues: How often do you wash your hair? Over washing can cause unnecessary sebum production that will make your problem worse. Try to keep your wash routine to once per week. Alternatively at least cut down washes and or use a conditioner to wash instead of a shampoo. Try a dry-shampoo or a neutral talk powder to sprinkle and shake through your hair. In both cases beware of skin irritants and check your product labels.
The biggest issues with natural hair are tangles, single strand knots, moisture and friction.
Tangles and knots:
Take a piece of your hair and run your fingers down the length of the hair. Feel for snags and or rough patches. Place your hair between the palms of your hands and run your hands from root to tip. It is easy to notice the rough patches as you do this. Feel for knots and kinks. The smoothness of the strands is a good indicator of the health of your hair. If the ends are rougher this is due to split ends or knots. Either gradually trim these or do a once off trim right above the rough patch. A head of curls is very forgiving and natural styling can help to hide some not so perfect strands. However, if you wear your hair straight you don’t have this cover. So consider trimming it. Also, unhealthy hair strands that are put under pressure of heat or tension are more likely to get caught, overstretch and just snap off.
Keep your scalp clean but do not overdo it. Moderation! Everything works in moderation. If you tip the balance too far in one direction you are bound to have an issue. Remember cleansing is for your scalp. Conditioning and oil is for your hair. Try and maintain the slight acidic balance of a 4.5-5 PH on your hair. This is done with shampoo and conditioner. You can use a conditioner to wash your hair but you cannot use a shampoo to condition your hair. Do use a conditioner if you apply a shampoo.
Please note- if you opt for Apple Cider vinegar for cleansing do not swop this for white vinegar because white vinegar has a lower PH at around 2.4 instead of the 4.25-5.0 range of apple cider vinegar. Always dilute vinegar in water. I prefer rice vinegar for the protein content. If you are interested please refer to my earlier posts.
Natural hair does well with application of oils. The list of oils/butters are endless and while most of them are good: coconut, olive, grapeseed, castor, almond, macadamia, jojoba, even sunflower or shea, mango, cocoa and many more, you only need a little bit at a time. Do not overdo the oil unless you’re planning to use it as a treatment and wash it out. Stick to about 1 tablespoon at a time for a treatment. You don’t want the oils to run off your head onto your face and clothes. Some gels do wonders to help with sealing others can leave your hair felling like it was frozen to a crisp. I love the naturalmente gel glaze. I also make my own. Aloe vera and flax seed gels are also a great sealant. Hair conditioner is in short water and oils with some other ingredients.
Do note that if you’re a product addict like myself you also need to not mind cleansing. Depending on how much product you apply either weekly or daily you may need to alter your cleansing routine. I do one big batch on a once per week washday. Then I lay off the products until my next wash. This helps to prevent build-up.
Do note that not all gels are compatible with conditioner. If you want to mix the two you need a water based gel to mix with conditioner. If the gel base is something other than water you can end up with a head of cake. And do not try and mix clay and conditioner. Clay acts to cleanse. It functions to demulsify. What makes it so effective is that it can deconstruct oil and colour bases. It can separate dye/colour and fat from water solutions. Do not try and cross cut a process. You can end up with a massive fuzz ball.
Hair nicks and cracks:
If you have ever tried to grow your nails you will know how easily nails can break off. One minute you have perfectly manicured nails and the next you have a knick that keeps catching on everything you touch. The best way to grow nails is to file the entire edge slightly every 2-3 days. Not much just enough to get rid of minute cracks. Try it and see. The same applies to your hair. The problem is that you can’t sit there with a file and find every knick to neatly file it off. What is worse is that the scales of the hair can lift with the application of heat and products or processes. Should you run your palms down the hair and feel a rough texture you need to give your hair a deep conditioning treatment. Apply your product of and use your hands to smooth down the hair, hopefully getting the lifted scales to lie back down. Try not to use hot water to wash your hair. And always but always use cold water as your final rinse to contract the outer layer of the cuticle and get the scales to go back into their place. Never run your hands or any other appliance in the opposite direction (ends to root). Always go from root to tip, ALWAYS. Do not tease your hair for volume. In the process you are lifting the scales that can catch on the surrounding hairs.
Treating split ends:
If you have split ends, get rid of them. They may never go all the way up your hair but they do tend to get out of formation and can cause knots. I’m not a big fan of regular hair trims. If hair grows at a rate of 2.5cm per month I surely do not want to trim more than that on average. I trim only every 3-6 months if and when necessary. Unless I have a ton of knots.
I prefer to trim my hair when it is fully blown out to reduce the margin of error. Trimming curly hair in a wet state is a real job. Yes, it is possible but you need to accept that you wont get a perfectly manicured look the next time you straighten it.
Beware of braids:
Do not leave your braids and twists in your hair until it is untidy. By the second week of braids and twists stray hairs start to appear around the braid. These can cause the braid to tangle with your own hair and or cause a lock. I have had the pleasure of this experience a few times. It was not pretty. If you are going to wash braids and twists be extra careful to rinse out all the shampoo. Soap residue and sebum build-up- those white patches often seen on braids and dreadlocks can cause massive tangles. In dreadlocks it is much easier to remove since you do not need to undo the lock. You just need to dissolve the fat. In loose hair it is a nightmare.
Beware of what your hair touches:
While it may be appealing to have your hair cascading on your shoulders even this can cause friction. Hair rubbing against your clothes can cause problems for your ends. Headgear also can be damaging. If you are going to wear a hat cover your hair in a satin scarf under the hat. When you go to bed wear a satin scarf or bonnet. If you don’t like either of these then get a satin pillowcase.
Lay off headbands:
Headbands that are textured can cause hairs to break off. If your using a headband do so in moderation and ensure that it is a solid piece of fabric without metal parts.
Use pins and clips that are easy to remove. Flexible ones in general have a lot of give and are easier to pry open for removal. Do not pull out clips without making sure they are open. Some hairclips may be very pretty but if you cant easily open it with one hand you may be damaging your hair in the removal process.
Beware of home craft:
I take particular pleasure in making my own concoctions. However there are some things you need to keep in mind when making a home cooked meal for your hair. Caution with banana, avocado, eggs, milk and yoghurt. Did you know that banana contains seeds? Little tiny black seeds that love to get stuck in hair. Some homemade favourites are easy to deal with. They go on easily and come off easily. Remember that nature continues to exist long after we stop thinking about her. If you leave organic matter exposed particularly in wet dark places it will mold. Make sure to rinse these types of things out of your hair. Part your hair when you’re done. Feel for residue, look and or ask someone else to look to make sure all of these are completely rinsed out.
When adding water to any mixture (products or other mixes) know that it has a shelf life of about three days kept in the fridge. Outside of the fridge this may be shorter. If you dilute hair products, make small batches so you can use it at once. Do not try to save and leave the bottle of product in your bathroom for the next wash. Diluted products have less preservative quality. Also beware of vinegar-water, tea rinses and clay mixtures. Make a small batch to use and discard the rest. Do not keep it hoping to re-use days later. It will mold.
In my next post I will discuss breakage from chemicals. How and why chemicals can lead to breakage. What you need to look out for and what you can do to control it.
Silk Helmet Lady