Every woman on a journey to longer, stronger hair knows of and fears the dreaded setback. Setbacks sneak up on you when you least expect it and can destroy any and all progress that you’ve made. Most setbacks are obvious things that most of us pinch ourselves for not knowing sooner. Knowing saves many of us the burden of crying or getting upset over the lost progress and helps us move forward faster in our hair journeys. Many say that the best way to learn is from experience, but hopefully this article will prevent you from having to learn that way.
Small Tooth Combs
Small tooth combs are some of the main reasons for setbacks. Relaxed or natural, wet or dry, these combs are NOT to be used in your hair under any circumstances. They cause tension, splits, and breakage. I am almost ashamed to tell this story now that I have learned so much, but before I set out on my hair journey, I used a small toothed comb on my wet hair and ended up pulling out hair by the handfuls. I thought the hair I was pulling out was hair that shed, but a few years later, I realized that it was actually breakage (hair that sheds has little “bulbs attached to them – a normal amount is around 100 strands a day, breakage doesn’t have the bulb) and I thumped myself in the head for being silly and ruining my gorgeous mane. Many women have the same issue and don’t realize that a lot of their breakage is caused by small tooth combs so they use them daily and hinder themselves from advancing very far in their hair journeys.
Relaxers Applied or Mixed Incorrectly
Natural women don’t have this problem, but it is a common fear amongst relaxed ladies. We have all heard stories of women going in for a touch up and leaving with their hair going down their backs – the WRONG way. We love relaxers, but if you fall victim to a relaxer being applied incorrectly (i.e. not mixing the chemicals correctly, leaving the relaxer in for too long, etc.), it can lead to hair thinning/hair loss. To prevent this, follow the directions that come with the relaxer and take the following precautions:
- Select a relaxer that is the right strength. Selecting one that is too weak won’t give the desired result and selecting one that is too strong will cause a lot of damage and breakage.
- Protect your already processed hair. In order to prevent over-processing, your hair, and causing more damage, coat your already relaxed hair in an oil like olive oil and try your best not to overlap the relaxer
- Do not leave it on for too long. Burning and scabs are not normal and can lead to long term damage like bald spots.
- Rinse out the relaxer completely. Failing to do so can and will lead to breakage.
- Neutralize. This stops the chemical reaction. If you do not wash with a neutralizing shampoo (no exceptions), the relaxer will continue to straighten your hair and can lead to hair loss.
I had a bad run in with a relaxer once. I allowed my aunt to relax my hair(never again!) and she relaxed from root to tip (a big no-no). Immediately after she did my hair, I thought my hair felt good because it felt lighter, but I later found out that it felt lighter because it thinned out! A lot of my hair had fallen out and I was left with odd uneven layers.
Moisture and protein are good, but an overabundance of either one can and will lead to breakage. To learn about protein moisture balance, please reference my article “Tips and Tricks for Figuring out Your Hair'” http://blackhairmedia.com/articles/tips-and-tricks-for-figuring-out-your-hair/
Too Much Heat
Heat damage is mainly from direct heat from flat irons and hot combs. For naturals, it can cause a loss in definition and an increase in frizz, something no natural wants. For relaxed ladies, it can cause splits and irreparable damage that makes the hair more difficult to style. To prevent heat damage, use a heat protectant whenever using any kind of heat and try to avoid direct heat as much as possible. To reverse it, try a clarifying shampoo and protein treatments.
Improper Removal of Weaves and Extensions
I have seen one too many women lose ridiculous amounts of hair by improperly taking out weaves and extensions. They decide to take it out themselves, but are too tired to do it slowly and carefully so they end up ripping them out along with handfuls of their real hair. Another issue is that they are put in improperly so that when you go to remove them, it is nearly impossible to not rip out any hair. To prevent any mishaps, take caution when choosing your stylist to install it and when removing it. If you are too tired to do it properly on your own, have someone that you can trust do it.
Ah, the incompetent stylist. We have all had our experience with bad or jealous stylists. You walk in for a touch up or trim with flowing hair going down to your waist and walk out with shoulder length hair because your stylist was overzealous when doing your trim, messed up your dye or relaxer, or “accidentally” cut your hair unevenly and had to drastically shorten your hair to “even it out.” My advice to many women is to try and become more independent when it comes to your hair so that YOU are in control of what happens to it. Things you should try to learn how to do on your own are minor, i.e. trims(dusting), relaxing(that’s iffy), styling(without cutting), washing, and conditioning. Everything else should be left to a trusted and well respected stylist.