The first thing that pops into my head when I think about youtuber Karen of Glamfun is of course the very catchy tune, ‘Wash and Go’s don’t work on nappy hair.’ Recently, she has been in the spotlight for her hair struggles and decision to relax her natural hair. She spoke in depth to BGLH on that in this interview…this is not the topic of discussion today. Instead, I want to do an analysis of what I learned from her discussion on the serious level of breakage she experienced. I think her experiences can be a great learning tool for anyone with 4c hair specifically, as well as broadly speaking to anyone trying to retain length and constantly succumbing to setbacks.
1. Doubt is a very good thing
Karen was given a diagnosis of central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia and she doubted it. I am a scientist and not a dermatologist but I’m with Karen in doubting the diagnosis. From my point of view, Karen had breakage after her hair was grown from the scalp. For the alopecia condition, there is some association with trauma to the hair follicles leading to a ‘scalpy’ appearance, not so in Karen’s case. The dermatologist suggestion of relaxing as a remedy is not ideal as relaxers are suspected to be a possible cause for tram, triggering that type of alopecia (J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. pp 37–40, 2012.). Therefore, if you doubt what a medical professional is telling you, do get a second or even third opinion.
2. Breakage happens even to the most seasoned naturals
Chery of chery818 is an example of how a seasoned natural with years of experience and very long hair can experience breakage. Don’t make the mistake of thinking serious breakage is a newbie type of error; and those who are 2–3 years into their natural journey are less likely to experience it. Typically, 4c hair is more susceptible to breakage. When coupled with length, there is more potential to knot within coils and kinks.
3. Why is your hair breaking? Erm.….……because you broke it
I wrote an article 4 years ago with this exact title. In short, it’s safe to say that most of the time when you experience hair breakage, it’s because of something that you, as the main handler of that hair are doing. It is a simple answer, almost too simple for some but it underlies an important an inescapable truth which is that ultimately, you as the main handler of that hair, have to troubleshoot and find out what you are doing wrong. Big emphasis on “you.”
4. Absolute fail safe methods — Leave your hair alone (2+ weeks)
Karen noticed that when she placed her hair in braids for a while and left it alone, it grew. For 4c hair, leaving your hair alone is an absolute fail safe method to retain length. For most 4c naturals, this means protective styling for 2+ weeks at a time by some means — e.g own hair braids/twists, well installed extensions, well installed weaves, cornrows under a wig etc. I would generally advise against free hair methods for 4c hair e.g bunning, twist outs etc but if you are able to see low to no breakage, then it is a fail safe method for you. New methods such as the maximum hydration method have reports that some users with 4c hair experience less knotting and breakage. I would not label this method as a proven fail safe method but I would say that if you are an experimentalist, try it and observe the level of breakage for yourself.
5. Sticking points / Plateaus
For many 4c naturals, there are specific points when hair is more liable to experience high breakage. The two most common ones are:
- hair can’t get past neck length
- transitioning hair from APL to BSL
In both cases, trying a fail safe method for a period of 6 months to 1 year could dramatically change your fortunes.
What steps do you take to prevent breakage?