By Audrey Sivasothy, author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care
When the rest of your hair is growing on cue, it can be really frustrating to deal with a stagnant crown area. Although natural hair tends to mask crown area breakage better than relaxed and transitioning hair, crown area breakage can affect anyone. Crown area breakage is a chronic breakage problem that results in hair that is noticeably thinner or just stands or sticks up right in the center of the head. When the hair is straightened, it usually falls in a W-shaped pattern along the back, rather than falling in a standard U or V-shaped hemline. Luckily for us, most crown area problems can be addressed by identifying the physical concerns/practices that contribute to the issue.
1. Texture & Curl Pattern Differentials
It’s not uncommon to have a slightly different texture or curl pattern in the crown area of the head. Often, this area will naturally have different moisture and handling requirements to ensure that it thrives. If your crown area is finer, coilier or kinkier than the surrounding strands, customize your hair care to this area by giving it extra moisturizing and conditioning time.
Texture/curl pattern changes can also occur along the same fiber for those with with relaxed or transitioning hair. If your hair is relaxed or transitioning, your texture contrast between the chemically straightened length and the new growth will create demarcation issues that you’ll need to be aware of. The demarcation line will likely be more pronounced and any major shift in curl pattern will be a prime area for breakage. You are essentially working with a fiber shape that looks like: ~~~~——– rather than ~~~~~~~~~~. Both types are vulnerable to crown area breakage, but the first example is more so. Handle your hair with care!
Many people also notice that their crown area is well … itchy. I find this to be true for me when I’ve allowed my scalp to get dry and tight– which usually happens just before it’s wash time. Avoid scratching the crown area recklessly into oblivion as this can break the hair and lead to a tender scalp. If you’re itchy, carefully massage the area with the pads of your fingers and get some moisture to the area ASAP.
2. Physical Trauma
Physical trauma culprits for crown area breakage include styling stressors like:
sew ins, braids and other weaves done too tightly
picking out and fluffing the hair with hair tools (combs/picks)
pinning hair in the center/crown repetitively (or putting weight on the crown area w/ ponytails, etc)
wrapping the hair (especially if you are contending with roots (pressed, reverting roots, or standard relaxer new growth)
overlapping during 4-quadrant chemical services (relaxing, texturizing or coloring.)
high pressure shower water
Free form styles like braidouts, twistouts, twists and rollersets (provided tangling is kept to a minimum) are good for maintaining and growing out a crown. Puffs can also work, but they may stress the edges and hairline if not drawn properly.
Our trusty friend the hooded dryer has also been well regarded in the healthy hair community for its delivery of indirect, safer heat. But we also have to be careful with hooded dryer heat because the delicate crown area can receive a lot of heat attention under this type of dryer. The crown area is often the very first section to dry. Make sure that your dryer model circulates heat well and that you are able to adjust your heat settings as needed. Check your crown area regularly if you’re setting your hair. If your crown area dries first, lightly mist the crown area to allow the other areas of hair to catch up and dry. To reduce heat to the crown area, use the hooded dryer to dry your hair to 80–90%, and allow the surrounding air to dry your hair to completion.
Discontinuing these stressful physical practices will turn your crown area around in several weeks.
3. Improper/Insufficient Conditioning
Lack of proper conditioning is another cause of crown area failure. Because the crown area is the most exposed area of the head to the environment and elements (and may often be the coiliest/kinkiest)- it can really take a moisture beating if it is not singled out and given specific attention during regular moisturizing and conditioning. You really want to focus your conditioning and moisturizing efforts in the middle! It’s very easy to miss the crown during moisturizing and conditioning because many of us tend to graze over the top and sides of the hair without really digging in deep to get the underlayers of crown hair. You’d be surprised at the number of people who simply coat the edges, barely scrunch through the middle, and slather the ends with conditioner or moisturizing product. You have to get in there good and make sure the crown area gets some love!
When all else fails, attacking crown area breakage from the conditioning angle almost always works. Isolate the area and give it some extra TLC.
Ladies, do you have breakage in your crown? What are the causes and how do you deal with it?
Audrey Sivasothy is a Houston-based freelance writer, health scientist and author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care (available on Amazon.com & Barnes&Noble.com).