By Jc of The Natural Haven Bloom
There are many challenges with natural hair and often when polled naturals are most concerned with two things — dry hair and finding the perfect hair conditioner/conditioning routine. Combing damage rarely makes the top of the list but yet it is the one factor that causes the greatest amount of breakage and is responsible for stagnant hair length.
Combing is a necessity if you wish to have free natural hair but it certainly needs to be carried out carefully and purposefully. This is the get smart guide to combing and how to avoid the two main damage culprits.
1. How to stop unnecessary fraying of your hair
The Damage: The more times you comb your hair, the more stress you are applying on it physically and therefore the more likely it is to break. Studies on hair also show that combing hair leads to loss of protein which is thought to be small parts of the hair cuticle chipping away.
How to identify it: No change in hair length over a long period (6 months or more) or hair starts becoming shorter when it has not been trimmed, numerous split ends soon after trimming, mid shaft splits, hair snaps easily with very little stress.
— Reducing the overall need to comb your hair is the most effective method. This means that if you can keep a protective style for 2 weeks, you avoid combing in that time and preserve your hair strands. If you can only keep it for a few days, this is still less burdensome than daily styling.
-If you do not already do so, always start with the widest spaced comb before using a finer tool. Finger combing allows more serious tangles to be identified and eases the way for a wide spaced comb to separate the hair strands. Using a brush or finer toothed comb is optional after. Remember that if you can skip a tool, do so, less is more.
-Use hair conditioner or a slippery oil to ease friction between your combing tool and your hair. This will preserve the surface of your hair strand
-Once your hair is combed/detangled, stop combing. Keep the hair detangled by twisting it up or proceeding to your style. If you have straightened your hair, do not unnecessarily comb or brush it just because it is easier. Remember each run with a comb is stress and protein loss.
2. How to avoid forming complex knots
The Damage: Complex knots form as a result of several hair strands intertwining against themselves. These complex knots are unique to kinky curly hair simply because the twists in the hair allow this interaction to happen. Complex knots often have to be cut out so that hair can be combed freely once more.
How to identify it: Complex knots are obvious and difficult to avoid completely. You should be concerned however if you need to cut out several knots (10 or more) on a regular basis (every time you detangle, every time you wash)
-Never pile your hair while washing it and if your hair has many kinks or a tight curl, washing it in loose twisted or braided sections will greatly help reduce the ability of the free hair to interact and form a complex knot.
-Prevent your hair from shrinking fully if you are not intending to wear your hair short (i.e intentionally keeping a TWA). The more strands can intertwine, the more they can form complex knots and shrunken hair is the perfect way to encourage knots.
-Never comb dry hair aimlessly. If you are in a hurry to style, it would be better to avoid combing all together rather than randomly pick at sections of your hair. Opt instead to finger comb lightly and go for an easy style such as bun or puff which is more forgiving for hair that has not been thoroughly detangled. Remember that accessories can easily change the look of a hair style.
Ladies, do you experience breakage when you comb your hair? If not, how do you prevent it?
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, pp 886–888, 2006
Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, pp 21–43, 1984