Common Causes of Hair Damage:
African women face specific challenges due to our unique hair characteristics and hair damage. There are some causes of hair damage that are particularly relevant to Kenyan women, as we have observed over time. It is possible to have multiple causes of hair damage that can make the situation more challenging such as thinning hair and chemical damage.
Here are the common causes of hair damage:
Chemical Treatments: Relaxers, Perms, and Hair Dyes:
We use chemical relaxers or straightening treatments to alter the texture of our hair to make it more manageable. Chemical treatments weaken the hair structure because the products used contain harsh chemicals. They change the protein profile of the hair strands that weaken the hair shaft to give you the desired result. With improper care, it eventually leads to hair breakage and thinning and can cause poor scalp health.
Proper post-chemical hair care routines can minimize hair breakage, improve thinning hair, and maintain optimal scalp health.
Improper chemical treatment application or frequent touch-ups is where the problems start with this type of damage. Get a touch-up atleast 12 – 14 weeks after your last relaxer treatment. Leaving the relaxer treatment in your hair causes so much damage to both the hair and the scalp. Seek professional service when applying chemical treatments to your hair!
It helps to prepare your hair in the weeks leading to a relaxer treatment and on the day of the relaxer treatment to minimize the harsh effects of the straightening chemicals on your hair and scalp.
Another tip if you are a relaxed girl is to turn down the heat in every step of your hair care routine. That includes using lukewarm water to clean your hair, lowering heat setting during hot oil treatments and deep conditioning, and heat styling your hair.
Excessive use of heat styling tools, such as flat irons, curling irons, and blow dryers, can cause significant damage to your hair. High temperatures can strip the hair of its natural moisture, leading to dryness, brittleness, and increased vulnerability to breakage.
Sometimes we want to forget about our hair for a minute. That’s where protective stylings such as braids, corn rows, weaves, and extensions come in. Additionaly these styles are manageable, affordable, and save time.
However, the effects of protective styles can outweigh the benefits over time when it comes to the health and vibrancy of your hair. These styles exert excessive tension on the hairline and scalp. They can lead to a condition called traction alopecia. Traction alopecia results in gradual hair loss around the hairline due to constant pulling and tension.
The effects of Traction Alopecia Include:
Hairline Recession: The constant tension on the hairline can cause it to recede, resulting in a higher hairline or thinning edges. It can significantly impact self-esteem and confidence.
Thinning Hair: Traction alopecia can lead to overall thinning hair, especially in those areas where the tension is applied consistently.
Hair Breakage: The constant pulling and strain on the hair can weaken the hair shaft, causing it to become brittle and prone to breakage.
Scalp Irritation: Tight hairstyles can cause scalp irritation, redness, itchiness, and even sores if not given proper care and rest periods.
It’s advisable not to start with hairstyles that cause too much tension on your hair and scalp to prevent damage. However, if symptoms of traction alopecia are evident, stop wearing the hairstyle causing the issue. You can consider letting hair grow naturally without further applying any form of tension on your scalp and hair to start reversing the damage.
Lack of Moisture:
African hair tends to be naturally dry because the natural oils produced by the scalp have difficulty traveling down the hair shaft. Dry hair is made worse by external factors such as harsh weather conditions, heat exposure, chemical treatments, and improper hair care routines. Lack of moisture can cause the hair to become brittle, prone to breakage, and less elastic.
The best way to reverse damage due to lack of moisture is to understand your hair characteristics, i.e., texture, density, etc. It can help you adopt a hair care routine that includes hair products that support and nurture your specific hair type and needs.
Improper Detangling Techniques:
This type of damage flies under the radar because of how inconsequential it seems, but over time it can cause your hair a lot of breakage and thinning. Our hair is unique in its curl pattern and density making detangling a necessary hair care routine.
Combing or brushing when the hair is dry or wet leads to unnecessary breakage and damage. It is crucial to detangle gently using wide-toothed combs or fingers and starting from the ends, working your way up to the roots. Use hair products such as hair detanglers or leave-in conditioners which smooth the hair and make it easy to comb and style.
Environmental factors such as exposure to harsh sunlight, pollution, and hard water can impact the health of your hair. Sun damage can cause dryness and weaken the hair strands. In extreme cases, overexposure to the sun can affect your scalp health too. Washing your hair with polluted or hard water can lead to product buildup, scalp irritation, and dull-looking hair.
Covering your head with a hat or scarf when exposed to long hours in the sun or tucking away your hair ends helps minimize sun damage.
Styling and Styling Tools:
There’s a real potential for hair damage caused by hair styling tools. Therefore, learn how to choose the right tools and use them wisely to minimize damage to your hair.
Hair straighteners, curling Irons, hot hair dryers, etc., are great for giving you a sleek and smooth hairstyle but using excess heat can lead to dry and brittle hair that is a precursor for hair breakage. Use a heat protector to minimize damaging your hair cuticles. Note frequent use of heat stylers without heat protection can lead to heat or thermal hair damage.
Excessive heat from hot hair dryers can dehydrate your hair leading to moisture loss. Holding the hair dryer too close to your hair can lead to heat damage and even burn your scalp.
Hair brushes and combs are necessary for styling your hair. Therefore learn to apply the right amount of force when combing or brushing your hair. Improper combing or brushing techniques or being aggressive can lead to hair breakage. The same applies to using the wrong comb or brush.
Also, be very careful when combing or brushing wet hair because it stretches your hair and it can easily snap because of its fragile state.
Styling tools such as hair ties and clips that secure tight ponytails can lead to hair breakage, especially at the hair ends. Tight and sleek ponytails can also contribute to traction alopecia caused by pulling back hair too tightly over extended periods.
Excessive use of styling products may not be a good idea. The reason is that they weigh down your hair. Some styling products may affect the moisture profile of your hair strands which can lead to breakage. It’s a good idea to read the ingredients of your styling products as some are known to contain harsh chemicals and could lead to hair strands and scalp damage.
Nutritional Deficiencies and Health Conditions:
Poor nutrition, protein and vitamin deficiencies (especially iron and biotin), hormonal imbalances, and certain health conditions can cause hair damage. Maintaining a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and addressing any underlying health concerns affecting your overall health can help.
In conclusion, we face specific challenges related to hair damage due to afro hair’s unique characteristics and styling needs. By understanding these causes and implementing proper hair care routines, including using hair growth and repair oils, you can overcome these challenges and maintain healthy, thriving hair.
From Our Blog
Read more about the different characteristics of African hair. – Part 1