By Christina of The Mane Objective

I’ll admit it… I’m guilty of staring at other women.

Get your mind out the gutter. I don’t mean like that. Some people look at shoes and clothes, others at teeth or tattoos. I look at hair. And right about now, the trends I see in hair are absolutely alarming. Perming like there’s no tomorrow. Weaving with reckless abandon. Pulling braids and buns back so tight, they gave it a name (traction alopecia). In this post, we will be taking a look at ten silent killers that wreak havoc on our hair day in and day out. Many of them are seemingly innocuous, and we don’t think about the damage we are causing until we see hair in the sink and our overall length shortening. Others, are more obvious. As you read, I hope you learn something — and leave some things on the store shelf where they belong.

10.) Pulling hair too tight.

Whether you’re putting your hair in a ponytail, getting braids, or even wearing protective styling, you are pulling on your hair. Some of us tend to pull harder than others — especially when it comes to those gosh darn edges. Nothing is more annoying than a lumpy messy ponytail when you are going for a sleek look, but think about the undue stress you are causing your hair; especially your edges. Yeah, remember when folks used to say “She don’t got no edges”? They have a name for it now. Traction alopecia, and it’s very real. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s just a Black women’s hair issue — any woman that styles their hair off of their face (or gets braids/weaves) is at risk. Avoid tugging ponytails and other hair inside of clips/fasteners outward (to tighten it). Remember to always keep your edges moisturized. To compensate for that pull-back, try using a product that will make your edges cooperate without having to secure them so tightly (like Ecostyler gel). Lastly, don’t ever go to bed with your hair still in a ponytail or clipped back.

9.) The wrong kind of scrunchies and clips.

The only thing worse than a too-tight ponytail or a slicked-back to hell look is one done with the wrong kind of equipment. Hopefully, you know by now that rubber bands are not a good look. Wanna know why? Place a rubber band on your forearm (near your elbow) and push it down to your wrist. You feel those arm hairs catching? Just imagine that on your head. Please also know that all scrunchies are not created equal. Metal fasteners get easily caught on hair and will yank it out just as much as a rubber band (and quite painfully so). Don’t believe me? Go into the bottom of your hair drawer and see how much hair is balled up on your old metal-fastened scrunchies. I highly recommend Goody Ouchless Ponytail Holders, which can be found virtually anywhere. Right now I’m trying out Scunci’s No-Slip Evolution Hair Ties (which I will write a review on later).

8.) Big Perm.

You can smell perm being mixed up from 30 miles away. But that’s not the only reason it does serious damage to your hair. When you apply a perm to your hair, you are allowing carcinogenic (yes, a study published last month has found a link between perms and fibrous tumors) chemicals to penetrate your hair shaft and literally break the bonds that create your hair’s curly texture…permanently. Any chemical, with lye or not, would have to be pretty darn strong to bend genetics. This is what makes perms especially damaging to our hair: hair that is naturally curly is inherently weaker (because each bend in your strand of hair is a potential breaking point), and we protect these breaking points by making the natural hair as resilient as possible and essentially shielding the weak points. When you perm, you basically expose the weak points and make them weaker. Not to mention, if you leave it on for too long you will have no hair.

7.) Doing too much with dye.

I know, I know,  you’re trying to keep up with Beyonce’s blonde, Rihanna’s red, and Nicki Minaj’s wig switch routine. Do you know what price your hair is paying for your coloring whims? I know, because I did it. More than once. And each time, I regretted it (until I got bored and did it again). If you are a natural blonde, then you have nothing to worry about. But for those of us with darker colored hair, you have to lift that natural darkness off before you can entertain a brighter hue. Just in like #8, we’re playing with genetics here. Blondes and bleaching are TERRIBLE (did I mention TERRIBLE?) for any texture of hair. It is the most difficult color to achive, and requires higher concentrations of ammonia which strips your hair — leaving it dry, brittle, and porous. Translation: if you are going for a light hair color, see a professional. However, if you are looking for a little tint and some great shine, cellophane and henna are two great options.

6.) Being heat-happy.

This has been one of the toughest pills for me to swallow. I can stay away from the perm, I can even not color. But no heat? Absolutely gets me every time. I’m not saying to give up heat completely — just be very careful and monitor your intake. When going from natural to straightened, be sure to use a heat protecting spray or serum along the way. I am a fan of Tresemme Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Spray and Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Anti-Friz Serum. Also, avoid unnecessary heat whenever possible. If you can avoid blow drying and air dry your hair instead, do so. Instead of automatically cranking your flat iron up to 450 degrees, start off at a lower setting so that you can achieve the same results without overdoing it.

5.) Underconditioning.

Oh, if I could only write conditioner a love song… I have a special love affair with conditioners, and you should too. Conditioners are really your hair’s first line of defense in terms of moisture and strength. Whether you are going natural or applying heat after a shampoo, conditioner should always be your second step. I also try to deep condition monthly, to give my hair a little extra love…my special way of saying “I’m sorry for all the crap I put you through”. My trusty go-to deep conditioner is Palmer’s Coconut Oil Deep Conditioning Protein Pack.

4.) All cotton everything.

Cotton may be the fabric of our lives, but it most certainly is not the fabric of your hair. Do not let anything cotton or cotton-esque come anywhere near your hair. Whether you’re trying your edges down, or covering your hair at night, cotton is not the way to go. Cotton is incredibly absorbent, and if you tie your hair up in a cotton bandana or lay down at night on a cotton pillowcase (without your hair tired up), the oils and moisture will be sucked right out of your hair — leaving it dry, brittle, and prone to breakage. Invest in a $3 satin scarf or bonnet from CVS, Target, Walgreens, Sally’s or virtually anywhere. If you’re feeling real fancy, skip the hair covers and grab a satin pillowcase for around $10.

3.) Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol.

At least the bad ones. Alcohols found in hair products are definitely bipolar — ranging from good for you fatty alcohols like cetyl to not-so-hot alcohols like SD or ethyl. For the purposes of this entry, we’re discussing those not-so-hot alcohols that can often be the culprits behind drying and brittle hair. These alcohols are commonly found in styling products used to provide hold — like gels and hairsprays. Right now, Ecostyler gel is holding me down.

2.) Naughty naughty petroleum and mineral oil.

I know, these are key staples in your favorite Blue Magic grease, and other seemingly innocuous moisturizing products aimed at providing hair moisture, growth, and repair. Don’t believe the hype. Petroleum aka vaseline not only clogs your pores and slows growth, it also acts as a sealant. Sealant’s aren’t bad in and of themselves — they keep moisture inside the hair shaft and also block moisture from getting inside as well. If your hair is already dry, and you look to a petroleum-laced product to give you moisture, guess what? You’re in for a rude awakening. The petroleum effectively blocked any chances your hair had to soak up some moisture from other sources. Mineral oil aka baby oil may actually be the worse of the two. When I’m going to the beach or headed to lay out near the pool and tan, I slather on baby oil, because it accelerates the tanning (baking) process for my skin. Just apply that same principle to your hair and….yeaaaaah.

And the number one most egregious offense we commit that wreaks havoc on our hair is…. :::drumroll, please:::

1.) HOLDING ON TO FRAZZLED ENDS.

More often than not, women are afraid to have a pair of scissors come anywhere near their hair in an attempt to preserve length. Unfortunately, that logic works against your hair being all that it can be. Split ends don’t just stay at the ends of your hair. They continue to mosey up your shaft until it splits in two or breaks — rendering your hair twice as weak. Not to mention, split-end damage hair is dull, lifeless, and doesn’t hold curl or style well. Conventional wisdom dictates that you cannot undo a split end. (In a future blog, we will explore to what extent this is true. But for now, we shall regard it as such). All we can do with damaged ends is cut gradually, and invest more in protecting ends. Once your ends get on track, you will notice your hair is thicker, fuller, has more body, and holds curls and styles well. Traditional recommendations say to trim your ends every 6-8 weeks, but I am a fan of a more personalized approach. Assess your ends. How damaged are they? Come up with a trimming schedule that gets them healthy on your time, and at a length you are comfortable with.

Wishing you a happy, healthy head of hair!!!

Christina Patrice

Born, raised, and living in Los Angeles, Christina is BGLH's resident transitioning expert and product junkie. In addition to loving all things hair, she is a fitness novice and advocate of wearing sandals year-round. For more information on transitioning, natural hair, and her own hair journey, visit maneobjective.com. Or, if you like pictures follow Christina on Instagram @maneobjective.

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47 Comments on "10 Major Culprits Behind Hair Breakage"

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Jacqy
I used a large elastic scrunchy on my hair for almost 2 months straight. In October 2015 I started noticing my hair breaking on the edges. A few days later I noticed it kept breaking and I noticed it was breaking in the back as well. It kept breaking until all the hair was down to a brush cut look. Where I was wearing the scrunchy was where the hair broke off…all around my perimeter. I went to the dermatologist on Nov 18th 2015 and was told he could see the stubble coming up w/this special magnifier w/a light attached.… Read more »
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[…] Patrice , C. (2012, July 19). 10 Major Culprits Behind Hair Breakage | Black Girl with Long Hair. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from http://blackgirllonghair.com/2012/07/10-major-culprits-behind-hair-breakage/ […]

yolanda

Love the information because I have put my own hair through stress over the years, and now in the process of trying to grow my edges back, I have been perm free for 3 yrs now and would love a natural safe hairstyle, any suggestions .

www.mihalev.info

excellent post, very informative. I’m wondering why the opposite specialists of this sector don’t notice this.
You must continue your writing. I am confident, you have a great readers’ base already!

max

Thank you so much you covered all aspects of hair breakage and how it can be prevented .

It was very helpful !

Neil

I love what you wrote but I have a three year old, that hair is really dry. What kind of grease can I put in her hair, if any? Because I have to comb her hair everyday and her is always dry.

max
convent_girl

Baby Oil is made from Mineral Oil, which is petroleum derived.
http://www.livestrong.com/article/185370-why-is-mineral-oil-bad-for-your-skin/

cecily

Great article.

Sabrina

I loved this. Thanks!

JD

I honestly did NOT know 4. Well I did know that you are supposed to wrap your hair, but I always wrapped an a dorag because I don’t know how to make a silk scarf stay on my head! It always fell off in the middle of the night!!

Nikki
I have to take issue with everyone one the petroleum and mineral oil issue. I will neither advocate for or disuade anyone from using either BUT, IMO both products have been villified because they both within the black community have a history of gross MISUSE! We were incorrectly taught that they were ‘moisturizers’ and slapped em on for shine and ended up with nothing but dry, breaking bird’s nests for hair, when in fact they are selants as was indicated in the article. Silicones also coat the hair in a some what similar way but we all know that if… Read more »
Ronnie
Here’s one the article left out. People with fine hair wearing heavy waist-length locs. I did that. I have fine hair and wore locs until they reached my waist. I started to notice a quarter-sized then a silver dollar sized bald spot at the center of my scalp. It was painful for me to do it but I had to cut my locs off or risk looking like Stevie Wonder. (No offense to the living legend, I love him and his music). Thankfully, I caught the damage in time. Simply wearing my hair in a loose natural closed that spot… Read more »
Got alove for ma hair
Got alove for ma hair

I understand cotton is bad but its really good to dry the hair with since its super-absorbent once its used correctly

anastasia

LOL!! Hilariously written! Great advice!

Mary

I was asking a rhetorical question but no response, my point is, heat is NOT a chemical. That is not scientifically accurate. It can alter the state of your hair but it is not a chemical! If so, we should be afraid to breathe, because air is all around us!

df

True true but heat damage is still real.

LBell
“When you apply a perm to your hair, you are allowing carcinogenic (yes, a study published last month has found a link between perms and fibrous tumors) chemicals to penetrate your hair shaft and literally break the bonds that create your hair’s curly texture…permanently.” There are several things wrong with this statement. 1) The Boston University study quoted (also incorrectly in the linked article) HYPOTHESIZED that the there MAY be a link between relaxers and fibroid (the technical term; yes, they are fibrous, but they are specific to the uterus) tumor occurrence and growth. Correlation is not the same as… Read more »
Penelope

+1

Aggie

+1

Miss T

All I know is, I am so sick and tired of seeing black women with these raggedy perms all for the sake of having straight hair, these vulture nest looking weaves, and then have the nerve to think they look good, or dare I say think they hair look better than mine. And dont even get me started on the women who subject and ruin the little girls hair, oh how I loathe their exsistence, take care of the hair that is growing out of your head and your little girls, yeah I said it!

Roxy F

OMG I experience people with their ratchet weaves who think that its the Bomb and it looks better than my natural Hair. I wear wigs and get complimented on them, but when i wear my natural hair I get even more compliments. Its sad when some of these men prefer girls/ladies with perms or those shiny weaves and extensions. You touched the point of these little girls with perm and let me tell you my heart breaks every time I see them. I hope they will find out when they get older though that its not good.

Goldeelocks

I think everyone can relate to this! I’m sure I could stand to be more cognizant.

Barbara

Funny and informative.

Beth

Is that Faizon?! ROFL I’m in tears

I definitely am guilty of pulling my hair too tight. I guess I’ve assumed that because I’ve never suffered any breakage that it won’t happen, but I’m going to be more careful when I do ponytails/buns/etc.

Prieta

Heat is not a chemical…but it can be an addiction. I never understood why women depend so much on heat to style their hair. Give your hair a break and air dry.
Trimming your ends will not make your hair grow healthier. If you feel your hair is not growing…the main culprit is breakage from the weak ends. Trimming gets rid of split ends.

fluffy in flight
true true ladies, you don’t want to forget the weaves – I saw a postal lady a few weeks ago and her weave actually started behind her ears. The whole head from ear to ear coming forward was gone. What was so sad about it is that the wind was blowing pretty fiercely that day and believe me ladies she wasn’t a pretty sight. Also those fake pony tales – one of the girls at my last job had a habit of wearing those fake ponytails, she would just pull her hair back real tight and attach the pony-tail to… Read more »
Pat

It truly is a sad sight to see!

Jo

When people don’t know better they don’t do better.The natural hair movement is offering an alternative
To looking good without the burns or wearing someone’s elsehair.I hope folks are taking notes.

Tati
Until a few days ago, I was SUPER guilty of #1. For the first time in at least 7 years, I trimmed the damaged ends of my hair and almost immediately my hair looked thicker, healthier, and was much easier to style. My ends were constantly breaking off like crazy and my hair never retained length. It never occurred to me that my fried ends were the source of dryness, styling problems, and constant breakage. I hesitated cutting my ends because I hated the thought of making my hair shorter but by not cutting them, I was just holding onto… Read more »
DedeBerbiie

Everyone I know who braids their hair has relaly long hair or has longer hair then before.Braiding -from my knowledge-stretches the hair more and pulls the hair more from the root to grow faster.It may take a while depending on the person but your hair will grow more if you choose to braid it.

Rou
I am in full agreement with everything that you have said. The first year, after my BC, I did not trim or cut my hair. I had split ends and my hair could not hold enough moisture. I finally broke down and cut off the dead ends. My hair looked and felt so much better. In addition, I started retaining more length and I did not have an issue with moisture anymore. Ladies, if you have split ends, you should seriously consider getting a trim or cut. Don’t try to hold on to hair that is damaged beyond repair. You’re… Read more »
Bernadette
I remember doing a self perm for the first time when I moved to Mexico!! I kept applying the stuff to the same spot on my hair and ended up keeping it on for longer than recommended. Needless to say, my hair was a hot burnt mess! Shortly after, I stopped perming. Deep-Conditioning: I rarely do this. I will do a quick pre-poo, but not a full on DC and my hair has thrived. Scissors: My best friend! I’ll even whip out my work scissors to cut off knots or splits. I would also add to the list — poor… Read more »
DeeJ085
I am guilty of doing all of these unhealthy things, before and after being natural. When my hair was permed I rarely conditioned my hair and I don’t remember my mom conditioning my hair much either, I still pull too tight on my edges when I do puffs. But at least I gave up mineral oil, cotton pillowcases, all of the dyeing as a natural still was unhealthy and I haven’t flat ironed my hair since 2009. All of these things combined are why sometimes black people think that black women can’t grow long hair, our hair can and will… Read more »
Denise
lnf is right, there’s a lot of rinse, wash, and repeat on these sites. So let’s add something new. I’d say some culprits are: 1) Not enough water (to drink) and veggies. 2) When you take out braids with extensions, your hair may have grown a lot but you can also lose a lot just by combing the lint/dirt that accumulates near where the extension part began. So handle your hair with care. 3) Stress 4) Even with wigs and weaves, it may grow or it may not but I have found that my hair needs AIR. It needs to… Read more »
Sandra

‘Hair upset and confused.’ LOL!

I too am a ‘hair watcher,’ and nothing bothers me more than to see little girls wearing braided extensions that not only are obviously past due for taking out, but their edges are non-existent! It looks even worse when the hair is full of ‘grease’ and contains more hardware (barretts, bows, ribbons, etc.) than they have actual hair in which to hold.

Jasmine

AHAHA the hardware got me lmao

Inf

2nd that

df

“6) Using too many products at one time. Hair confused and upset.”

LOL…

LoveB_Jones

The braids thing is true! I just took my twists out Monday and after chopping my braids off too much and trying to detangle it I noticed how thin my hair felt and significantly shorter it was.

Jo

I thought exactly the same thing ,however these issues are affecting the black community more so is until we learn out lesson then I don’t mind. I had a problem with heat and mild heat damage changed my mind real fast! Lol I have experienced a lot of the points mentioned and hope to not go through that again.

Mary

Heat is a chemical?… What is the chemical composition of hot air (that is different from cold air)? I know the chemical in perms tends to be lye (sodium hydroxide) but how is heat a chemical?

Lexa

I love this post! Everything I need to hear and know, THANK YOU!!!

Vonnie

Traction alopecia is REAL, y’all.

I can’t count how many associates, co-workers, strangers, etc I see that has that “facelift” ponytail they don’t wanna give up, and their edges are paying for it. And lets not talk about the women who get microbraids back-to-back and has a hairline pushed back to nearly the crown. When your hair starts BEHIND your ear, you have an issue on your hands.

Vonnie
I kid you not, I saw, well see….a particular woman who wears a ponytail everyday who has alopecia in the front. One day it appeared as if her hairline had even been bleeding at one point! When I was a teenager I had a mild case of traction alopecia from wearing tight ponys (relaxed). I wore swoop bangs on the side that had the problem for no traction and it cleared right up! Also I got braids a few months ago, I believe there is a very small spot where my hair came out because of them – no more… Read more »
Inf

LOL….absolutely. I just wonder when the individual will realize that its a problem. If I can visibly see that your pony tail is tight…then its wayyyyy to tight. It should never get (besides in medical situations) that the hair is just all gone. Thinning should be a sign!

Inf

I’d say most, if not all of these, are known and known well. I can’t go to a black hair site without seeing one of these “don’t’s”. I enjoyed the authors play on words though.

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