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6 Ways to Reduce Breakage when Washing Natural Hair

• Sep 4, 2012

By Chinwe of Hair and Health

Three major sources of manipulation to our hair are detangling, styling, and washing. When it comes to detangling, we can reduce breakage by combing on damp, lubricated hair or detangling with our fingers instead. When it comes to styling, we can adopt a protective style routine and reduce heat usage among many other things. However, when it comes to washing, how can we develop a routine that reduces breakage? Well, here are six steps to get you started:

1. Apply coconut oil before washing

Each time we wash our hair, our strands may undergo stress from swelling and shrinking during water uptake and eventual evaporation. This can lead to breakage, split ends, or other damage over time. Research has shown that applying coconut oil to the hair prior to washing can reduce this stress (known as hygral fatigue). Allow the oil to penetrate overnight before washing in order to reap the benefits.

2. Lather once instead of twice

Additional lathering can strip the hair and yield dryness that can later translate into breakage. To reduce this stripping, try lathering only once instead of twice or more. It is important to get your hair clean but not necessary to get it “squeaky” clean. If you are prone to product buildup and this routine is insufficient for cleansing, then reevaluate your product use or shampoo collection.

3. Massage your scalp, not your hair

Massaging, or essentially, rubbing the hair while washing, can cause tangling and a bit of breakage. Instead, massage your scalp only. Allow the water and shampoo to run from your scalp to your strands for cleansing. If that is not sufficient for you, try scrunching your hair instead of rubbing it.

4. Wash in sections

For some naturals, washing the hair loose is just asking for trouble. Cleansing wet loose hair (especially longer, coilier hair) can create tangles and eventual breakage from attempting to remove these tangles. Rather, wash your hair in braided or twisted sections in order to mitigate these issues.

5. Use a microfiber towel or cotton t‐shirt

Due to its structure, the traditional towel can snag our kinks, coils, or curls and yield a bit of breakage. Instead, use a microfiber towel or a cotton t‐shirt, which are both gentler than the traditional towel.

6. Blot or plop but do not rub when drying

Rubbing the hair with a towel after washing results in friction, which can cause a little damage to the cuticles and a bit of breakage. Rather, blot the hair gently to remove excess water. If you have some time, an even better option is to plop the hair. How do you do this? Simply wrap your freshly washed hair with a towel or t‐shirt and allow it to airdry in that manner for fifteen minutes or longer. (Plopping also speeds up the drying process.)

A little bit of breakage while washing is inevitable since we are manipulating our hair during the process. However, if you notice more than a normal amount of breakage even after all of these steps, then you may want to follow up with a deep protein treatment, trim off the damage, assess your diet, or consult your doctor/dermatologist.

Ladies, how do you reduce breakage while washing?

About Chinwe

Healthy hair care tips and more! http://www.healthyhairbody.com

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Miss Bee
Guest

I’m transitioning now and washing is hard, plus de‐tangling. I will try doing it in sections and applying coconut oil first. Thanks for this advice!!!

LM
Guest
LM

sections are a life saver! If I had known about that technique when I was transitioning, I would have been able to transition alot longer…and, if you shampoo, try to get as little product on the length of the hair as possible. I noticed that even my sulfate free shampoo made my relaxed ends mat. with my natural hair, I hold the ends the section taut(since i can’t wash in twists) while trying to focus the shampoo on my scalp. This reduces tangles.

hyspin
Guest
hyspin

I do all of those except one. With that study about coconut oil were other oils tested or was it just that oil alone? I would rather use EVOO instead. My scalp and for head do not like coconut oil.

Would it be just as efficient as applying EVOO, jojoba oil (liquid wax), almond oil, avocado oil, etc?

Vonnie
Guest
Vonnie

Olive oil and coconut oil are the only two oils that can penetrate the hair shaft. Either one of those oils are fine, but if I’m not mistaken, the author in an older article has stated here preference for coconut oil.

I use to ride for coconut oil HARD, but one day after running out pre-poo’ed with olive oil and found it did the same trick, if not made my hair more softer.…plus its more easily accesible. So im #TeamOliveOil again lol.…

Gee
Guest
Gee

The author is not just stating a preference for coconut oil. Scientific research has shown that only coconut oil, due to its properties mimicking a protein treatment, is effective in preventing hygral fatigue.

hyspin
Guest
hyspin

Thank you.

I think there was a test on Avocado oil and it was found to penetrate the hair shaft as well as olive oil and coconut oil. I think as more carrier oils become more common the more alternatives to coconut oils penetrating quality will be found.

Loo
Guest

While coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil are known to penetrate the hair, I only found research showing that coconut oil may reduce hygral fatigue. Here’s the abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11413497. I think Jc (of the Natural Haven) found an article also showing that olive oil may reduce swelling of the strands, but don’t quote me on that. :o)

Jc
Guest

Hey Loo — nice article by the way, I like all your writing here :)I have said that indeed olive oil may reduce swelling! It is a may though This is my take as a scientist having reviewed the science articles on oil penetration of hair. Coconut oil is the only proven oil to penetrate hair BUT this does not mean it is the only one because studies do not cover the full range of oils. What oils have been tested? Mineral oil (directly in the same test that proved coconut oil can penetrate, mineral oil does not) and Sunflower… Read more »

Leelee
Guest
Leelee

oh wow, i never really thought about number 1, 4, 5, and 6. Thank you so much for the info! i knew coconut oil was good for your hair but it has a very strong odor so i’ll try adding it just before washing like u suggested.

Runawaygal©
Guest
Runawaygal©

Should co‐washers lather once too?

Bernadette
Guest

I do most of the points from the article — minus the coconut oil stuff. Sounds interesting, but I’m also trying to reduce the amount of stuff I do to my hair. I’ve been natural for 3 years, and washing in twisted sections has been THE largest pay off for me.

I’ve recently done an interview where we discuss a bit about washing:
http://www.trulybernadette.com/hair-videos/natural-hair-interview-keishia/

Thanks for the article.

Jordan
Guest

I used to wash my whole head in sections, but that is sooooo time consuming. I realized the texture of the back third needed me to section & wash. That’s works for me. Many naturals don’t shampoo, I do it pretty often, about every 14–20 days && I have no problems at all. My hair is still very moist && lovely( lol) Plus it’s like zero breakage when I wash. I do things different from these tips but I see how they could be really helpful!!
[img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/summer.jpg[/img]

LBell
Guest
LBell

*lightbulb goes on above my head*

I washed my hair loose recently just for old times’ sake. BIG mistake. However, upon reflection I realize that the only real problems I had was with the front and top, which is the coiliest as well as the “shrinkiest” part of my head. The rest of my head detangled pretty well. If I can get away with sectioning just the front and top, that might speed up my washing quite a bit. Thanks for the lightbulb moment this morning! 🙂

DiJah
Guest
DiJah

#s 1–4 saved my hair.

The other 2 I don’t do at all. I just squeeze the water out and apply products, but great post!

DreamGirl
Guest
DreamGirl

I use EVCO as a pre poo so I can vouch for it but my hair’s getting longer and washing it is a nightmare,don’t know what to do. When washing in twists or braids they unravel,please help!!! 🙁

mangomadness
Guest
mangomadness

How big are the twists or braids? Smaller ones may not unravel as easily… You can also try securing the ends with a metal‐free hair tie.

DreamGirl
Guest
DreamGirl

My twists are large to medium size,will try tying the ends. Thank you 🙂

Mayaraalves
Guest

The best thing to prevent serctth marks is to keep your skin hydrated. Use a really good lotion every day to help prevent deep marks. It won’t make them stop, but it’ll help them not be so dark. Also, you may want to purchase something like mederma if you already have serctth marks, because it lightens scars. I’ve used it on burns and serctth marks and it definitely makes them look alot better! +12Was this answer helpful?

Gina
Guest
Gina

I use bobby pins on the ends of my twists. They help to keep the twists together.

Gina
Guest
Gina

My twists unraveled in the past. I put hair pins on the end of my twists and they now stay in place when I wash. Maybe this will work for you too. Good luck.

KCHC
Guest

I follow 1 (mixed with conditioner and steamed into my hair), 2, 4, 5, and 6 diligently.

mangomadness
Guest
mangomadness

I do steps 1 (with conditioner layered on top), 2 (with diluted shampoo applied via a color applicator bottle), 3, 4 (in 12 twisted sections), 5 (with a black cotton t‐shirt), and 6 (I blot to get excess water out) every time I wash my hair. These steps have helped me greatly reduce breakage.

Adeyinka
Guest

3. Sometimes it just feels good to itch it…but yes massaging is better on my scalp.

1. I alternate between evoo and coconut oil and both work well.

I dilute the shampoo in water using one of those applicator bottles focusing in on my scalp. AND washing in sections makes for a easier time from washing to styling.

T
Guest
T

I follow 1–6 and my hair has thanked me for it. Reading jc’s natural haven blog has helped me understand my hair a lot better as well and while i love olive oil as a prepoo, coconut oil (which i have used pretty much all my life) is making a come back, now that I have learned how to use it on my kinks. Oh and washing my hair in sections has prevented a lot of breakage for my thick 4c hair.

Jc
Guest

Thank you, glad to help!

Vee
Guest
Vee

Recently after washing I started wrapping my hair with a t‐shirt instead of using towel and it has made a big difference when styling. I can’t believe I never thought about washing in sections-I’ll definitely try that!

Gina G
Guest
Gina G

What is EVOO? I’m from England so maybe
we don’t have that yet!!

Toni
Guest
Toni

extra virgin olive oil

sashua harrison
Guest

is it coconut oil that u use to cook

mangomadness
Guest
mangomadness

Yes! It’s food‐grade coconut oil. Some folks use refined coconut oil or unrefined coconut oil.

Trina
Guest
Trina

I do all except #1. I can’t use Coconut oil, my hair sheds like crazy. I’ve experimented with it at least four times, and get the same results. I do use EVOO, and that works fine. Anyone else have that issue with coconut oil?

KAN
Guest
KAN

Coconut oil doesn’t agree with my hair…makes it hard…EVOO makes if like butter! Detangles and everything! 🙂

Crist
Guest
Crist

+1 exactly

I'sha Gaines
Guest

Can I use this photo for a flyer promotion — promoting a natural hair event?

Thanks,
I’sha Gaines, Editor/CEO

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[…] Credits: http://bglh-marketplace.com/2012/09/6-ways-to-reduce-breakage-while-washing-natural-hair/ […]

awesome
Guest

i usually hate washing my hair because of thhe breakage and dryness im left with but because of this article,i know why(#2+6)thanks this blog is awesome and has helped alot! 😀 😉

Kendra
Guest
Kendra

I do steps 2–6. I haven’t tried coconut oil myself however, I did hear that it wasn’t all that great. So far my hair enjoys EVOO, Africa’s Best Herbal Oil, and/or Hot Six Oil. I use those to prepoo, detangle, and seal my hair ^_^

Ki
Guest
Ki

I did a pre‐poo hot oil treatment with Hot Six oil a couple weeks ago and OMG, it was all that!!!! But I cannot find in any stores near me anymore :-/… I love coconut oil for sealing but I’m not sure if I like it as a pre‐poo. I’m going to revisit it tonight!

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CurlyQ53
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CurlyQ53

Let me make sure I have this right: so one ideally braids PR twists her hair before wetting it and keeps it twisted the entire time? Don’t take it down, just shampoo/cowash twists and all, right?

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