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 BREATHE. 5)… 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 exten­stions for me!

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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