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11 Common Sources of Natural Hair Breakage

Avatar • Nov 16, 2012

By Chinwe of Hair and Health

Breakage, breakage, breakage.  When we experience breakage, our first inclination is to presume dryness, over manipulation, or heat usage as the source.  However, sometimes the actual culprit may run a little deeper. Here are some “hidden” sources of hair breakage:

1) Overstretching the hair:

Do you stretch your hair prior to styling? If so, be sure you are using one of these least harmful methods: twists or loose braids. Banding is another option as well, depending on the tension.  On the other hand, tight banding or tight braiding can overstretch the hair and lead to weakened strands. Also, be sure you are stretching on damp hair instead of wet hair.  Wet hair will be more susceptible to breakage under tension. Lastly, refrain from using rubber bands or any other harmful hair tie (e.g., cotton) during the drying process.

2) Styling on wet or drenched hair:

Hair is most fragile when wet or drenched with water.  Styling the hair in this state may lead to mechanical breakage.  Depending on the manipulation required for the desired style, it may be better to wait until the hair is damp or damp-dry.

3) Diet low in protein:

Hair largely consists of protein (i.e., keratin) which is built from amino acids extracted from foods we put into our body.  A diet low in protein can translate into weaker, thinner hair strands (and thus breakage) or even hair loss.  Mitigate this issue by incorporating more nuts, chicken, fish, and beans into your diet.

4) Diet low in zinc, iron, and/or Vitamin B‑12:

A deficiency in any of these nutrients can result in weaker strands (and thus breakage) or even hair loss.  Taking a good multivitamin on a daily basis can ensure that you are receiving a sufficient amount of these nutrients. If you are severely deficient in zinc or iron (e.g., anemia), I highly recommend that you see a doctor. 

5) Use of sulfate shampoos:

Certain sulfate shampoos (e.g., shampoos containing SLS and ALS) can be harsh on the hair thus weakening the strands. Switching to a more gentle sulfate shampoo or a natural shampoo can mitigate this issue.

6) Overexposure to sun:

Hair that was overexposed during the summer months can be showing signs of weakness and breakage in the fall/winter months. Depending on the extent of weakening, mitigation can range from regular deep conditioning the hair with protein to trimming for a fresh start.

7) Use of an improper comb:

Thin-tooth combs or combs with seams can tug on the hair and yield mechanical breakage.  Stick to seamless, wide tooth combs.

8) Hair that used to be heat styled:

Even if one has not used heat in a while, heat usage from months or even a year prior can be haunting the person now. Mid-shaft splits can be opening and yielding breakage. There is also the issue of split ends widening.  Trims are the best way to mitigate this problem.

9) Sleeping on a cotton pillowcase:

Cotton can be both drying and abrasive to the hair.  Sleep on a satin/silk pillowcase or use a satin/silk bonnet to put a stop to this breakage source.

10) Hair that has been colored:

Dyeing can weaken the hair shaft by lifting the cuticles. Depending on the extent of weakening, mitigation can range from regular deep conditioning with protein to trimming for a fresh start.

11) Protein-moisture imbalance:

Hair can either become brittle or stretchy and thus break due to a protein-moisture imbalance.  Read this post for more information. As always, please speak with your doctor before adjusting your diet or lifestyle.

Ladies, have you experienced any of these hidden sources of breakage?

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About Chinwe

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

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Courtney
Courtney
8 years ago

I thought if you keep the hair stretched it will prevent breakage?? I dont use heat like that, I do the african threading method and banding method to stretch my hair because doing my hair while wet or damp my hair shrinks causes tangles and SSK’s causing me to clip them and not retaining length and never really experience breakage, I color my hair never had serious breakage.…..But seriously anything can break your hair. Me not moisturizing my hair causes breakage.

ljjohn
ljjohn
8 years ago
Reply to  Courtney

overstretching can cause hair to snap or midshaft splits. what constitutes overstretching varies from head to head so just be conscious of it

Courtney
Courtney
8 years ago
Reply to  ljjohn

Ooooo okay, I understand. I stretch my hair cause it prevents for me having tangles and SSK’s cause my hair is extremely coily and it gets tangled so easily, but I dont use excessive heat to stretch it…

Charlotte
7 years ago
Reply to  Courtney

Yeah I had a lot of breakage from both wet and dry stretching. My hair is really fine. I had no idea that braiding and protective styling were the culprits, I thought they were supposed to prevent that. Still I am getting a few midshaft splits but not nearly as much. Can glycerin cause this? Anyone?

mangomadness
mangomadness
8 years ago
Reply to  Courtney

Here’s some posts on ‘The Natural Haven’ blog that talks about how stretching (and over stretching) can lead to breakage:

- http://www.thenaturalhavenbloom.com/2010/11/braiding-and-twisting-clean-parts.html
http://www.thenaturalhavenbloom.com/2012/07/mid-shaft-splits-cause-and-prevention.html

Ugonna Wosu
Ugonna Wosu
8 years ago

I agree about styling on wet hair. You are supposed to comb on wet or damp hair, but styling not so much. I suggest waiting until its just damp and not “wet”. Weird thing is I’ve read about people “wet bunning”, where they bun their hair just after they’ve co-washed. Maybe what they mean is “damp bunning”???

SC
SC
8 years ago

the only thing i do on this list is use sulfate shampoo (i just washed my hair now haha) and thats because my doctor prescribed it for me because of my scalp problems and eczema in my head. but i still do everything else as well as moisturizing with oil, but will my hair still break?

TP
TP
8 years ago
Reply to  SC

try olivier for your eczema and tea tree oil…you can’t always trust most doctors when it comes to natural remedies and products…med school doesn’t teach on that and natural companies also don’t lobby and pay them to get customers to use their products

Ugonna Wosu
Ugonna Wosu
8 years ago
Reply to  SC

I still shampoo with sulfates. I think its still good, as long as you prepoo so as not to lose too much moisture, or deep condition after the shampooing. I do intend to buy a non-sulfate shampoo soon though, then my sulfate one will be for clarifying once a month. But you should be fine with your sulfate shampoo.

IrisNaturelle
8 years ago
Reply to  SC

Hi! I saw you commented on eczema and I just wanted to say that I posted a post on my blog on how I take care of my very very dry skin and my eczema. Its in both French and English.

http://www.irisnaturelle.blogspot.com

Marliceia Chavers
Marliceia Chavers
8 years ago

I just figured out that styling my hair soak and wet is the most probable cause of my breakage. I’m so glad this article emphasized that. Now I know what to do.

heatherspeaks493
heatherspeaks493
7 years ago

I’ve been trying to strengthen my hair by just “co-washing”…it’s been about 2 weeks and I have noticed less breakage. Has anyone else decided to not shampoo at all and just use conditioner?

Charlotte
7 years ago

I personally would not chance out no shampoo for myself because my hair is low po and gets build up. My scalp and hair love a monthly cleanse with peppermint soap. However, shampooing less is key for me, among many other things. I shampoo once every seven days and use Blensblend or Shea Moisture specifically formulated for dry hair.

Charlotte
7 years ago

My hair is not nearly as curly as the average African American, my mom is white and her hair is stick straight so my hair is somewhere between hers and my father’s who has the curliest hair known to man, but my hair is not even as curly as a lot if mixed folks. However because my hair is low po and extremely vulnerable to split ends and breakage, despite being very very long and growing really fast, I have had to wade thru pools of advice on how to take care of my hair without damaging it. The thing… Read more »

Latoya
Latoya
7 years ago
Reply to  Charlotte

You have been the light to my problems. I’m Lo po as well and I’ve been combing, braiding, and etc on wet hair lately. I realize I haven’t been retaining much length even though I don’t use heat and protective style all the time. So for now on wait until hair is mostly dry. Thank you so much.

Charlotte
7 years ago

Ugh, I am getting a few of these again but not nearly as many. But someone told me that glycerin can cause them. Is this true? Anyone?

shayj1127
7 years ago

I think I have been over-styling when my hair is wet or drenched because recently I have been noticing A LOT more breakage and shedding than usual. Also, for a while I was using a Denman brush and I think that was causing mechanical breakage. Ahh! You think you are doing things right, and then you have to change your method again. Oh well, this post was a good reminder of what I should be doing!

Preeti
6 years ago

I have a couple of Carol’s Daughter prtudcos. For the most part they’re okay. They don’t compare to my favorite Kinky Curly and Shea Moisture prtudcos though. I’ve never tried these. I have the milk (which I hate and can’t understand why so many people rant and rave about it) and the black vanilla smoothie, shampoo and conditioner. The last 3 are okay. They smell really good and make my hair feel soft right afterwards, but still don’t provide the desired results I like which is to have more defined curls.

Yannie
Yannie
6 years ago

I have had combination 4a 4b hair all my life the back of my hair has a more loose curl pattern and the front of my hair has a tighter curl pattern kind of like corkscrews but around the summertime last year i began to straighten my hair and i have noticed a little bit of breakage around my edge area and i stopped straightening my hair i began to wear buns ‚a wash and go,or i would twist the front for my daily hairstyle and i dont touch my hair alot now but that patch hasn’t grown back and… Read more »

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