*This article was originally published on September 5, 2011. It was re-posted as part of our ‘Best of 2011′ Series
Breakage and splits are a particularly sore point for naturals because they steal hard-earned length. The little ‘wisps’ of hair you see around your bedroom or bathroom — if they don’t have a white bulb on the end — are broken hairs, and split ends occur when the protective cuticle (outermost layer of the strand) is destroyed at any point along the length of the shaft. Try these tips and tricks to cut down on breakage.
Avoid Direct Heat Styling (Blow drying, Curling/Flat ironing, Hot Rollers, and Crimpers)
Heat removes precious moisture from the shaft, and can produce air bubbles within the shaft that weaken it. If you want to stretch your hair, try Curlformers, braiding or banding. Read more about the effects of blowdrying here.
Use Gentle Cleansers
Harsh shampoos can leave the hair dry and brittle and susceptible to breakage. Find a cleanser that doesn’t disrupt the moisture balance of your strands. Find a listing of BGLH readers’ favorite cleansers here.
Gentle and Minimal Manipulation
Be gentle with your hair and be mindful of how the tools you use affect your hair. Keep in mind too that putting in and taking down twists and braids can put mechanical strain on the hair, particularly the ends. Also remember that, while some naturals can style their hair daily, others don’t have hair strong enough to manage that. In this case, gentle protective styles might be a better option.
Moisture & Conditioning
Moisture is what keeps hair strands supple and pliable. Moisturize your hair with a leave-in conditioner and seal with a butter or heavy oil. How often you do this depends on how well your hair retains moisture. Some women need to moisturize daily, while others moisture every 3 to 5 days. Also, some naturals find that deep conditioning helps to keep their hair strengthened and moisturized. Read more about BGLH readers’ views on deep conditioning here.