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3 Common Hair Problems that are Caused by Us

• Jul 9, 2012

By Jc of The Natural Haven Bloom

Many times people identify problems with their hair but often these ‘problems’ are actually part of the normal behaviour of hair. Have you ever found yourself saying things like:

1.My hair breaks easily or my hair is fragile
2. My hair takes forever to detangle
3. My hair is super dry

As a material scientist, I can tell you that many materials (and hair is a material) have predictable behaviour. In order to have a happy and successful relationship with your hair, it is important to accept the normal behaviour of your hair and learn how to live with it or manage it. Changing the way you speak about your hair to a positive doable action is a lesson that I have embraced. Here are some substitution drills

1. ‘My hair is weak and breaks easily’ vs ’ I have to handle my hair gently or it will break’

Your hair will not break if you leave it alone, it is not inherently weak or fragile. Breakage only starts when an external force is applied (i.e detangling, styling, heat treating, colour treating etc). The smaller the curl, the finer your hair and the greater number of kinks in your hair, the easier it will be to break when stretched, separated and combed. This is just a fact and is not something you can change as all these properties are predetermined by your genetics.  The only thing that you can change is external and controlled by you, for example

- The amount of force that you use to comb your hair (being patient, working in sections, using the right tools)
- The way that you comb your hair (choosing to finger detangle, using conditioner to detangle if it suits you)
- The number of times that you handle your hair free (the more time you spend in a protective style, the less the number of times you need to comb)
- Using hair products to soften and strengthen hair prior to combing (hair conditioner softens hair and makes it easier to comb, humectants such as glycerin can strengthen natural hair which is unbleached)

The amount of breakage you experience is greatly controlled by you. You can minimise and in some cases eliminate breakage completely simply by realising that it is you in control. You are the one applying the force to your hair that causes breakage.

2. ‘My hair takes forever to detangle’ vs ‘I need to plan for the time it takes to detangle hair’

Some people can easily detangle hair in half an hour or less. For short hair, loose curls or thin/low density hair, it is just a matter of washing, applying conditioner, waiting for a few minutes and then detangling with a wide tooth comb. However, this routine is not suitable or possible for everyone. In general we all want to spend less time detangling but there is a choice to be made for some of us. If your hair has a high level of shrinkage, it may be of benefit to detangle your hair dry or semi dry. In this case you have to plan for 1–3 hours to finish the job. If your natural hair is particularly thick or long then you will more than likely need more than half an hour to comb it if you do not wish to break it.

The advice I would give is that if you know that you need 1 hour or more to detangle your hair, plan for it in advance. Your shrinkage level and curl type is not going to change so more than likely you will always need that extra time. This is what you can do

- When wearing free hair, use styles that prevent individual hair strands from meshing to decrease detangling time (for example wearing a twist out or braid out where the hair is clumped up by the style or by tucking in the ends so they do not interact and knot)
- Simply do not do your hair if you are tired or pressed for time. Plan in advance and give yourself more time than you need.
- Skip a few detangling sessions by using complete protective styles that do not need to be undone for 2–4 weeks at a time (e.g twists and braids)

3. ‘My hair is super dry’ vs ‘I need to actively maintain moisture’

It is actually normal for natural hair to feel dry. Sometimes it feels dry even when it is not actually dry and this in part because of the texture of hair and how it changes in response to wetting and drying. Your hair’s behaviour at low, mid or high levels of moisture is very predictable. You cannot change it but you can work with it, for example:

- Control shrinkage of your hair. If your hair is the type that shrinks when wet and shrinks even further when drying free, you may end up with hair that feels dry and crunchy (some naturals refer to it as ‘brillo pad’ hair ). This is a case where texture changes are confused for lack of moisture. If you braided, twisted, banded or roller set the hair as it dried, it would not feel as dry and crunchy when fully dry because you dictate the final texture.
- Understand how weather affects your hair. The level of moisture in your hair is dependent on how dry or wet the air is (humidity). This is more important for styling naturals with naturally clumping curls where frizz can form because of the weather. For other naturals, it is a case of how often to input water or a water based moisturiser or humectants or oil to balance out the external moisture in air and internal moisture in hair.
- Understanding when moisture is critical. In general you can live with dry hair and it will not vastly impact retention of hair growth especially in a fully protective style or if you are doing nothing to it. It is however critical to have moisturised hair when you are manipulating the hair physically — for example when undoing a braided/twisted style, when combing or detangling hair or when manipulating the hair into a different style (e.g from an afro to a bun). At these points, remember that your hair needs to be flexible in order not to break — flexible hair is a case of hair being around 80–90% dry and so misting with water is usually helpful.

Ladies, what other problems do we blame on our hair that really stem from our treatment of it?

About The Natural Haven

Scientist on a hairy mission!

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Help! I have styling and product issues – AfricanaturalistasEvesabinoHandsInHairSophie Recent comment authors
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Gia
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Gia

I just wanted to say that I am glad I can go to your blog and find a vast array of useful information that is supported with reputable sources and citations, in addition to your expertise. Thank you JC!

kifsgirl
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kifsgirl

Cosigning. Thanks

Jordan
Guest

I know the last point about moisture I really struggle with but I’m learning more with every humid day this summer. haha.

I also think naturals tend to watch reviews & videos of others and expect the same result with the same product and get discouraged when it’s not so. Comparing yourself to somebody else in anything is already not good, but when it comes to hair it can be a reaaaal downer!

OHR
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OHR

Cosigns as well. Many of the hair concerns are related not to our hair but how it’s treated.

LBell
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LBell

Another common‐sense post from Jc! Thanks so much. People still want to cling to how “bad” certain hair types are…when what’s really “bad” is the mistreatment and poor treatment they get.

mangomadness
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mangomadness

JC this is a wonderful post! I’m sure this post will help others put things into perspective.

I’ve always sought to work with the natural properties of my tightly coiled hair rather than work against them or complain about qualities innate to it.

sabino
Guest

I have been a hair designer and product development consultant for 35 years. I have a couple of issues with some statements that you have made. 1. Glycerin does not strengthen hair it attracts moisture, which offers elasticity to hair for easier combing. 2. Water soluble products and oils can not lock in the essential 10 to 11 % moisture content and only adheres to the cuticle for a maximum of 2 to 3 hours until either humidity or dry climates make those ingredients dissipate or dilute. For even glide to the hair, it needs a shampoo soluble product than… Read more »

Sophie
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Sophie

I like this post. It’s always nice to be reminded that our hair is not some out‐of‐control monster! The only thing I disagree with a little bit is that hair “is not inherently fragile”. I definitely agree that no hair breaks without force, but if your hair breaks from rubbing on sweaters I would say it is rather fragile. But that’s not such a bad thing. My hair is like that, but it is delicate and light and compressible… I love it’s fineness!

HandsInHair
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HandsInHair

I think you brought up a very good point. Our hair is more fragile than, for example, an Asian person’s hair, and there is nothing wrong with pointing that out. They can brush their hair with a certain force and if the average black person brushed with the same force isn’t the black person more likely to have more hair broken off?

sabino
Guest

This is great to have others interact and challenge each other so points can be dissected to find the truth. AA hair fragile due to the past knowledge to hair care. Pollution, water soluble products that breakdown, spreading out shampooing and conditioning, relying on standard hair system products to try to achieve hair nirvana. I found that the information available regarding hair care is unfounded molecularly. It all started in the 70’s with Jerri Redding creating a theory that was unfounded by adding “natural” ingredients to hair products to improve hair performance. That theory has evolved over the last 35… Read more »

Eve
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Eve

Hi, I am from Africa, and very new to this whole natural hair thing. One thing for sure, I never believed there is hair that don’t grow long, I always thought it had much to do with maintenance… and many naturals have proven me right. We should break the stereotype spread for so many years that black peoples hair can’t grow long. For sure not everyone is interested in log hair, but for those interested, they have now the knowhow on how to go about it. I will do my best to spread the news in my part of Africa(Namibia),… Read more »

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