Growing natural hair is no easy task. It takes time, patience and perseverance. When my natural hair breaks or sheds it’s disheartening. I feel like my hard work and effort is going to waste. I even start questioning if it’s worth going through all this trouble. You probably feel the same.
Well, I’m here to tell you that its more than worth it. With the right “know-how” and consistency you can reach your hair goals. But… first things first; how do you stop natural hair from breakage and shedding?
The best way to stop natural hair from breakage and shedding is to first identify the root cause. The cause could be chemical, mechanical or even heat related. Once this root cause is identified, the steps to stop breakage become easy and clear.
If the cause is mechanical, stop manipulating your hair so much. When it’s due to chemicals, take a step back and look closer and the products you’re using. If it’s heat related, give the blow dryers and flat-irons a break. Keep reading as I go in-depth to help you understand breakage, shedding and the best methods to stop them.
How to Stop Natural Hair from Breakage and Shedding in 10 Steps (Plus 1 BONUS Tip)
1. Stop drying your hair with towels.
When your hair is wet, it’s more susceptible to breakage. When you combine that with the snagging and pulling of a cotton towel on your hair the results can be tragic. A better option is to use a microfiber towel or even t-shirt; if nothing else is available. To get the best results, try using the plop method.
2. Cut down on the amount of heat you expose your hair to.
Too much heat, over time can cause tremendous damage to your hair. Direct heat, such as blow dryers, often cause split ends and that leads to breakage. If you use heat often and you notice some of these symptoms, decrease the frequency of heat to your hair. For example, if you use heat twice a month, decrease the frequency to once a month.
Dryness is the enemy of natural hair, so be sure to moisturize your hair every day. Now remember, why I say moisture I mean water or using a product that’s water based. Once it’s moisturized you can seal it with oil or creams.
4. Keep your hair in protective styles more often.
Whenever possible, you should try to incorporate protective styling into your natural hair routine. Doing this simple step will help stop breakage and shedding hair by cutting down on the time you manipulate your hair. A good protective style provides the following benefits:
- It reduces tangles and knots.
- It protects you hair strands for thing like splitting.
- Protective styles encourage overall growth retention.
5. Try not to manipulate your hair as much.
To go along with the previous step, manipulating your hair often weakens your hair. Manipulation can come in the form of styling, combing, stretching, pressing, using chemicals, blow drying and etc. When things thing are done repeatedly, you’ll notice breakage more often. Sometimes the best prescription is give your hair time to grow. Don’t just jump on every new style, method or new product you see.
6. Trim your hair regularly
Hair usually begins to split around 3 months after a trim. This means the optimum time between trims should be around 3 – 4 months. By doing this you’ll prevent further damage to your hair.
7. Read the labels and avoid toxic ingredients
Here’s a short list of ingredients you should try to avoid…
– Sodium Chloride
– Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA)
There are more, but the key take-a-way here is to be conscious of what you put in your hair. Do your research and due diligence and make the best decisions based on what you find.
8. Use your fingers to detangle your hair
The main benefit of detangling your hair by hand is it’s a gentler approach than using a comb. For you this means less stress on you hair and less breakage. Now, finger detangle is no easy task especially in the beginning. It’s going to take some time and concentration to find and detangle the knots and kinks. It does get easier over time thought. And your hair will love you for it.
9. Do NOT wash your hair with shampoo daily
Washing your hair with shampoo daily strips away vital nutrients from your hair. To be honest, you only need to wash your hair with shampoo once or twice per month. If you’re worried this frequency is too low, don’t worry. You can balance this out with conditioner washing. This way you can keep your hair clean, but also retain the nutrients and oils it needs.
10. Change up your diet to include, veggies, fruit, lean meat, fish, and water
Your diet has an effect on your hair and scalp health. This is a fact. Hair is the fastest growing natural tissue in the body. What we add to our bodies changes this rate of growth. In fact, malnutrition is a leading cause of hair loss. To mitigate these issue we should eat a diet that provides the nutrition our body needs and also one that promotes hair growth.
** BONUS TIP ** Protect your hair while you sleep
It makes no sense to do everything right for your hair during the day and throw it all away at night. The best way to protect your hair at night is by using a satin lined cap or satin bonnet. I outline my favorite one’s here.
What is Shedding and What Causes it?
In order to understand shedding it’s important to understand hair growth and shedding cycles. We’re are constantly losing hair, so that new hair hair can replace it.
Typically, on any given day, 10% of your hair is in a growing or shedding state. The other 90% of your hair is in a resting state.
Usually the biggest issue that arises during this phases is when hair sheds without new hair growing to replace it
The hair growth cycle has three phases; the anagen phase, the catagen phase, and the telogen phase.
During the Anagen Phase, which is also the longest phase of the hair growth cycle, cells in the root of the hair begin to divide at a rapid pace. This leads to a new hair being formed. This new hair then begins to push the old hair that has stopped growing, club hair, up and out of the hair follicle.
The anagen phase can last anywhere from 2 to 7 years and directly determines how long your hair will be. The length of this phase is mainly regulated by genetics, but other factors do play a significant roles. Those factors include, but are not limited to…
- Overall Health
* The key takeaway here is to use these factors to create an optimal environment that helps you stay in the antigen phase, for as long as possible.
The transitional period, known as the catagen phase lasts from 10 days to 3 weeks. During this phase, the hair stops growing. Science has yet to discover an exact reason why the antagen phases ceases. However it is widely known that a signal causes the hair to break away from the blood supply and move upwards. Also, the hair follicle shrinks. This makes it easier for the follicle to push the shaft up an out of the scalp.
The last stage of the cycle it’s telogen stage. This stage usually lasts around 2 to 4 months before the anagen phase begins producing hair again. During this stage we lose around 100 hairs per day. In certain situations hair can shed at rates higher than normal. These situations include stress, illness, malnutrition and some women experience it after childbirth.
What is Breakage and What Causes It?
Breakage raises more concern than shedding. It happens when hair breaks at the shaft. This differs with shedding in that aspect. If you remember from earlier, shedding is a result of new hair pushes dormant hair out of the follicle.
There are many things that can cause breakage, but usually, they fall under one of three categories.
Mechanical breakage occurs when the stress of manipulating the hair is too great and the hair fails. The main culprit of this stress is over-styling.This can include twisting, braiding, pulling, brushing, combing and many more.
Remember, there’s a potential for breakage every time you style your hair. Some styling practices are more riskier than others. Also, some hair types are more susceptible to mechanical breakage. The hair type that experiences the most risk is 4c hair.
The chemicals we add to our hair can also cause breakage. One the most common chemicals are straighteners. As naturals this shouldn’t be an issue, but for most of us chemical breakage played a part in why we went natural in the first place. Also, adding color can weaken your hair. The effects can be drastic and over time will cause you hair to break completely.
Finally the last major cause of breakage is heat. Whenever you use a flat-iron, blow dryer, pressing comb or etc., there’s a real possibility of damaging your hair. I’ve learned the safe temperature range for you hair is under 450 F. In real life, I try not to go over 400 F. Another thing I learned is different hair types respond differently to heat, with 4c hair being the most fragile.
One thing that’s often overlooked is, heat removes moisture from your hair. As a natural, add moisture is one the best thing you can do for your hair. When heat is applied, it can shock your hair, causing to get brittle and dry and ultimately break.
Are You Over Dealing with Frizz, Shrinkage, Shedding and Breakage?
Download my free 4c hair growth cheat sheet. I’ll show you the exact methods to overcome breakage, frizz and shrinkage and finally grow long, healthy, 4c hair.
By now you should know why breakage and shedding occurs and the best ways to prevent it. I I’ve discovered it’s the little things, done consistently over time, produce the biggest results. If you take some of the steps above and make them habits, you’ll be well on your way to healthy 4c hair.
Gavazzoni Dias, Maria Fernanda Reis. “Hair cosmetics: an overview”International journal of trichology vol. 7,1 (2015): 2-15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4387693/
McMichael, Amy J.”Hair Breakage in Normal and Weathered Hair: Focus on the Black Patient”. Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings , Volume 12 , Issue 2 , 6 – 9://www.jidsponline.org/article/S0022-202X(15)52656-0/pdf
Shapiero, Jerry M.D. October 18, 2007. “Hair Loss in Women” N Engl J Med 2007; 357:1620-1630, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMcp072110. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmcp072110