Press Pass Correspondent
In the last article, the issue of dryness was addressed. I also spoke about the different types of bonds there are in our hair in relation to the importance of moisturising it. Today, we will examine the different ways in which your hair becomes damaged and preventative measures to take in order to avoid this from happening.
Mechanical damage - This damage results from the overuse or vigorous use of brushes and combs. The improper use of these mechanical devices affects persons of all hair types. This improper use can cause the cuticle layer of the hair shaft to disintegrate and eventually be removed from the hair which leads to breakage.
An example of the improper use of a comb is seen when the hair is backcombed. (Backcombing is simply passing the comb through the hair from the ends to the roots.) Someone with straight, curly or kinky hair may want to achieve a puffy style and therefore may backcomb their hair to achieve this. This raises the cuticle layer of the hair so that the inside of the hair strand is not protected. If you want the best for your hair, it is advised that you avoid backcombing as much as possible because this exposes the hair strand directly to dust, UV rays of the sun and other elements which are harmful to the hair. Also, when the cuticle is lifted, the hair loses its moisture faster. Consequently, any improper use of mechanical devices leads to breakage and should be avoided if you’d like to retain your hair’s length. Finger-detangle your hair as much as possible before using combs or brushes.
Heat damage - Heat damage comes in many forms. It can be caused by the overuse of flat irons, blow driers or curling irons (just to name a few). Excess heat can dry out already dry hair even more. This is why it is important to deep condition and moisturise your hair regularly if you don’t want dry, brittle hair. (Products and methods you can use for moisturising will be discussed in the next ‘Hair Sense’ article.)
Blow-drying and other processes using heat reduce the moisture content of the hair to below its normal level. In addition, heat appliances such as these soften the keratin, or protein of the hair. In Chicoro’s book ‘Grow it!’ she makes mention that if these appliances are too hot, “they can actually cause the water in the hair to boil, making steam bubbles form inside the softened hair shaft.” As a result, this hair would have to be cut since being in this damaged condition would cause it to break off anyway and it is better that it is cut cleanly rather than having it simply broken off in a jagged manner.
Scissors and manipulation - It is necessary that sharp, good quality, stainless steel scissors be used for cutting the hair. Sharp, steel scissors cut cleanly. Blunt or dull–edged scissors leave a cut with a long, jagged edge. Therefore, it is important that you have a pair of scissors for the sole purpose of cutting the hair.
Sun exposure - The oxidising rays from the sun can break down or change the chemical composition and components of the hair. This is to say that the sun dehydrates your hair and this can in turn affect its strength. You can prevent oxidisation by covering your hair when you are in the sun. Then again, we live in the Caribbean and who wants to be walking around with their head covered all the time in this warm weather? Well, thankfully, there is an alternative! Ensure that your hair is deep conditioned or you can apply a leave in conditioner when you are going to be outside for extended periods of time.
Wind exposure - Hair whipping back and forth in the wind looks sexy, doesn’t it? Well, unfortunately, this is not good for your hair! Blowing strands can rub against each other, creating friction and electrical charges. This accelerates the drying process of the hair and can be prevented by protective styling. Examples of protective styling are braids, twists and cornrows. Be mindful that the air also carries pollutants so while whipping your hair in the wind, you can also be collecting dirt and grime on your hair.
Damage from OxidiSing Chemicals - Chlorine, relaxer chemicals and neutralisers in permanent waving processing are all examples of oxidising chemicals which affect the hair. They strip the hair of proteins and chip away at the outer layers of the cuticle. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure so if you would like to steer clear of this problem, stay away from these chemicals! However, chlorine is also found in tap water so consider this when washing or spritzing your hair with water.
Minerals and the overload of products can also cause damage to your hair. Therefore, I urge you to do further reading in this area if you are interested in treating your hair the best you possibly can.