By Jc of The Natural Haven Bloom
On the surface of it, it is a very simple formula — the less your hair breaks the more length it will retain. However, this formula is deceptively simple because many times breakage goes completely unnoticed. There are things that we regard as normal for natural hair and to some extent they are default properties of hair. For example, the curlier and the kinkier the hair, the more difficult it is to run a comb through it. However in order to keep gaining length, the breakage associated with grooming natural hair needs to be tackled and minimised. This is the story of hidden breakage, how to recognize it and how to fix it.
1. Comb persistently stopping or getting stuck in hair
Short Term Damage: Breakage usually long strands (i.e more than half of total length)
Long Term Damage: Creation of mid shaft splits which eventually break
Why is it ignored: The long strands that break can easily be mistaken for shed hair
Most at risk hair: All curly hair regardless of width of curl, hair with kinks, naturals with thick individual strands(often because it is assumed that the hair is strong and can take vigorous combing)
Every single time you run a comb through your hair and it stops, you need to also stop. The comb stops because it is at a tangle. Pressing down on the comb is not the solution and in fact can be a reason for your hair to start breaking. The physical force could easily snap hair. Continually rubbing hair at the same spot can cause mid shaft splits in kinky hair.
Possible resolutions to combat this problem rely on you experimenting with your hair and finding what method of combing suits your hair. The method you choose should ideally allow you to detect tangles very early on. This could be conditioner combing, finger detangling or switching from wet detangling to dry detangling or vice versa. Hair brushes often aggravate mid shaft splits so avoid them ideally or minimise how often you use them.
Your check point: Look at the strands of your hair after detangling and see if they really have a hair bulb or not. A bulb means a real shed hair, no bulb means breakage. If you have many mid shaft splits, be careful about stretching and combing your hair.
2. Tiny wisps of broken hair
Short Term Damage: Breakage usually short strands (i.e quarter inch sections)
Long Term Damage: Creation of torn fibrillated ends which eventually become split ends
Why is it ignored: As the hair that breaks is very short, many disregard it
Most at risk hair: hair with kinks, fine individual strands, small or tight curls, hair that is regularly heat treated.
If you need to dust your clothes or counter top after combing your hair to get rid of tiny little bits of hair, your hair is breaking. Often this happens with dry combing rather than wet/conditioner combing. This does not mean that your hair cannot be combed dry, it just means that in order to successfully do that, you have to be extremely gentle.
One clear indication that you may suffer from this form of breakage is if you always need to repeatedly come back and detangle the ends of your hair. The possible resolutions again lie with experimenting, your skill level and how well you understand your hair. Example solutions include encouraging your hair ends to clump (either naturally or à la cipriana) or if your hair cannot clump opting instead to gently stretch out the hair at the end or tuck the ends in. If your hair generally breaks in this way, avoiding heat use at the ends of hair will eliminate heat related damage that can accelerate split end formation. When unravelling twists or braids, use a proper tool that will not tear your hair.
Your check point: Wear a white shirt/top when handling your hair. You will easily see if you have short broken hair.
Ladies, have you experienced these hidden signs of breakage? How do you deal?