I did my big chop in the win­ter of 2004. While my hair seemed to retain length over the next year and a half it even­tu­al­ly plateaued and remained at the same length (shoul­der length) through the fall of 2009. I asked myself “What am I doing wrong?”

The answer: Unin­ten­tion­al­ly break­ing my ends. I’ve said this to friends before and I’ll repeat it here- Using a comb on dry hair, tight­ly coiled hair is tan­ta­mount to giv­ing your­self a hair­cut. All those years of rak­ing through my hair with a comb didn’t only remove shed hair or break hair off from the root but it also broke off the ends of my hair. As you know, no mat­ter how much your hair grows each month, if you cut your hair every month you won’t see any length reten­tion. When you’re “cut­ting” your hair with a comb it can be frus­trat­ing because it isn’t obvi­ous that your dai­ly rou­tine is the cause of your stunt­ed growth.

I can’t remem­ber where I read this, but dur­ing my search for hair care ideas, one writer said to treat the ends of your hair like fine lace. Be gen­tle when styling and only comb your ends when they are thor­ough­ly mois­tur­ized. I began to first put this into prac­tice dur­ing my wash rou­tine. I drenched my hair in oils and con­di­tion­er so that when I detan­gled my hair only the hair that I nat­u­ral­ly shed dur­ing the week was removed. I can’t describe how sur­prised I was when, for the first time I saw how lit­tle hair was in the comb after detan­gling. I knew then that I was going to see pos­i­tive changes in my hair over the next few months.

It bears empha­siz­ing that the prod­ucts I began using 2009 were sim­ple. Before there was a small army of nat­ur­al hair prod­ucts in places like Tar­get and Wal­greens, I used water and cas­tor oil on my ends. How much more sim­ple than that can you get? Each night I would light­ly damp­en my hair, then seal my ends with a dime-sized amount of cas­tor oil. I would then style my hair in a sim­ple pro­tec­tive style, like the exam­ple fea­tured below (if you are inter­est­ed, I have a tuto­r­i­al on the style post­ed here).

Simple Protective Style (my hair in 2009)
Sim­ple Pro­tec­tive Style (my hair in 2009)

Years lat­er I still style my hair in pro­tec­tive styles, although I am more com­fort­able wear­ing loose styles (non-pro­tec­tive styles) because I am no longer on a mis­sion to grow my hair any longer. Even when wear­ing loose styles I am sure to min­i­mize the poten­tial for knots by apply­ing oil to the ends of my hair. More­over, at night I always wrap my hair with a satin scarf and/or satin bon­net, which not only pre­serves my style for the next day, but also pro­tects my hair from fric­tion and break­age. My hair isn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly “strong” or com­prised of very coarse strands so it is impor­tant for me to lim­it how much I manip­u­late my hair. If I am wear­ing a no-manip­u­la­tion style, like two strand twists, then I mois­tur­ize the ends of my hair four times a week, alter­nat­ing days. For oth­er styles, I mois­tur­ize my hair 3 times a week.

It’s help­ful to keep in mind that sin­gle strand knots are inevitable with tight­ly coiled hair. For me, the key is not to elim­i­nate them, but to lim­it them so that they do not stunt length reten­tion.


How have you man­aged to stop break­age?


Island girl raised in the most roy­al of NYC’s bor­oughs. Proud nerd, social sci­en­tist, edu­ca­tor and recov­er­ing awk­ward black girl. When not lis­ten­ing to NPR, try­ing to grow spir­i­tu­al­ly, or detan­gling my fro, I’m search­ing for the best shrimp and grits in the Queen City.

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2 Comments on "How I Keep My Ends from Tangling, Knotting and Breaking Pt. 3 Geniece’s Advice"

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A Real

You use a comb? Lucky girl. My hair is too frag­ile so I fin­ger detan­gle. Takes for­ev­er but I get way less hair fall. I’m total­ly going to try mois­tur­ize my ends more often.


Thanks for this arti­cle. I shall try to fol­low the advice.