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Very few film scenes have scarred us like Chris Rock’s Good Hair tour of Black beauty salons in America, where he saw several women jumping into that salon chair thirsty for that creamy crack, all while sporting receding hairlines, bald spots and thin, limp hair.
Of course our wounds haven’t exactly been healed by the countless memes on African Hair Care sites of women whose cornrows start some five centimetres from where their hairline once was or the very women we’ve seen in town or across us at the salon asking for relaxer for fine hair because of how thin and broken their hair had become.
Luckily, it’s very easy to prevent any of these scenarios by avoiding these 10 bad habits that cause your hair to thin:
1. Super Frequent Relaxing
Your hair only needs to be relaxed every six to eight weeks, or even after longer intervals. The harsh chemicals in relaxers can damage your scalp and weaken your hair shafts, especially when touch-ups are too close together. This then leads to hair either breaking or shedding from the root completely. Instead, opt for low-heat styling to handle new growth and to be gentle with your hair. Also make sure to frequently moisturise.
2. Over Tight Braiding
While getting your hair braided is usually a great no-needle Botox treatment for the first few days, having your hair plaited too tightly causes stress to your hairline and scalp, especially the delicate area of your forehead. The constant pull on your hair by any assortment of cornrows, box braids or faux dreads weakens your hair considerably and can cause it to break and/or fall out – sometimes not growing back for months or years. Avoid bald spots and awkward styling by braiding your hair with the utmost care.
3. Over Brushing/Combing
African Hair is incredibly sensitive and fragile so combing/brushing your hair several times a day is a big no-no. All of the strands of hair you’re pulling from your comb every morning is a great indicator of how brushing and combing will lead to breakage. Make sure to use a wide-tooth comb or a bristled brush and use these only when styling your hair.
4. Excessive Heat Styling
While a good hairdryer or flat/curling iron is a good friend, your hair is your best friend and its best to maintain this friendship by refraining from heat styling too often. Sure, a straightener to new relaxer growth is a life-saver for in between touch-ups. However, the heat almost literally fries your hair to nothing. Either try alternative styling methods like curlers or wrapping your hair the night before or minimise heat styling to once a week, on low heat with a good quality hair tool.
5. Using Rubber Bands Instead of Hair Elastics
All girls can relate to the struggle of constantly buying millions of hair ties but never having a single one. But avoid turning to rubber bands when you’re in such a bind (the same goes for rope, wool and other such quick fixes) because these cut into your hair, cause friction and break your hair. Instead, trying braiding your hair or using a cute scarf or ribbon to tie your hair into a ponytail. Also remember not to tie your hair too tight or risk causing stress to your scalp and hairline.
6. Jumping From One Protective Style to the Next
While it’s understandable that you may want to maintain a certain look as your signature, it’s very unhealthy to continuously braid or twist your hair without giving it a breather for a bit to hang loose and recuperate from the tension and stress. Not only are you placing your scalp under constant stress by doing protective styles, but you’re also giving yourself very little room to properly moisturise and treat your hair weekly, if not daily. Give your hair time to naturally shed, grow and rest for a minimum of a week after undoing a protective style. In fact, why not try colouring your hair in between protective styles for some added oomph to your every-day style?
7. Stress and a Poor Diet
In the same way that living on just hot sauce and soda can make your skin break out, so too can a poor diet cause your hair to thin. You need a balanced diet, with iron, Vitamin A and B to keep the keratin in your hair strong and healthy. Stress habits, such as scratching your hair (which breaks it at the root) or tugging on your ponytail in stressful situations can also cause wear and tear to your hair. Aim to destress your life and keep your hands away from your head to prevent thinning.
8. Skipping Hair Trims
Cutting your hair can be painful but losing it by the bunch is far worse. Split ends will not only stunt hair growth, but also lead to breakage and, once again, thinning of your scalp. This doesn’t mean you have to cut off two inches every week but make sure to get a trim every six to eight weeks to keep your ends in check. Do one better and make sure to apply conditioner to your ends at least once a week.
9. Colouring Your Hair Too Soon After Relaxing / A Blow-Out
Chemical process upon chemical process can only mean the end for your precious hair.
The chemicals in hair relaxers, the heat from blow-outs and various hair dyes will dry out and weaken hair, in addition to damaging the shafts when used alone.
Plan to colour your hair at least two weeks after a touch-up to give it the time to breathe and recuperate.
10. Leaving Protective Styles in For Too Long
Undoing braids or twists is a hassle but it’s definitely worth it. Leaving protective styles in for too long allows for the build-up of lint, prevents proper moisturising and cleansing and can lead your hair to lock – all things that translate to hair breakage and shedding. Don’t keep protective styles in for more than two to three months at a time and remember to give yourself weave/braid vacations in between protective styling.
Hopefully, by avoiding these bad habits, those horrifying scenes from Good Hair can only be the stuff of movies. What are your experiences with hair thinning and how have you attempted to avoid or remedy them?