May 30, 2013

Natural Hair Troubleshooting

by Nicole of Hair Liberty

No one's hair is perfect! Pinpoint your specific hair issues and start finding solutions to your biggest hair problems.

Problem: Dry, Brittle Hair
Your hair feels dry to the touch. Sometimes, it looks wiry and/or feels stiff. The breakage never stops.

Solution: Your hair is telling you that it needs more moisture. Apply a water-based moisturizer once or twice a day. If your hair seems very dry, add moisturizer until your ends are slightly damp and then gently put your hair up while the moisturizer absorbs. Thick, creamy moisturizers are the best choice for damaged or chemically-treated hair.  You may also seal this moisture in with an oil.


Problem: Slow Hair Growth
Your hair seems to grow slowly or not at all. You have trouble growing your hair past your shoulders.

Solution: First, realize that your hair is always growing.  It grows one half inch per month on average. That means with average growth and no breakage, it would take 2 years to have hair the length of a 12-inch ruler. To keep your hair growth on pace, make sure you are getting healthy doses of essential vitamins and nutrients through food and/or supplements, consuming ample amounts of water and taking care of your ends so that your hair isn't breaking as fast as it's growing.

Problem: Shrinkage
When your natural hair gets wet, it shrinks into tight curls, usually to a length above your shoulders. You love your curls but you want to enjoy your hair length too.

Solution: Shrinkage is a problem specific to natural African American Hair. If you prefer curls or waves instead of coils, you can reshape your hair as it dries. Read these instructions to learn how to do a "Twist Out" or "Twist N Curl".

Problem: Split Ends, Knots, Tangles
Your hair is difficult to comb or brush because it gets tangled and knotted very easily. You find split ends even when you've been taking really good care of your hair.

Solution: These problems are easily solved with the right products and a regularly scheduled hair trim. You must use products that condition and reinforce your hair so you can prevent damage before it starts. Healthy, well protected hair can stand up to moderate combing and brushing without breaking.

If your hair is already damaged, you must start by having a professional stylist cut off as much of the damaged hair as possible. Split ends make your hair less manageable and cannot be repaired. You can treat them with reconstructing products, but it's better to get rid of existing damage and prevent split ends before they start. A good stylist can cut your hair into a face-flattering shape while removing old, damaged hair. After that, schedule a trim every 6 to 8 weeks so that vulnerable ends get cut off before they have a chance to split.

Problem: Breakage
Small hairs fall onto your shirt, floor, or sink whenever you comb or brush your hair. Your hair never seems to get longer.

Solution: Breakage is due to extreme damage. Hair weakens first, then splits, and then breaks. Make sure your mane stays clean and moisturized with products that are specific to your hair's needs. Look for products that contain ceramides, hydrolyzed protein, silicone, shea butter, coconut, olive, and/or avocado oil to soften and strengthen your hair.

You also have to find a way to put less stress on your hair. Extreme heat (over 350°F) and chemical treatments are the most common causes of breakage for African American hair. Explore new hairstyles so that you can minimize harmful treatments. If you are already using the right products and a gentle technique, it's likely that a trim (by a professional stylist) will give your ends a "fresh start".

How have you dealt with your natural hair hurdles? 

15 Weigh in!:

Camille Acey said...

I'm beginning to think that there is a certain baseline of dryness that we with kinky/curly hair are going to have to accept. I'm beginning to think that over-moisturising can also comb with its own set of (potentially growth-retarding/breakage-causing) problems. As to what that baseline is, I'm not sure. But I'm hoping to find out, and in the meantime I'm slowing down with the spritzes, sprays, creams, and butters.

Anonymous said...

love this! thanks

BreukelensFinest said...

great post! i think people do need to set realistic hair growth goals. I have a cousin who thinks that she can get her hair to grow 12inches a year. i gave her the side eye, but maybe i'll just point her to this post.

KeetaRay said...

Great post!! Passing along this info to my fellow curlies :)

A Canadian in Peru said...

Need some help here. What if you are stuck in a South American country for six months. How do you go about ensuring that your ends stay healthy? I don't think I'll be able to go to a professional for a trim until I return to Canada. i appreciate any suggestions.

Blutopaz said...

@ Camille Acey--I'm beginning to agree with you re: the dryness factor and our hair. I'm glad to read Nicole's suggestion re: moisturizing 2x a day--I have been thinking am i the only one with hair that dries out hours after i style it, even though i stay with water/oils/butters? I also have not determined which level of drynesss i can accept, and it's been an entire year of trying different organic and high quality products. It's getting frustrating.

Nicole - Hair Liberty said...

Hi Ladies!

It's always nice to see your feedback. :)

Camille & Blutopaz: You can't really over-moisturize. You can over-manipulate though...and doing a lot of sectioning and pulling to apply butters and oils throughout the day can be problematic. Our hair is naturally dry, so we always need to do what we can to help it stay moisturized.

@A Canadian in Peru - I'm sorry about your predicament. I know some ppl recommend self-trimming, but that's really a no no. If I were you, I would choose a protective style that keeps your ends tucked. Even a simple bun will do. The trim will wait until you get back. If you can, purchase a "split end mender". Joico, Nexxus and Neutrogena all make "split end menders" that temporarily seal splits. The ingredient to look for is polyquaternium 28 (at the top of the list, of course). You have to re-apply after every wash though, it's not a permanent fix. HTH

Quianna said...

any product suggestions to help add mositure? i trim my ends around three times a year and when i go to the salon i always have to get a lot taken off because my ends are always crunchy. i know i need more moisture. whenever i ask my stylist they promote their own product but not very help other wise.

Anonymous said...

I know everyone wants long hair but there is a genetic limit to the length that some people's hair will grow. It is based on how long the hair stays in its "growing phase". For some people the growing phase is as long as 6-7 years while for others as short as 3-4 years. After the growing phase, the hair naturally sheds and is eventually replaced. I myself have never had hair longer than 8-9 inches and all the females on my mothers side have similarly short or even shorter hair (and the hair was taken care of). This does not bother me as this is just a normal human variation. I thought I would add this in just because I think sometimes people might become too worried about hair length even though they are doing everything possible to take care of their hair. I do understand that hair breaking off is an entirely different matter.

Anonymous said...

great article!

Camille Acey said...

@Nicole- Not to split hairs (no pun intended), but according to this ( you most certainly can over-moisturise. Moisturizing in most forms I've seen requires manipulation. In addition, I believe product buildup in the hair and on the scalp can also lead to problems that inhibit growth. Finally, I think that a lot of naturals are not clear about what their hair should feel like and mistake the normal feel as something excessively dry, when natural hair is dry hair.

Annie Gracie said...

@ Nicole - Hair Liberty...I definitely think it IS possible to over-moisturize. If your hair has too much moisture, it can become mushy (the shaft is swollen with water/moisture) and break off. Conversely, too much protein can make the hard hard and brittle. All the research I have don't suggests a balance between moisture and protein.

Annie Gracie said...

*make the HAIR hard

Nicole - Hair Liberty said...

Hey Camille!

I'm familiar with Jc's work. We both love chemistry and I think she's a good scientist.

When Jc refers to over-moisturized hair, she is talking about increasing the water content of the hair to the point that it becomes wet/loses elasticity. In my view, that's not considered "over-moisturizing" that's considered "wetting your hair". And, I think we all agree that "the damp bun" strategy that some ppl use, is not ideal.

As I suggested in the article, if your hair is super dry, apply moisturizer until it's *slightly* damp and then put it up/leave it alone. That way your hair can absorb the moisture and you don't risk over manipulation.

Yes, our hair is naturally dry, but that doesn't mean we just leave it that way. Dry hair breaks. Especially when we are always manipulating it into styles. God gave us dry hair, but man gave us products to combat dryness. We should use them.

Re: product buildup, I'll have to refer you to the wealth of information on the Hair Liberty website. If you are washing your hair enough and with an appropriate shampoo, product buildup should not be a problem.

Please understand that the articles posted here are only a snippet of the vast research I have done. The references I use for each article are included at the bottom of the page when you access the article directly at

Nicole - Hair Liberty said...

Hi Annie Gracie,

I think you and Camille touched on the same point. Saturating the hair with water does swell the hair shaft, but wetting the hair and moisturizing the hair are not the same thing.

There is a lot of info on the Internet about protein/moisture balance and a lot of it is incorrect. That's partially because all "protein" products are not equal. A high quality conditioner that contains hydrolyzed protein (Kenra or Joico for example) should not make your hair hard or brittle *at all*.

If you are a science junkie like me (and Camille?), you'll appreciate this article from The Natural Haven as well....

I love you ladies and I'm just trying to help you sort through all this mess....promise!

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