By Chinwe of Hair and Health
(This article was inspired by a conversation I had with a lovely natural, my sis, Jacqueline.)
For some ladies, hair in the crown area is more susceptible to breakage than in other regions of the scalp. The source of this susceptibility may be some sort of trauma and/or damage to the follicles. On the other hand, the source can be at the shaft level via a difference in texture, density, and/or curl pattern from hair in other regions of the scalp.
The above and many other possibilities have been mentioned in previous hair care articles. However, one possibility that is rarely discussed is that of crown breakage due to high porosity. Let’s talk about that today:
1. What is porosity?
By now, many of you probably know about porosity, but for those who do not, here is some quick background information:
The outermost layer of each hair strand on our head is called the cuticle layer. This segment essentially helps to protect the cortex (an inner layer in the hair shaft). The cuticle consists of numerous scales that lay flat or are lifted, which impacts fluid (e.g., moisture) flow between the environment and the cortex. This is where ‘porosity’ comes into play.
Now, some naturals have relatively porous strands or “high” porosity due to cuticle scales that are lifted or in extreme cases, missing or damaged. Other naturals have seemingly impermeable strands or “low” porosity due to cuticle scales that lay flat. Then there are those who have strands that lie somewhere in between or what some would like to call “normal” porosity.
2. How are porosity and crown breakage related?
Just as the hair strands on your head may be a mix of different textures (fine to coarse), curl patterns (e.g., type 4A and 3C), and densities (low to high), they can also be a mix of different porosities, especially after experiencing damage. For example, while the rest of your hair may be low porosity, your crown area may be high porosity. Consequently, two different hair care routines may be required for the crown area versus the rest of your hair (mainly in the area of moisture). Without taking that into consideration, one can end up improperly caring for the crown area (that is, by assuming that one’s whole head is low porosity) which can then lend to breakage in that region.
Some of you may be wondering, “What can cause this porosity difference between the crown and the rest of the hair?” Well, one possibility could be direct exposure of the crown to the sun’s ultraviolet rays as discussed in this post by Shelli of Hairscapades. The thought is that because of this direct exposure, the crown is more susceptible to damage at the structural level. What are some other possibilities? My sister hypothesizes possible damage to follicles in the crown area due to high heat exposure (i.e., years of sitting under hooded driers). There are studies that associate high temperature heat with such damage (Annals of Plastic Surgery, 2000 June; Volume 44, No. 6, pp. 581–90). I would also like to add a third possibility – follicle damage due to years of using relaxers. That being said, we know that damage at that level (the follicle) can lend to hair strands that grow slower (if they grow at all), weaker, and sometimes a different texture. Can damage at this level also affect porosity since formation of the hair shaft begins, within the follicle? Hmm.
3. What are some steps you can take to reduce crown breakage associated with porosity?
Well, assuming your crown is more porous (and prone to dryness) than the rest of your hair, it becomes a matter of adjusting your hair care routine to account for that difference. Some possible adjustments targeted toward a porous crown area include: incorporating regular protein treatments, avoiding heat usage, and gentler handling. (For more details on these steps, read this earlier BGLH post on “How to Deal with High Porosity”.)
First and foremost, determine what it is about your crown that makes it breakage prone. Please consult a dermatologist to help you make that determination and to rule out a potential medical condition.
Ladies, have you experienced crown breakage? What was the cause?