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.
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!!!