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:
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?