Setback Galore: Let’s Talk All Things Hair Damage
I am what you call a ‘Day 1 Naturalista’: which is just a very trendy way to say that I’ve been natural my whole life- just over two decades now. Not because I was restricted from getting a relaxer or I hated relaxers but because I had neither the patience, the funds, the will nor the trust in my stylist to actually maintain it. Except for the funds- Thank God- not much has changed.
However, when people ask me, I prefer to say I’ve been natural for only 3 years. “Why?” You ask. Well… when you tell someone you’ve been natural for 20 years, they expect Damian Marley Jr’s Dreadlocks and the guy can step on his dreadlocks while he’s walking.
See when you start on your hair journey, you watch all these bloggers’ length check videos and after some quick math, you conclude that by halfway between your third and fourth years your hair will be waist length, your hairline will be erupting from your scalp like those Naija Movie/Perida Center wigs and it will be thick enough for you to get your own hair commercial where you walk through different rooms and sway *read ‘slay in’* your hair. All the men are flying around and jumping back in confusion wondering how they could have possibly missed getting with you and your amazing gene pool!. The other women glare with envy as you walk past. Then you stop walking right before the end of the advert and dramatically (yet relatively gracefully) whip your hair and pose! The narrator then says something like “<insert product name>, For the woman who…” blah blah blah.
Sadly, after 3 years, I definitely don’t have Damian Marley’s hair. Don’t get me wrong, I am more than grateful for this rebellious child I have as a mane- it’s literally a few inches left before I reach bra-strap-length (which btw, is my dream length), it’s got beautiful volume and is a rich, dark (almost evil) black. Heck! Even my soul sings on wash day! But I would be lying to you if I say that I’ve not suffered some pretty serious setbacks this whole time. I got overzealous, or lazy, or careless or just messed up and the damage snuck up on me like a thief.
My biggest struggle being:
- Heat Damage
This can be defined as the alteration/loosening of your hair texture due to the use of high heat. Basically speaking, it’s sort of like relaxing or texturizing your hair using a blow dry, flat iron, curling wand etc.
If you previously had a 4c texture now you may have a 4a texture. Instead of your hair being kinky, it is wavy or instead of your hair being wavy it’s now straight. Click here to read more about hair type and texture in Our Ultimate Hair Glossary.
Now, I must admit that I am a glutton for punishment. I’m one of those people Kenyan hairdressers tell “Uko na nywele poa ya kushika blow dry”. Your hair is easy to blow dry/blow out and my hair gets straightened quick and with little struggle. And Ooooh! My blow dried hair looks like a silk press at first. Hence, it’s no wonder that on wash day bits of my hair feel straight like it actually was silk pressed at 1000°C- straight and limp. That’s the hair around my hairline. Straight. Bone Straight. No Curl. Or straight with a few curly bits here and there. It just looks like a hot mess.
So what can you do to prevent it?
First and foremost, say Goodbye to your stylist who just can’t live without the words “blow dry” or “flat iron”. Say goodbye to him/her for a while. D.I.Y or find another amazing stylist. We have some right here on Afrofinity.
Use a heat protectant. I can’t stress this enough! Argan Oil is a good natural alternative if you can’t find one from the beauty store.
Don’t blow dry/ flat iron with the highest setting on. If you absolutely must use the high setting, then aim for passing over each section only once. Preferably, though, choose a lower heat setting. (P.S: the cold setting works wonders on my hair… If you’d like to see how I use the cold blow dry setting to straighten my hair, let me know below)
If you have this gut feeling that this stylist is going to iron the kinks out of your hair… or if you feel pain in your heart and hear the doubts in your head getting louder then honey; stop your stylist. Tell them to reduce the heat or just stop. Do you risk leaving the salon looking like Cruella Deville from 101 Dalmatians? Of course, you do! But if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.
Sadly even if you follow these steps to the letter, you still risk some heat damage so the best thing is to experiment with hair styles that don’t require heat but can give you defined and shiny hair like straw sets, twist outs, braid outs, perm rods etc. Focus on perfecting the technique but it won’t hurt to get some bomb curling butter, creams and styling gels from our store while you’re at it.
- Physical Damage.
Damage caused by how you handle your hair and how your hair interacts with the environment falls under this category.
How can you prevent this type of damage?
To be completely honest with you this type can’t be completely prevented but it can be minimized and here some steps you can take to do so:
- Proper Detangling.
What’s the one time of wash day that you dread? Did I hear someone say detangling? Yes! I hear you.
Detangling can be one of the most stressful things about having natural hair. Stressful to both you and your hair. Improper detangling causes cuticle damage, hair breakage and uneven split ends.
Here are some renowned conditioners like Miss. Jessie’s and Curls.
- Trim your ends
Haha! I know this one seems ironic but it’s extremely important. If your ends are uneven or split then it’s time to get a trim. This stops the damage from slowly traveling up your hair strands and damaging, even more, hair. This is a case of the damage already being done and now you need to control how far it spreads.
- Protective Styling
This minimizes the wear and tear damage. If you like wearing your hair down or open then it is constantly rubbing against things be it your clothes or that ripped matatu seat cover or the head rest on you office chair.
Protective styling is a way to get your hair out of your neck literally. Try box braids, weaves, flat twists, bandika braids etc. but beware a protective style done wrong does more harm than good.
- Proper moisturizing, proper conditioning.
When your hair is dry- has no water and no oil- it breaks, splits and generally gets damaged faster. Make sure to condition and moisturize your hair. After that’s done make sure you seal with an oil and/or cream.
Looking for Moisturizers and Creams? Look no further.
- Chemical Damage.
This is the loosening of one’s curl pattern due to chemical processing using products like relaxers, texturizers, hair dyes etc. that cause a breakdown in the protein structures of your hair.
Here’s how you can prevent it?
Stay away from relaxers, dyes, texturizers etc. That’s the only way.
Tip: Should you decide that you still want to use relaxers and dyes etc. then make sure you look for a professional to do it.
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