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5 Key Causes of Nape Area Breakage

• Apr 3, 2014

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Do you have trouble getting the back of your hair to either grow or maintain as long a length as the rest of your head? Have people ever asked if you shaved the back of your head when you have not? (It happened to me when I was relaxed!) Is your hair always longer in the front and shorter in the back? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this is the article for you! Here are 5 key reasons as to why your hair may be breaking in the nape region. Many of the following are actually perfectly good length retention and natural styling techniques, but they do have their pitfalls!

1. Long term protective styling

If you pay close attention, you will notice that the back of the head where your hair contacts your clothes/scarves is a lint trap! The hair directly next to the clothes will easily trap fluff and lint which can build up with great ease especially if you condition and moisturise regularly. This is because the ingredients that help smooth the hair can also attract lint. If you intend to keep a protective style for 2 weeks or more, try to undo and redo the perimeter at least once a week. This will allow you to remove the lint in small amounts before it wraps itself around multiple strands and creates an impossible-to-remove lint trap that forces you to cut your hair or that breaks your hair during the next detangling session.

2. The satin bonnet

Satin bonnets are great for protecting your hair while you sleep but if you have one which is either too tight around your head or has an exposed piece of elastic, you could be in line for some serious nape damage. The more the bonnet rubs against your hair, the more damage it inflicts. If the elastic is ‘naked’ where the fabric was either not stitched properly or with wear over time, you will also end up with unnecessary and damaging friction. The ideal bonnet should sit just next to but not directly on your hairline. A wide band bonnet is also a good choice as it may not move as much if you are a toss and turning type of sleeper

3. Smooth edge obsession

I’ve said it before, but I will say it again. Constantly brushing your edges and frequent use of gel can really hurt the hair at the nape for some naturals. Some naturals can get away with daily brushing and gel use but if your nape is suffering, then do not keep doing it. Go for the good old’ smooth down with water followed by a scarf tied for 10–30 minutes. It is much less damaging.

4. Headbands
If your regular styling involves wearing elastic headbands then you need to be very careful when wearing and taking them off. It is all too easy for two or three stray strands to get trapped within a headband leading you to yank at them. Over time, this friction damages the hair and leads to breakage. Ideally, you should not wear headbands as part of a continuous daily style. Sure, they’re pretty and can certainly showcase short hair especially, but give your hair a break sometimes. Half headbands which fit across the front of the head from ear to ear but not around the back of the head are a good option if you feel you need a headband all the time.

5. Puffs and ponytails
Last but certainly not least , if you pull your hair into puffs or ponytails and are not careful about tension, you can easily damage that delicate nape hair. As a general test, once your style is complete you should be able to bend your head downwards at the neck and not feel any tightness at the hairline. To test the front hairline, you should be able to pull your face into a grimace without feeling tension. If you can do both of these at the same time without feeling tension, your style is perfect.


Have any you experienced nape breakage? What was causing it?

About The Natural Haven

Scientist on a hairy mission!

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7 years ago

The hair at my nape is a completely different texture/curl pattern than anywhere else on my head (it’s a low-porosity, low density 3B/3C in comparison to the rest of my head, which is high/mid porosity, medium denisity type 4), and I’ve been wondering if my protective styling regimen has exacerbated how thin that area is. Short of always wearing half-up styles, does anyone have any suggestions on how I should deal with this? That region has always been the bane of my existence!

7 years ago
Reply to  Dananana

Wow, it sounds like our textures are very similar! I am also 3B/3C in the nape area and type 4 everywhere else and I had severe nape breakage from a god-awful weave installation. Initially, I was using JBCO and I saw some growth, but not what I was expecting to see. I can admit now that I might have been slightly impatient…only slightly 🙂 I went to a stylist who suggested that I try using a bit of warm water mixed with tea tree oil and it worked wonders! I would massage it into my scalp every other day, and… Read more »

7 years ago
Reply to  Andie

It totally does help! I already massage with essential and carrier oils (tea tree is one of my faces, yay!), but now I’ll focus more of my attention there. Also, thank you for the tip about using larger sections! I have a tendency to twist tighter in that area because of the loose pattern, so I’ll be gentler in that way too. Thank you so much for all of your suggestions!!

7 years ago

really helpful tips! as soon as i saw the satin bonnet tip i loosened my headscarf straight away lol. whats so weird is that i havent ever had problems with the nape of my hair because its much looser than the rest of my hair (4b/a hair but 3c/4a nape)but im sure to remember this

7 years ago

The nape of my hair is the longest, strongest, and healthiest.
My front bangs on the other hand… 🙁

7 years ago
Reply to  Jo

Same here. My nape is strong and grows fast. My bangs are short and so fragile. The hair in the front grows very, very slow… Kinda frustrating!

TMC toronto meetup march 29th

You got it! my sister is a living testimony to the headband one. I stopped using a particular satin bonnet because it gave me an headache. I always ask people these 5 questions when they tell me about their receding hairline. I’d also like to add, heavy and tight hairstyles which many of us enjoy doing.

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