*This article was originally published on September 11, 2011. It was re-posted as part of our ‘Best of 2011’ Series
By Jc of The Natural Haven
If you are yearning to have a larger than life afro or hair that hangs down to your waist, then you must pay attention to both your comb and combing technique. Length retention starts with eliminating hair breakage and combing is the primary reason why curly and kinky hair breaks.
Do you have the right skills, tools and techniques?
1. Section hair
Natural hair, curly or coily tends to have a lot of volume. Make your life easy by creating manageable sections- 4 to 8 usually works but with thicker or longer hair even more sections may be better. Very short hair (under 4 inches) generally does not require sections. Use hair bands or clips to keep the hair under control and if you have tight curls or major shrinkage consider loosely braiding or twisting the sections and washing them in this way.
2. Comb wet or comb dry?
Breakage is likely to happen whether hair is combed wet or dry and the method you choose is really a question of preference and ease. Breakage during wet combing is because although hair is very flexible, its strength and ability to resist the force applied from combing is at its lowest. Conversely, when hair is dry, it is at its strongest but it lacks flexibility and therefore is likely to snap. The ideal condition for combing would therefore be when hair is mostly dry (about 80%) so that it is strong and pliable. However, no matter what your preference, consider using some hair conditioner to increase slip and help reduce damage.
3. Finger Combing
Fingers are the first and for some the only tool to use. When detangling with your fingers make sure your nails are smooth and do not snag your hair as you part it. Ideally try to make use of your finger pads rather than nails to separate the strands.
If you have upgraded to a wide spaced shower comb well done! The next step up is a seamless comb which essentially has no rough edges. These are fairly expensive in comparison to a regular comb but are well worth the investment in the long run.
If your hair is fine and split end prone, brushes are best eliminated. However, if you have thicker strands and dense hair, brushes are a godsend. Brushing should come last as the brush bristles are closely spaced together compared to other tools (fingers and wide spaced combs). The Denman remains a very popular hair brush for naturals
6. Examine Your Hair
Once you are done combing, examine the hair that you have removed. Pay attention to whether you can see hair bulbs or not. Some people are strict and want to see that all hair has a bulb. I am more flexible and would be happy with about 60-70%%, accepting that my hair is kinky and will always sustain some breakage. The one thing that must be cut down on in order to retain length are those tiny little wisps of hair, those are never good.
Have you tried any of these tips and tricks? What techniques do you use to cut down on breakage when combing your hair?