NAPPY Q&A : RECEDING HAIRLINE and BREAKAGE OF NATURAL HAIR

By Hadassah Agbaps - December 11, 2012


Q. Dear NNG,
I'm a transitioner and have about 8 inches of natural hair. I've noticed my hairline is really patchy and my hair breaks a lot. What can I do?
N.

A. I'm sure a lot of transitioning, natural and even relaxed sisters can relate to this..I sure can!
I am going to answer in detail so you'll be able to eliminate possible causes and for the benefit of others facing the same predicament.
Afro textured hair (natural or relaxed) though tough looking is very fragile.
Do you know our strands are flat like a tape and not round like a rod when viewed under the microscope?
Which is stronger, the tape or the rod?
This gives you an idea of how fragile our hair is.


Some of the causes of receding hairline and hair breakage include:
1. Poor nutrition deficient in Vitamin B, Iron, Sulphur, Selenium
2. Tension from hairstyles such as ponytails, weaves, Ghana weaving, braids and twists with extensions
3. Heat and chemical damage from blowdriers, flatirons, relaxers, hair driers and from some drug store hair products such as gels, hairspray  etc.
4. Hair Tools such as combs, brushes and towels
5. Friction from scarves, wigs and caps
6. Dryness
7. Genetics

So let's take them one at a time.

1. NUTRITION
As much as we want to eat healthy wholesome foods knowing how good they are, lifestyle, availability and price may prevent us from doing just that. Wholesome fresh foods which contain a higher percentage of their natural nutrients require time to prepare them.This may not be convenient for today's ever busy career woman and mother.
Also, these foods may not be located close enough to just pop in,purchase and go and let's not leave out the increasing prices of these products.
For these reasons and more, fast foods are more appealing. Unfortunately, the preparation processes strip these foods of their nutritive properties leaving next to nothing but unhealthy fats and damaging additives.
Nutrients necessary for healthy hair,nails and skin include
- proteins ( hair, skin and nails are made up of keratin and collagen which are proteins)
- carbohydrates ( provide energy needed for growth)
- iron ( components of redblood cell which carry oxygen needed for cell function)
- sulphur ( keratin molecules -which make up hair strands - is held together by sulphur compounds)
- Vitamins A and C (protein synthesis)
- Vitamin B complexes (protein synthesis)
- Biotin ( protein synthesis)
- Selenium in minute quantities
- Water

I could go on (I'm a scientist!) but have to stop!

The summary is you have to take an active role in ensuring that you eat wholesome natural foods such as fruits, vegetables,unprocessed carbohydrates/proteins and drink water.
Vitamin and mineral  supplements as prescribed by health professionals should be taken daily.
The point of this is to provide the necessary materials for healthy hair growth.

2. TENSION
Some hairstyles such as ponytails, braids, weave installations, rollersets and cornrows contribute to hair loss. This hair loss is called traction alopecia.
Due to the desire to get sleek ponytails, neater looking cornrows/braids/roller sets, firmer and long lasting weaves, the hair is pulled into the required style... by fire by force!
The fuzzy, shorter,lighter, more delicate hair at the front and nape suffers the most tension because they are usually too short to get in line!
This constant pulling uproots the hair and could cause temporary to permanent damage of the hair follicles.
To combat this, the hair on the hairline should be left well and truly alone as much as possible.
Your hair is naturally curly and not straight or sleek just like a baby's hair. Accept it and your hairline will be happier.

3. HEAT AND CHEMICALS.
When straightening the hair using heat appliances or chemicals, we are guilty of concentrating our efforts on the hairline to get the hair sleek and smooth!
No wonder then that the poor fragile hair decides to pack up and head out!
Relaxers are left on for a lil bit longer, several more passes of the flatiron / tongs /blow driers are made to get that hair lie smooth!
We or should I say our trusted hair stylists are guilty of using the wrong techniques when pressing or relaxing our hair.
Some include:

- Using grease e.g. Dax, Soulmate to coat our hair and then straightening with the highest heat to achieve bone straight hair. There are natural/commercial heat protectants such as Heat serums containing silicone, olive /grapeseed/castor oil as so on. Use it!

- Relaxing the already relaxed part of the hair! Wrong! Relax roots only and do not comb through to ends. Protect hairline and tips with Vaseline.
Relax your egdes last!
Better still, do not relax at all!

- Flat ironing or straightening on wet hair. Wrong. It will be like boiling your hair!

Chemical damage does not include relaxers alone, it also includes your everyday hair products.
Gels and hairsprays containing alcohol can dry out your hair leading to breakage and in extreme cases hair loss.
If you must use these, they are now available sans alcohol.
Try to avoid applying products containing petroleum products directly on your scalp on a regular basis. They clog pores and reduce aeration of the scalp depriving the hair follicles of oxygen needed for healthy growth.

4. HAIR TOOLS
Some hair styling tools are not really suitable for Afro textured hair (be it relaxed or natural) .
Two of the most common culprits are

- That "close toothed blue rat tail comb" popular in most Nigerian hair salons! Please avoid it! That ish has no business coming close to your hair! Not only are the tooth close and tiny, they are sharp too and can rip your hair in shreds before you can say... what!!!!
I'm sure most of you have felt the sharp graze of those tiny teeth when the stylist attempts to "brush" your baby hair! Flee my friend!
Use a wide toothed round tipped comb instead and smoothen your hairline with your palm or a baby brush.

- "The Brush". Unless you are Caucasian or Asian, the brush has no business in your hair especially those cheap plastic brushes with rubber tips that easily come off to reveal sharp tips. Those brushes that we see in the markets designed to be used for weaves! I kid you not when I say a lot of peeps use those brushes on their own hair.
There are brushes designed for Afro Textured hair such as the Denman Brush but it doesn't always work for tightly coiled Nigerian hair o! Unless you have "the technique " which many of us don't!

Again, use the wide toothed comb!
 
Besides, most of the brushes and combs in your regular salons are way past their due dates as evidenced by dirty ragged tooths so please endeavour to take your own.

5. FRICTION FROM SCARVES, WIGS, HATS, CAPS etc
If you think these are supposed to protect your tresses from the elements, you are right!
The problem is most are lined with materials e.g. cotton which not only absorbs moisture but may be rough enough to wear out the outer layer of your hair strands and cause breakage. Satin/silk lining are much more gentle. If possible, wear a satin cap before donning that wig,hat or cap. Also some wigs possess comb attachments to hold them in place. Experience has taught me that this is a big no no for my fro fro....
So, inspite of the combs, I don a wig cap and hope the wig won't fall off..... and this has never happened.... so far, so good.
Do not tie scarves too tight. Not only does it give you a splitting headache, it suffocates and strangles your hair!

6. DRYNESS
What happens to a dry twig?
Yep...it snaps.
Our hair snaps much in the same way when it's dry.
Afro textured hair be it relaxed or natural is prone to dryness due to it's flat,thin,porous structure. This is one of the reasons why it seems people of African descent do not have long, knee length hair. Admittedly, Afro textured hair grows an average of half inch per month compared to one inch for other people but inspite of this, if all the gained inches are retained, it's possible to grow longer hair.

Important to reducing breakage is MOISTURE! For those living in Nigeria especially during the humid rainy season, it is important to seal in moisture as the moisture gained from the atmosphere can just as easily be lost!
 In dry season, maintaining moisture levels is a bit difficult. The hair should be kept in protective styles during this period and should be moisturised daily with a water based product especially the tips.
Water is the best moisturiser for Afro textured hair and should be used in addition to an oil based product. Oils should never be used alone because they do not provide moisture. They provide instead a barrier to water loss assuming the hair has been moistened earlier on.

A tried and true method of effective moisturisation is the L.O.C. method. It shows the sequence for better retention of moisture.
"L" meaning liquid which is Water.
" O" meaning oil such as olive oil, jojoba oil, castor oil, coconut oil etc depending on preference.
"C" meaning cream which could be creamy moisturiser, butter or pudding. 
A full explanation is found here

7. GENETICS
It all boils down to genetics for some! Hair loss genes can be passed down from parent to offspring.
There's nothing much that can be done except stay clear of potential triggers.
 
Before you blame it on the genes, look back and make sure you are not contributing in one way or another to the receding hair and breakage.

If you have already lost your hairline due to breakage, there are different remedies available that has been effective. Why not try out some and see what works for you!

Hair loss remedies include
- Topical application of natural oils and extracts such as Castor oil
Shea butter
Rosemary
Horsetail
Aloe Vera Juice
Nettle leaf
Mint
Eucalyptus oil
Neem oil
Amla oil

- Topical application of Minoxidil

- Topical application of Sulphur

- Onion juice rinse... there is an old gypsy recipe for this.

- Oral Ingestion of Biotin, Iron sulphate  and Selenium supplements

There are a million and one remedies for receding hairline and breakage.

Personally, castor oil, Aloe vera, Shea butter, sulphur and the supplements have worked at different times.
I have developed my go-to mix which I shared in an earlier post.

I hope the information provided has been useful. Readers if you have any thoughts on this question, feel free to add your comments!!!

If you have any other questions, don't hesitate to email us at nappilynigeriangirl@gmail.com

Live Beautifully. Naturally.
Hadassah.

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