Being part of the natural hair world is probably the most rewarding community that you can partake in. It’s our own world where we can find encouragement, advice and motivation. However, we know it can also be an intimidating environment as well. There are so many rules you have to follow when transitioning to natural hair. Stay away from these ingredients. Don’t use this hair tool. Trial and error left and right. But let’s be real. Trial and error can be expensive, damaging and can sometimes cause more harm than good. The best rule of thumb when it comes to being natural is do as much research you can before trialing any new product, technique or regimen. The more knowledge you are armed with, the easier your decision making process will be! Our goal, by the end of this blog, is to help you understand all factors that can aid into damaging natural hair. We’ll discuss everything from coloring your hair to how the sun is just frying up your strands.
#1 Culprit: Heat
No matter how long you have been in the natural hair care world, you have heard of the big bad boogie man: heat damage. We all know that applying heat to our hair can have damaging effects that can become irreversible. This is both true and false. While you can cause severe damage to your hair through heat, it isn’t as simple as people make it out to be. Simply applying heat to your hair can have beneficial effects so we want to be sure you understand how your own actions can contribute to heat damage occurring.
Direct heat can be defined by any contact your hair has with a plain hot surface or heat source such as a flat iron, hot comb, blow dryer or curling iron. Our natural hair can endure heat up to 450 degrees before any damage develops (this is at its healthiest of course). This means that direct heat can be used in safe levels, needing just a bit more care. Be sure to use a heat protectant when using direct heat. Another tip is to make sure you give your hair a little more TLC the wash day after using direct heat on the hair. The best way to combat split ends is to make sure the hair is strong enough to grow together. Our Repairing Ice Cream™ Treatment Deep Conditioner includes argan oil. Argan oil is known for penetrating the hair shaft and is commonly used in heat protecting hair products.
In Direct Heat
Indirect heat for natural hair can actually have benefits, that if done properly, can outweigh the damage of heat. Indirect heat includes steam (think shower without the cap), heated caps and hooded hair dryers. These types of heat applications are used to enhance the benefits of hair care regimen holy grails such as hot oil treatments or deep conditioning treatments. Indirect heat can open the cuticles in the hair shaft and scalp, which will allow the nutrients in the respective treatments to really penetrate the hair. This will help in moisture retention. We all know the importance of moisture.
Elongated exposure to the elements can be very trying on natural hair. Natural hair is already prone to dryness. Additionally, while our scalps, for the most part, are usually hidden from direct sunlight, we avoid sunburn on the scalp. However, the scalp is not clear from the sun’s wrath. Direct heat from above will cause the scalp to sweat. Excessive sweat can result in clogged pores and that alone hosts a plethora of damaging effects. The best defense against this sun is to cover your hair. A simple head wrap, a hat or even something as simple as a headband for your edges. This can also save you from damaging UV rays that can also break down the hair structure at the molecular level.
Any time your hair makes a change at the molecular level, you are bound to experience damage. Chemical treatments if any kind will have an effect in the hair and how it behaves going forward. Whether you have been natural your whole life or you have gone through any chemical process, you understand that our hair is susceptible to split ends, breakage, and thinning. Chemically altering the hair is creating a perfect environment for all of these occurrences. To be clear, you are technically no longer “natural” when your hair structure has been chemically altered but you do not have to go back to the beginning to get your curl pattern back and that is the real goal.
This is not to say that any chemical treatment is completely irreversible or will burn your hair off completely. It can though. Which is why you have to take so much more time, preparing the hair for the damage it will eventually endure from any chemical process. As long as the process is done with care that is backed up with knowledge and then followed with a regimen that optimizes nourishment, you will have less permanent damage. We want to avoid having to start our journey all over again just because we decided we wanted to be a redhead for the summer. Let’s talk about the most damaging chemical processes to natural hair and how we can go about them with the least damaging aftermath.
Coloring your natural hair actually has less to do with your texture and everything to do with your hair’s porosity. At any point in your natural hair care journey research, you have come across this term. Porosity simply refers to how your hair behaves when introduced to moisture.
Permanent hair color lifts the cuticle so the proteins that make up your hair color are altered. Semi-permanent coloring only sits on top of the hair. On one hand you have your hair’s proteins completely mixed up, which affects its original porosity. The other option sits on top of your hair shaft, making it harder for any moisture to penetrate. Both of these options can aid in damaging the hair, especially if it was previously damaged. If you are looking to color your hair, apply a super moisturizing (yet non-greasy) treatment beforehand. You may want to skip shampooing so your hair is not extremely stripped during the application process. While your hair is colored you want a staple in your arsenal that will penetrate your hair with moisture and hydration but is lightweight. The Hydrating Leave-In Conditioner has the perfect balance of nourishing kiwi extract with the lightweight avocado oil sealing in all the goodness.
Relaxers, Perms, Texturizers
We are not new to these, we are true to these procedures and we have ALL heard about the big bad boogeyman relaxer that is gonna leave you bald headed in the middle of the night. At least, that’s how it was presented to some. That narrative can have truth to it if you relaxed or texturized hair is left to its own devices. The best advice would be to avoid these treatments altogether but if you want to, let’s do it safely!
Wash Gently. Use a hydrating, sulfate-free shampoo. This step is important because you do not want to strip your hair of any necessary oils or moisture. These techniques can be super stripping so you have to reintroduce moisture at every point of your regimen. Our Hydrating Shampoo with real kiwi extract gently cleanses hair and scalp and also removes product build up. Your tresses will be left feeling healthy and bouncy.
Include protein treatments in your regimen. Your hair needs protein to maintain its strength. Chemical treatments break down the outer layer of proteins while stretched in order for them to reform to that make up.
#3 Less Is More
We all know that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. If there is any point in your life you will experience this, we 100% guarantee you will find it along your natural hair journey. Your hair shaft is a very delicate makeup of a strong protein called keratin. Being that this protein is strong enough to grow from the hair follicle it is still gentle enough to be altered. An overload of different protein, hydration or fat can cause the breakdown of keratin and this is where you will begin to see the hurt you are inflicted on your tresses.
Protein overload can be determined by a few factors. You will usually know your hair is protein sensitive if your hair feels hard or brittle after you applied a protein rich product. This occurs because the protein that has penetrated the hair shaft has now stiffened the hair and has gotten “too strong” so the point it mimics straw. If you are unaware if you have protein sensitive hair, do a patch test. Take a protein rich product or household item (eggs, mayo, avocados) and apply it to a small section of hair. Let sit for 10-20 minutes and rinse. If your hair is dry or hard to the touch, you have protein sensitive hair. If this is the case, try to stay away from protein rich treatments or products and opt for more nourishing regimens.
Yes, believe it or not, too much moisture is completely damaging to your hair. When hair is met with water, the follicles of the hair shaft open up to retrieve it. Many times, if there is constant wetness on the hair, it will become overworked, weighed down and just simply, tired. The exhaustion will result in loss of elasticity, weak strands and will help build a foundation for product build up. You can offset hygral fatigue with a few easy but mindful actions. Make sure your hair is fully dry before adding any additional moisture. This will give your hair strands time to absorb moisture and close the cuticles, retaining all that was absorbed. Listen to the directions! Do not leave any deep conditioning or intensely moisturizing treatments on for longer than the recommended time. The most effective range most products recommend 10-40 minutes. Anything longer will fatigue the hair, which will be prone to breakage.
The glory of humectants is their ability to really lock in moisture while simultaneously drawing necessary amounts from the air. However this is only when the environment around you is providing perfect conditions. The very reason we love humectants is the very reason they can cause damage to your hair. If there is too much moisture in the air around you, the humectants in your hair products will continue to draw this moisture into the hair it has created a barrier around. In the same breath, if the air around you is too dry, humectants will seek out any moisture they can find. Meaning, if there’s no moisture in the air, they will resort to your hair. Moisture is drawn from the hair shaft and then evaporated into the air. Make sure your hair is getting protein. This will prevent your hair from over stretching and protect your strands if you happen to over-moisturize. You want an equal mix of moisture and protein when deep conditioning. #balance
Ten Steps Ahead
In all honesty, combating damage is all about prevention. Natural hair is a wild beast that we have chosen to try to tame. So the best thing you can do for your hair is treat it kindly and it will do the same. Procedures such as relaxers, color treatments, etc are no longer an unspoken taboo in our community. We've learned over decades that natural hair can be versatile beyond braids and extensions. The real test is preparing your hair with the necessary nutrients, vitamins and consistency it will need to bounce back from anything from a silk press to platinum blond. Damage is bound to happen, it is your job to prepare your hair and care for it in the aftermath.
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