By Hadassah Agbaps - February 21, 2016

Hi people, what's been on?

This post comes in response to emails concerning breakage and shedding in spite of improved natural hair care.

Before we start, I'd like to assure you that shedding is normal when taking down a protective style. You lose some hair daily as old hair make way for new ones and the longer your protective style stays, the more shed hair you'll notice on take down.

Imagine you lose 50 strands of hair everyday.
 If you take down your protective style after a month, you'll expect to shed 50x30 =1500 strands of hair. You shouldn't compare the amount of hair you shed after 30 days of protective styling with the amount of hair you shed after 5 days of protective styling. The best thing to do is try and notice how much hair is normal for you to shed after a period of time before coming to the conclusion that you are having a problem with shedding.

Shedding is different from breakage. To differentiate a shed hair from one that broke off, look for a whitish bulb at one end of the hair strand. If it's present, it's most likely shed hair, if not it's most likely broken hair.

So, how does braiding damage our hair and how can we minimize this?

In Nigeria, braiding especially with extensions is a very common protective style especially during harmattan season and during the transition to natural hair.
We love it because it gives us a break from our hair for at least a month, and being a long term protective style, we are supposed to have longer hair when taking it down, right?
So, how come we are rewarded with more hair breakage than before we had the style in???

Here are seven things you didn't know was breaking your hair.

1. Detangling with a fine tooth comb.
Due to the kinky and fragile nature of your natural hair, using a fine toothed comb can cause breakage and most especially if your stylist isn't knowledgeable about natural hair. To avoid this, always insist a wide tooth comb is used.
Also try to make sure your hair is thoroughly detangled and preferably stretched before you braid.

2. Braiding hair tightly.
Holding the hair and braiding tightly in an effort to get a sleeker look may lead to breakage and put you at risk of traction alopecia. You will definitely spend more money than what you are paying for the hair when trying to treat the damage. So please insist your stylist braids gently.

3. Trimming off loose hair to neaten your braids,
Your hair is at different stages of growth and at different lengths. Add that to being kinky curly and it is almost impossible to get frizz free braids.
The attempt by your stylist to trim off any frizzy hair may cause breakage at the parts where your hair curves out of the extensions.
You won't know how much hair you lost until you take down the style.
To avoid this, insist the stylist 'feather' the extensions carefully to reduce the need for trimming.

Also try and opt for extensions similar to your hair texture. Styling with kinky hair if your hair is kinky eliminates the need for such trims. You can also apply a holding agent such as a gel or mousse to prevent frizzes during the braiding process.

4. The use of hot water on your hair to make it 'sleep'.
Using hot water directly on your hair not only raises the cuticles which leads to tangles but it strips it of its protective oil layer exposing it to dehydration.
This damages hair which leads to breakage. Instead of hot water, spray hair with setting lotion or hair spray and wrap with a scarf until it dries.
To make curls or to straighten extensions, make sure to give reasonable space between where your hair ends and where the curls should begin in the extensions to avoid dipping your own hair in hot water.

5. Impatiently taking down your style.
The last thing a lot of us will look forward to is taking down a billion little twists and braids.
Instead we leave that chore to those people we pay to take down extensions. In a bid to get more customers, they very quickly and impatiently loosen the braids without regard to the damage they cause while loosening your hair.
Personally, it is for this reason I rarely braid my hair because I know I can't trust anyone else to take it down for me and I'm too lazy for that. Due to the time it will take to take down the braids, there's also the temptation to have the style in longer than is healthy for my hair and scalp in other to postpone the day for take down.

Also, working through tangles impatiently can break your already stressed out hair.

6. Leaving your hair down.
We've gotten long braids done and what other way to enjoy this than to leave our hair hanging down...afterall our hair is protected within the extensions right?
Well, if your hair is shorter, you can enjoy this but if your hair is long enough to reach your shoulders, that isn't necessarily a good idea especially if you're trying to retain length. Unless the extensions totally cover your natural hair (e.g. yarn wraps, faux locks, threading), your hair and ends are still at risk of mechanical damage from rubbing against your clothes.
To reduce damage, try minimising the frequency of leaving your hair down. Try beautiful updos, buns...etc instead

7. Not moisturising your hair enough.
Moisturising natural hair within extensions leads to a "Catch 22" situation. If you moisturise your hair, your hair happily curls around the extensions and frizzes up fast. If you don't moisturise your hair, it gets dry and breaks when loosening it. So where's the middle ground?
Moisturise your hair very well (enter moisture D.C) before braiding. Moisturise using a lotion (not a vat of water or oil spray) while your braids are in and then as soon as you loosen, start with a deep conditioning treatment before you shampoo.

Hope this helped shed some light into ways to prevent breakage during braiding.

Till I spill again,
Live Beautifully.Naturally.

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  1. Well researched as usual. No 3 and 4 are murderers!

    Whats in my bag?

  2. Ha! Number two left me with emotional scars. Tight braids can make you question your life choices. Mba. This is why I spent two years + braid-free, tried again with plenty instructions to the braider (which has never worked) and then resigned till I started doing my hair myself.

    1. Lol! I feel you o. The only times I braid is if I'm doing them myself or I tell the stylist to do the rest and leave the front and nape for me to complete at home.

  3. I braid my hair once a year at most, so I don't usually have these problems. But whenever I have braids, I love leaving my hair down - it's so much prettier :D

    Berry Dakara Blog

  4. Thank you so much Hadassah

  5. This is wonderful, thank you for sharing all that wisdom!


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