As Black women, we don’t play about our hair. We will go through leaps and bounds to keep our hair looking good. So as we relax and color our way to the hair we want, when we want it, are we actually doing more harm than good to our locks?
Here are eight ways our beauty habits cause hair damage:
1. Bleaching - Bleaching your hair penetrates the cuticle with chemicals and removes your natural pigment. You are changing the structure of your hair, making it more susceptible to damage.
Once you bleach, you've altered the strength of your hair, making it weaker. If you add blow-drying and styling on top of bleaching, you can really damage your 'do, causing hair breakage, a dull look, and split ends.
2. Perms - Perming refers to either a chemical straightening or a chemical curling. It works by breaking the inner bonds of the hair and re-forming them back together in a different way.
Like bleaching, it weakens your hair, leaving it dull and damaged over time so that instead of luxurious curly locks or shiny straight tresses, your hair looks brittle and dry.
3. Highlights and coloring - Highlights and semi-permanent dyes aren't as damaging as bleach, but they aren't without consequences. They can also change the inner structure of the hair, causing a lackluster look and dryness, especially if you frequently color to hide roots or gray hair.
4. Flat iron and blow-drying - Heat causes temporary changes to the hydrogen bonds that hold hair together and that can make hair look dull.
Over time, the temporary changes can lead to more permanent damage if you tend to blow dry or iron on a daily basis.
5. Ponytails and braids - Ponytails and braids can cause hair to break, especially if your style is pulled tightly. If you wear it that way every day, results of permanent hair damage can occur.
Braiding or putting your hair in a ponytail when it's wet can cause damage sooner because wet hair is more fragile.
6. Over-brushing - Think 100 strokes a day will make your hair shiny and full? Think again.
Over-brushing your hair can cause split ends and breakage, with the over-brushing causingtoo much consistent friction for hair to handle.
Cheap brushes don't help either, causing snags and tangles that are hard to get out and resulting in broken hair and split ends.
7. Over-shampooing - The goal of shampooing is to cleanse the scalp and remove oil buildup on your hair.
But over-washing can wash away your hair's natural moisture that helps your hair look healthy, making your hair dry. Although a significant amount of research has gone into making shampoos beneficial for your hair, you can still get too much of a good thing.
The less vigorous you are in washing your hair, the less damage you'll do to the cuticle. And find a frequency to washing your hair that works for you ... whether it's a few times a week or once a week.
8. Extensions and weaves - Extensions and weaves are a lot like ponytails and braids. Over time, they can leave hair broken and brittle. The difference is the damage is at the roots where it is harder to cut out.
If you have a discomfort or ache in the scalp, that indicates that what you've done to your hair is causing too much pressure at the roots.
Worse, traction alopecia is a serious hair loss condition caused by wearing tight hairstyles like extensions for too long of a time period. So either keep it loose, or try growing your hair instead of going for instant length.
Hair Damage Repair
Whether it's heat, chemicals, dyes, or styling, it's all doing some degree of damage. A good rule of thumb is, the less you do to your hair, the better.
How can you undo some of the damage done through countless visits to the salon?
There are two things you can do. First, cut off the damaged ends and start fresh. And try reducing what you're doing. ... If you notice your hair looking dull and dry, cut back on your styling until you get your hair back.
Recommendations for maximizing hair health:
Always put product on your hair before you style with heat. "By putting the product on before you style, you're heating the product, not the hair," Baron states.
Use extensions and cornrows wisely. "If extensions or cornrows are too tight, it can damage your roots by causing too much tension," Baron says. "There's a new technique where you can have extensions glued in and then removed using baby oil, but whatever way you choose, don't overdo it -- hair is strong, but it does have a breaking point."
Cut your losses. "When your hair is really damaged and dry, amputate," Baron says. "Just cut it off and start over.”