African American hair breakage is common due to the fragility of the hair in its different stages. Chemical processing of the hair can also make it prone to breakage, and some hairstyles can contribute to hair breakage as well. Oftentimes the breakage is so gradual that it appears that the hair is not growing, when in actuality the hair is breaking before it any additional length can be obtained. There are a few common hairstyles that usually cause breakage when preventive measures are not taken.
African American Hair Breakage: Cornrows and Braids
Cornrow braids can cause breakage in the hair, usually around the hairline. The breakage occurs when the hair is braided too tight, pulling the hair out along the edges. The breakage may not be noticed until the braids are removed and the hair is combed. The hair, which is weakened at the root, is removed. Hair that is in cornrows for two months at a time or longer, either styled in cornrows or used as a base for a sew-in weave, can result in hair breakage when the braids are removed.
Some people try to wash their hair immediately after the cornrows are removed, massaging the shampoo into the hair. The hair is likely to tangle and matte using this procedure. Instead, remove cornrows and thoroughly comb the hair with a large tooth comb before adding water. Comb the hair with the shampoo in it, but do not massage in a circular motion, because the hair may matte and break. Matted hair will either break off or will need to be cut out.
Hair Breakage and Chemical Treatments
Overprocessing the hair through the use of chemical relaxers for black hair or coloring is another common cause of African American hair breakage. When the hair is overprocessed, it becomes fragile and weak, and will break when it is manipulated. Some hair may break soon after the treatment, but other hair may break gradually after the treatment. Hair should be conditioned and chemical treatments should remain on the hair for the shortest length of time possible.
Continue to condition and moisturize the hair and provide treatments to the hair while it is relaxed. Do not re-touch relaxers too soon after the first relaxer has been applied and avoid compounding chemicals, lightening the hair with a permanent hair color and relaxing it, especially if the hair is not totally healthy.
Hair Breakage from Styling
Gradual hair loss can also occur from ordinary styling. Brushing the hair with harsh brushes can cause breakage. Use a natural bristle brush or a paddle brush, and keep your eyes open for excess hair in the brush. It's normal for a few strands of hair to appear in the brush but be wary if a small handful of hair is there after only a few strokes.
Constantly wearing unlined hats can also wear away at the hair. Do not wear caps or hats without wearing a silk or satin scarf underneath it to protect your hair. Hats and caps rub against your hair, causing snarls and breakage.
Hats and caps are not the only accessory that can cause breakage. Check your ponytail holders to make sure that the rubber is covered with fiber. Do not use rubber bands unless the package states that they will not break hair, and even then, be cautious. Rubber bands have been known to gradually cut or break African American hair. If there is any sign of your hair wrapped around the rubber band, discontinue use. Silk or satiny covered scrunches work well in African American hair. Be alert and pay attention to how your hair reacts to styling aids.
Proper care of black hair also means being observant. When hair begins to thin, it is time to get a haircut to prevent further damage. Never sacrifice healthy hair for length. By caring for your hair, you can avoid additional African American hair breakage and loss.