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How to Reduce Breakage in 4B/C Natural Hair

• Nov 29, 2013

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Last week’s post on how to breakage proof hair brought up a question on the tiny wisps, coils or c’s. If your hair has tight curls and is kinky, you will almost definitely have seen these tiny little bits of hair. If you have not, then try to wear a white t‐shirt or cover your shoulders with a white towel the next time you are detangling. These tiny wisps are indeed a form of breakage which can be greatly reduced but not prevented altogether. Here is why:

1. No action needed: Tiny wisps as a ‘normal’ feature

As stated in the introduction, if your hair is kinky and has tight curls, this type of breakage is a feature. You can almost always be able to get a few wisps simply by running your hand down your hair. The reason for this is that kinky hair is just more susceptible to this type of breakage. You can read a more detailed breakdown here. If you see a few (say 10 or less) c‐shaped coils when you run your hand over your hair, you should not worry much, it is not serious.

2. Breakage reduction: Tiny wisps seen during dry handling (combing or styling)
If you see a breakage collection of over 10 tiny c‐shaped coils when you comb (including finger combing) or style your hair, then you should be concerned about breakage. Some common reasons for seeing multiple small c‐shaped curls include

-Overdetangling: I can seriously recommend that everyone should read Geniece’s piece on why some natural hair really just does not need to be detangled such that you can run a comb through from root to tip several times. In some cases it is counterproductive and encourages your hair ends which are repeatedly combed to break off.

-Rough handling: Please remember that no matter how gentle you think you are, your hair is the judge. Many finger combers think they are gentle by default but this is not true. If you are seeing many tiny little wisps, then you really must subdivide your hair even more, proceed more gently and reconsider what you are using to make your hair more flexible (sometimes oil is not enough, a mist of water or a little conditioner may be needed to make hair flexible).

-Heat use: I still remember the days in the salon when I would have my hair blow dried and see a million little curls on the floor and thought it was normal. Of course, I also thought neck length was normal too. If you see these tiny curls when using a heat tool even at low heat, consider the fact that your hair perhaps is not suited to heat treatment.

-Lack of moisture: Simply dipping your hands in water and running them over your hair prior to styling can really help in terms of making your hair just flexible enough for styling without creating unnecessary shrinkage. This little bit of flexibility will help to counter breakage as the hair is able to bend and twist more easily for manipulation.

3. Breakage reduction: Tiny wisps seen during wet handling / conditioner combing

In practice, it is more common to see breakage in long sections which can be mistaken for shed hair during wet handling. This is because water changes the balance between flexibility and strength of hair. More water means greater flexibility but a matching decrease in strength allowing the hair to break easily closer to the root when tugged. If you do see tiny wisps during wet handling or conditioner combing the most likely reason is that you are repeatedly combing the same area too many times. If you have only done 2–3 passes and end up with breakage, consider perhaps that your hair is no longer suited to conditioner combing. You may need to try a ‘drier’ method for example undiluted conditioner without wetting hair with water prior to application or a mix of conditioner and oil or using oil on its own. I do not encourage using protein treatments as they are just a temporary fix to breakage, finding the real mechanical cause will help to make length retention the norm.

Ladies, how do you deal with 4B/C hair breakage?

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Robin
Guest

What’s wrong whenever I condition my hair with moisturising conditioner /protein my scalp itch sometimes it burns longer rinsing using castor oil 2x a day now it stopped some of the breaking hair was always thin in the nape area I mix a little Palm oil with the castor oil use the aloe/rose water mix didn’t do much for the itching did the clay detox it helped with my growth hair was a a stand still before the clay mix sensitive scalp can’t use the honey suckle rose it burns my scalp thinking gonna try using baby shampoo need help… Read more »

Tati
Guest
Tati

Your question was basically one giant run on sentence so it’s a bit difficult to understand exactly what you’re asking…are you saying your conditioner/protein treatment is irritating your scalp, or your shampoo/cleanser is what’s causing the irritation?

April
Guest

You probably have a sensitive scalp that irritated easily by certain ingredients or perfumes. Perhaps you shouldn’t put any protein or conditioner directly onto your scalp. Try to find a shampoo for sensitive scalps. I had this problem before with certain conditioners and protien treatments. Now I use clay treatments, apple cider vingager or she moisture shampoo to cleans my scalp. Look for things with all natural ingredients.

Trini
Guest
Trini

I agree with April’s summary in regard to your scalp being sensitive. I am not a medical professional, however, when I went to the dermatologist, I received a prescription for an oil — fluticasone — that ceased the itching on my scalp.

Jesse
Guest
Jesse

I handle breakage on my 4c by keeping my hair moisturized and starting at the very, very ends of my hair. I adopted Naptural85’s method of detangling (pushing down hair at the top of the shaft rather than always brushing the ends on every pass). Those little “wisps” are most likely little curls that wrap around the brush/finger or knots at the ends because 4b/c hair is super curly at the ends. Moisturizing the hair and smoothing out the ends is key for me.

Aarinola
Guest

This is great advice. I also like to apply my my Shae butter mix to my ends to prevent breakage and knotting while brusing/combing my hair. Also, which is better brushing/ combing for 4C hair?

Jesse
Guest
Jesse

I use both combs and brushes. I use combs to untangle tangled hair. I use brushes for styling and a more thorough detangling. I only do this with damp hair with conditioner in it. This method has been really great for me. So on wash day (one to three times a week), I shampoo and condition. When the conditioner has been sitting in my hair for a while, I apply an oil on top of the conditioner. I like castor oil the most, but I’ve tried this with coconut and olive oil. Then I comb through my hair, which is… Read more »

Dabney
Guest

I use this rule(sometimes I break it)Don’t handle your hair with any tools unless it is wet. This rule has helps me stave off some serious damage. However, if I do comb my hair while it’s dry, I do detangle with my hands first then I comb in sections.

melissa
Guest
melissa

I’m glad you mentioned the part about rough finger detangling. I’ve been using my tangle teezer for the past year and contrary to popular belief, have retained more length than ever and overcome my plateau. I’ve tried finger detangling when I had a twa and at this stage and it always just feels like a struggle and as if it’s doing more harm than good. My mixture of 4a/4b and 3c curls mingle excessively when saturated so the conditioner method was a no no. I use the method mentioned in the article. Detangling on DAMP hair with coconut, olive, grapeseed… Read more »

Shay
Guest
Shay

Your hair is so pretty!

melissa
Guest
melissa

Thank you!

Lish
Guest
Lish

Hi Melissa,

So you detangle during your pre‐poo with those oils?

melissa
Guest
melissa

Yes. I usually add the oil first to avoid hydral fatigue (over absorption of water, causing damage to the cuticle) and then add the water. Doing it in this order is what makes it a pre‐poo for me and not just another moisturizing session. When I used to put the water before the oil I noticed that the oil wasn’t coating my hair as well.

Divachyk @Relaxed Thairapy
Guest

Do you have your wash routine detailed somewhere? I’d love to review it and take pointers.

michelle
Guest
michelle

Unfortunately I don’t but here’s my e‐mail

Mlamisere58@gmail.com

wish I could pick a forum and just join already lol

Danielle
Guest
Danielle

Yasssssssss your hair is the badness!

Tyki
Guest
Tyki

girl, your hair is GAWGEOUS!!!!!! love it!!

Courtney
Guest
Courtney

I get those tiny wips :-/. I have color treated hair but it’s been doing this before I colored my hair. I’ve tried protein treatments like aphogee and it only lasted 2 weeks or less. I ALWAYS do deep conditioning treatments, hot oil treatments, pre poo, oil rinsing, I finger detangle, I use less heat moisturize & seal my ends when needed to help stop the tiny wisp breakage but it doesn’t last long. However, I barely have a problem with length retention and I’m only 2 years and 6 months natural, and I’m a couple inches close to bra… Read more »

JENNID
Guest
JENNID

The only time I haven seen fewer of those C’s and wisp are back earlier this year when I was moisturizing my hair like every other day. In the summer during high humidity I see less wisps too. I think mine are moisture related more so than anything else. Its hard with fine hair to draw the line at what is too much product wise. I have found out that steaming my hair in the shower everyday is pretty good for locking in moisture as is the green house method. 30 min with a tiny mist of water,bit of oil… Read more »

Trini
Guest
Trini

Once I am consistent with Aphogee treatments breakage is minimal to non‐existent. I also keep my hair moisturized and use coconut oil several times a week.

Tabatha
Guest
Tabatha

I use the Aphogee leave in spray from time to time.

Alison
Guest
Alison

Its really hard to find the right balance. I have found a hairdresser that i trust and I get my ends dusted every 8–10 weeks. My breakage is pretty much non‐existent, just the odd shed hair. I really feel like that has attrubuted to my hair growing thicker and stronger. I finger detangle my 4C hair every day with the odd occasion where I’m feeling fancy and feel like using a wide tooth comb. I would say the finger detangling/dusting has definitely reduced the amount of breakage that I experience. But every head of hair is different you just have… Read more »

Ashley
Guest
Ashley

I like that you mentioned gently finger detangling just a little bit ever day.

Most articles warn against over‐manipuluation, and I agree. I don’t like having my hands in my fine hair. However, I find that if I do a bit of light finger‐detangling every day (with a bit of a light oil, like grapeseed or coconut), then I have less major tangles come wash day.

My 3c hair likes to tangle at the ends, and I find that detangling a little bit every day helps to stop some tangles before they get even bigger.

dadeku89
Guest
dadeku89

I agree with regular trims I see reduced breakage but I think with hair that is both kinky and fine rather than medium or thick it is much harder to avoid this breakage because finer hair can break much more easily

LBell
Guest
LBell

Thank you for mentioning overdetangling. I did this last month when I was wearing a stretched‐out style (braidout updo). Normally I finger‐detangle but in an attempt to make sure my coils were completely combed out prior to styling I took, in order, a shower comb, a slightly‐less wide‐toothed comb, and a Denman brush to my hair (which was wet and had been soaking in heavy, creamy conditioner for at least 30 minutes). Later when I looked down I saw a lot more little C‐shaped pieces lying around than usual. Lesson learned: The next time I wear a stretched‐out style I’m… Read more »

Maria
Guest
Maria

I’ve come to accept the fact that I will always have a little shedding or naturally occurring dryness. I used to spend SO much time trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, but I know it’s nothing.

My hair still grows strong and healthy, plus I have enough hair for 2 heads so even if I were to lose hair I would still have plenty. Yee!

Tabatha
Guest
Tabatha

I have to deep condition every weekend. Also when I wash my hair I took a tip from Naptrual85 to wash my hair in sections. it helps my hair from tangling together and it helps me see if I am losing hair then in which section. I’ve also started to finger detangle more. I think I’m doing ok so far.

Tessy
Guest
Tessy

well am 6‐months after transitioning to natural hair now. i think i am a full 4C, it took me a long time to figure the product that works best for me. i am a med student so i literally have no time to deal with detangling. i found out that weaves make my hair grow 2 inches every 6 weeks. me hair is not the typical thick and full kind, it shrinks a lot and breaks when i comb it wet. so all i do when my hair is not in a weave is apply a liberal amount of Organics… Read more »

dadeku89
Guest
dadeku89

Wow! Thank you so much for this article. I have been so worried about my hair and that maybe it just is not healthy. I eat super healthy, do henna gloss treatments every 4–6 weeks, deep condition weekly, oil my ends, detangle gently with fingers, trim, keep my hair moisturized and take hair supplements. Overall I feel like my hair looks great but I see a few of these wisps and I kept wondering what I was doing wrong good to know that it is normal and I am not alone.

Caress Houston
Guest
Caress Houston

Can you wet natural hair too much? I wet my hair every night in the shower then I braid it in a a few chunky twists or braids to sleep in then I take it down in the morning. Is this too much manipulation because I end up with alot of shed hairs? If you can write an article about how much water is too much, if its ok to wet your hair in the shower daily then rebraid and is it ok to sleep with wet hair.

Aya
Guest
Aya

I been natural for a little over a year. I did my own semi big chop back in March i believe. I have trim my ends but they still look split to me. Everyday i use my mixture of water and black castor oil. Co‐wash and deep conditioner every Sunday. I’m wearing a protective style now. Should go to a professional natural stylist which i rather not? I hate hair salons. Too much gossiping about absoultey nothing.lol Any who. Advice please
[img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/pinger_10613707743.jpg[/img]

Alwina
Guest
Alwina

If you live in NYC, check out Tameeka McNeil‐Johnson, aka The Curly Whisperer, aka jadedtresses. She is awesome and has cut and trimmed my hair without blowing it out. She’s worked for Ouidad and a number of other salons. She will help you if you are interested. She’s on facebook and instagram IG Name: jadedtresses. I think her FB name is the same, not sure. HTH

Aya
Guest
Aya

Im very close. Im in Philly. I do have family out there. So i will have to check her out. Thanks Alwina 🙂

Jesse
Guest
Jesse

Hey Aya! Check out James Brown hair salon in Philly!!! It’s on 11th and Pine. Ask for James. He did my hair, and it was AMAZING! He is a hair wizard. He can work all hair types. I have 4c hair, and he worked my hair like no other. I got a blow out with a trim. You don’t have to get the flat iron if you don’t want it. Also, he is extremely popular so you will need to book like three months in advance, no joke. Just don’t try to take my time slot 😉

Dananana
Guest
Dananana

If you want to hold off on going to a salon (They aren’t my favorite either), you might consider adding a leave‐in conditioner to your regimen. My hair was very dry, brittle, and prone to constant splits when I just used oil and water. Adding a leave‐in really helped my hair retain moisture, which drastically reduced the number and frequency of split ends I get. Giovanni Direct Leave‐In is the business for me, but I’ve also heard a lot of naturals say they like Shea Moisture and Cantu products. Also, what are you trimming you ends with? The wrong scissors… Read more »

NubianPrize
Guest
NubianPrize

I have cut waaaay down on breakage since going back to grease & water in December 2013. I wash ‚condition,detangle, use S Curl ( old or new) as a leave in & put my hair in 10–12 twists using Blue Magic Bergamot or Super Sure Gro, or one of the Dax pomades. I’ve been wearing a Fingercomber wig as a protective style since fall. It’s now March 15,2014 & I’ve retained length & my hair is a lot thicker & stays soft & moisturized. Last fall/winter (2012–2013) I used the wig as protective style & used Qhemet Biologics, but this… Read more »

buddah
Guest
buddah

Omg!!! Nubianprize, I have done the same thing. I got so tired of all these new expensive products. I had to really think about how my mother use to do my hair back in the 70s. My hair was that ashy color as a kid and my mother would wash, condition, grease and corn row or braid my hair in 10 or 12 plats! Today, im finding that there are just too many products out here and its an expensive ball of confusion. Heres what I use: pantene for natural hair shampoo and conditionr. In my conditioner, I add grapeseed… Read more »

Stacey
Guest
Stacey

I am soooo glad to have come across this article. I thought I needed to chop my hair in order for it to stop breaking off like this! Thanks for stopping me! I think I may be too rough with my hair still since I don’t just get wisps, but also double and triple wisps. I need to find a better moisturizer, maybe. I trimmed my ends and STILL had issues with these wisps and breakage so maybe its mt diet and stress, too. This was really relieving and slightly unnerving to read, lol

lola
Guest
lola

this may be weird but my tiny curls really irritates me and I mean REALLY I hate it ends up everywhere I have so much breakage im going thinking about going back to relax so I don’t have to deal with it but I don’t want to because I have worked so hard to get to this point I bc my hair after transitioning then I started getting breakage even though I took care of my hair then I just didn’t care anymore right now im in braid in thinking of whether or not I should go back to relax… Read more »

sky
Guest
sky

hi, I love your website! its always so helpful !!! I do the LOC method and normally wear my hair in twists or a bun, I detangle my hair when its wash day (once a week) but in the last two washes when I detangle my hair I keep seeing a small amount of breakage (its a ball of hair a bit smaller than a golf ball). I had my hair trimmed about 2 months ago but id rather not get another trim‐ but if I don’t get a trim will my hair keep growing or is this just going… Read more »

Selina
Guest
Selina

I’m in the exact same predicament. I trimmed my hair (1–4inches of heat damage) in June. For 3 months my hair was sprouting, healthy, soft. I stopped using a comb the beginning of this year, stick to finger combing/detangling. I’ve had my hair inbetween braids and bantu the past month, havent washed it yet. My hair is just breaking whenever I re/un do the plaits. It is so annoying! I don’t see the little c’s but I see long shed hairs and ALOT of them. My hair has always had alot of shed hair, similar to a golf ball also.… Read more »

Brittany
Guest
Brittany

All of the links posted within this article are broken.

BGLHRinny
Guest
BGLHRinny

They should work now.

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