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November 9, 2011

Is Your Crown Shorter & Dry?-Natural Hair Care


Crown of Glory or... Thorns
by Shelli of Hairscapades

I often hear and read many naturals complaining about the hair at the crown of their head. “It’s dry, it’s brittle, it’s dull, it’s coarse, it breaks easily, it’s the kinkiest hair on my head, it’s the hardest to handle!” And, I’m no different. The hair on the left side of my crown is always shorter and more prone to damage than the rest of my hair, always seeming to exhibit breakage and straggily (yes, straggily, it’s a word! ;) ) and raggedy ends. Now, I’ve come to learn over the years that this is most likely due to the fact that the hair at one’s crown is usually taking the brunt of the elements, you know: sun, wind, rain, cruddy air and free radicals;). I also always just thought that this exposure simply resulted in a raised cuticle and more porous strands, whereas the hair protected by the crown hair is smoother and far more cooperative.

So, when I started reading hair guru Chicoro’s Grow It! and came to the section on “Damage from the Environment,” I was fascinated to learn that the damage caused by exposure to the elements is a lot deeper than a simple mechanical reaction. You see, Chicoro breaks down that hair exposed to sun without protection actually undergoes a chemical and irreversible change! As you know, the sun can be damaging to the skin due to Ultraviolet rays, UVA and UVB. Well, these same UV rays can be damaging to hair and Naturallycurly.com provided an informative post on this topic several years ago.

via NaturallyCurly.com

Most of us are familiar with the lightening of our hair that occurs when we spend hours in the sun in the summer. To many people this is even a desirable side effect of sunbathing. However, this effect is evidence of the destruction of pigment in the hair as a direct result of UV-induced oxidation of melanin particles in the cortex. …UV radiation also can cause cleavage of molecular bonds in the hair, ultimately leading to fracture of the cuticle and the cortex. This can lead to dry, brittle hair, rough texture from damaged cuticles, split ends, and breakage.
However, in my opinion, Chicoro takes the information provided here one step further and actually discusses how the effects of the sun are very similar to those caused by bleaching the hair. She states, “Like bleach, the oxidizing rays from the sun can break down, or change the chemical composition and the components of the hair.” She goes on to indicate that hair contains a chemical group called a thiol group and these groups stabilize the hair by forming disulfide bonds, which contribute greatly to the strength of the hair (Google “hair and disulfide bonds,” you’ll see many articles about the manipulation of disulfide bonds in chemical processes like body waves and relaxers). These thiol groups also make hair slippery … and we know how important slip is. However, once the hair is oxidized by the sun, these bonds actually turn into compounds called sulfonic acids. These acids are sticky and hair with them will tangle more readily. And, that’s never fun. Finally, she drives the nail home with the fact that this change from disulfide bonds to sulfonic acids is permanent.

So, what does all this mean to those of us challenged by recalcitrant crown hair? The simple answer? Prevention and remediation. For “new” hair that hasn’t been excessively exposed to the elements, we need to proactively protect it before damage happens. For older hair that has already undergone this chemical change, we need to take remedial actions to reduce and/or eliminate the resultant effects of damage. In practical terms, this means employing some combination or all of the following techniques:
  • Condition, condition, condition … did I mention condition? Deep condition with moisturizing treatments, as well as effective protein treatments that support the keratin in the hair, based upon your hair’s needs.
  • Moisturize to protect the hair from the sun and combat dryness.
  • Use leave-in products, such as conditioners, stylers and/or sealants, with UV protection (the NaturallyCurly.com article linked above provides a great list of ingredients that are UVA absorbers).
  • Seal with butters and/or oils that offer natural UV protection, such as shea butter or hemp seed oil (I haven’t vetted this info, but found two articles that provide lists of oils that offer sun protection and their corresponding SPF levels. See here and here).
  • Use protective hair coverings like hats and scarfs.
  • Employ protective styling techniques which reduce the amount of hair exposed directly to the sun.
  • Don’t use peroxide or products with drying (non-fatty) alcohols. And please, whatever you do, don’t use lemon or other “sun activated” lightening products on your hair (flashing back painfully on my “Sun In” days!! *smdh*!!).
And, don’t forget, just because you can’t see the sun, doesn’t mean you are not being exposed to damaging UV rays. Though the days may be darker as winter approaches in many areas, we must remain vigilant nonetheless (the suggestions above are for cold and windy weather too!). As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

What's the state of your crown?

CN Says:
Crackly, crispy, crunchy. It's a bit shorter than the rest of my hair, harder to detangle and the ends split much easier.

37 Chime in!:

Anonymous said...

I haven't had that problem since I stopped using harsh cleansers and began oiling my hair before a wash. Rhassoul clay is very good for helping this issue, and of course herbal shampoos are also helpful. My favorite right now is a mixture of ginger powder and triphala powder.

JaneinMarch

the glam garage said...

OMG, Shelli. I thought I was the only one with this problem. Living in Louisiana and Arizona wear the sun practically sits on my lap, explains it all! My center is soooo dry and brittle, that it actually makes my head HURT. Thanks for this, great read!

Anonymous said...

The hair in my crown is the shortest, kinkiest, and splitiest part of my hair. I never thought about it being because of sun damage.

Anonymous said...

I also have the same problem in the same area - the left side of my crown. I also have more dry and itchy scalp issues in that area than the rest of my head. Sun damage would have never crossed my mind. Seems like the solution is easy enough, though.

Anonymous said...

My crown is the 4a part of my 3c/4a combo hair so I can definitely relate. I would've never guessed that sun exposure could be such a major negative factor. Thanks for the tips on prevention and protection.

Anonymous said...

Nice do Shelli and article and I love Dottie of Threadmill (she's the best ya'lln and she loves us natural girlies)!!!! Thank you and CurlyNikki for the tip love.--Shirl

Califia's Lap said...

I always describe the hair on the crown of my hair as my Mother Africa hair. It is usually kinkier and drier than the hair on the other sections of my head. I definitely don't mean that in a negatiive way either. I always thought it was just the way it was and never really questioned it. Now I will be sure to try some of these techniques to reduces the dryness. Thanks so much for the tips.

Michelle @Radiant Brown Beauty said...

My crown is shorter but not because of the sun thank God. It's all my fault. That darn flat iron. The good thing is it's recovering nicely. In April my crown was 2 inches. Today it's 7. So, in essence my crown grows faster than the rest. Hail to the kinky crown!

Anonymous said...

This article is right on time! I was just talking to a friend about that part of my hair. When I do my curlformers, all of my hair is soft and well defined EXCEPT that crown area. And with my hair being short, it looks afro'ish to me, which is not cute. Even when I have a bun, that area dries fastest and it doesn't have much curl pattern when dry. This is great info. Thanks!

Melodee said...

The hair in the crown of my head is my stubborn spot! It is the thickest part of my hair and usually has the most frizz. When I do wash-n-go's, no problem, but when I do twist outs it is definetly a problem spot!

Dalora said...

I always thought the crown was simply coarser and drier inherently. Just as we have different textures on our head, that part has the coarsest texture. Where I come from it's called a "nap patch". I am not convinced that it is from the sun, but I won't know unless I try these techniques. Thanks.

ChrLvsBks said...

My crown is actually the area where my hair thrives. I wanted to commend you on your gorgeous updo Shelli, jaw-dropping beautiful and oh so shiny!

Thanks Nikki for introducing me to Hairscapades!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this article!!! I always have to cut down and "start over" in that area. It's always dry and brittle.

Anonymous said...

My crown hair is one of the least kinkiest and the middle section. My kitchen has always been nappier and I'm facing issues with my starter locs because the looser hair textures are now the fuzziest and some small sections of hair just came out. My back hair seems neater in comparison. I wish I had the same texture everywhere. It was a hassle dealing with loose natural hair with like 3 textures.

Divaangelic2 said...

I will get to the article in a minute... but I am trying to figure out how to recreate that double bun shown in the pic!!! FIERCE!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Shelli -

*sighs while raking fingertips through soft hair at scalp*

LOL!

ABdS said...

This article confirms suspicions I had about the reason soo many naturals (and un-naturals) bemoan the crown area of their heads. I don't have an issue with my crown but I am a hair care zealot lol so there is always some sort of cream, butter or the like in my head, moreso in the drier and most stressed areas.

Environmental damage crossed my mind but I never took any time to research the possibility.

Great stuff!

ABdS

Anonymous said...

Thanks Shelli! Great article.

Auset Abena said...

I relate for sure. My crown is shorter, tighter curled, more prone to breakage, and always seem to be drier. I think also sleeping on your back, even when you cover your hair at night, has an effect as well. I am going to take into account some of the advice mentioned for sure.

Anonymous said...

My hair doesn't seem drier or kinkier at the crown, but sadly it's thinner (as in fewer strands per inch, not strand thickness). I wish it would thicken up a bit, but my mama who is a waist-length natural has the same issue and says it is what it is. :(

~CurlyBlasian

Anonymous said...

No problems with my crowns. Its actually shinier section of my hair. Curls are loose

Anonymous said...

My crown area is actually thinner than the other areas, but it's longer, barely wavy and curl resistant. I get to work my pompadours with my crown area.

Anonymous said...

My crown is definitely shorter and seems to have a looser curl pattern, not as dense, easy to detangle, it's well-behaved and plays well with most products

Anonymous said...

Great article! I definitely have a similar issue and want to curse every time it comes to detangling the crown of my hair. Literally, I've almost been in tears dealing with that section of my hair!!

Anywho, I'm wondering if there are also ingredients that do the opposite of protect the hair from the sun, but perhaps enhance the effect of the sun's UV rays when applied("cooking" the hair is the term that comes to mind) - Any thoughts?

Rhonda C said...

My crown is the bane to my existence! It is more tightly curled than the rest of my hair, resistant, dry and prone to breakage and splits. I have to handle it with great care and patience.

Shelli your explanation makes complete sense and was very information. I appreciate your investigative skills. Maybe you can parlay this into the next career opportunity - Lisa Ling move over?

hairscapades said...

LOL @ Rhonda!! Lisa Ling can keep her job, but thank you so much for the support:).

Thanks for all of the feedback ladies! I know everyone doesn't experience the multiple textures and brittle, dry crown hair, but I'd heard the complaint enough to think that it's something that many of us face and find challenging. I know that I have to be especially patient and careful with that section of hair as it'll break more easily. However, though it is shorter than the other areas, I do believe that I am now retaining length and improving the hair overall as I moisturize, deep condition every wash and wear protective styles with that hair covered most days of the week.

Anon @ 6:21, no, I don't have the answer to that other than what I stated above (avoid lemon based products or sun lighteners ... any peroxide based treatments should be avoided) ... but it is a really good question.

Shelli

hairscapades said...

Oh!! Divaangelic, LOL!!! Thank you so much:). It's really just two buns using a banana clip to secure the hair first:). I plan on doing a quick video tutorial with it, but I don't even know if it is worth it. I just put the banana clip in vertically. Then, I separate the top half of hair from the bottom to make two sections and made a bun of each, securing with a couple of bobby pins. I actually was trying to make it look like a figure 8, but haven't gotten that quite right yet. So, double buns it was:)!

Shelli

Anonymous said...

my crown is looser than the rest of my hair 3c (??) while the rest is 4a/b/c and it is the shortest, driest, saddest part of my hair....there's an area of it that just got this crazy, barely there curl pattern and it's just confusing...

Anonymous said...

LOVE the double bun! Please do a video tut on this. I know it is a "simple" style to you, but I am really inept when it comes to styling.

Regarding the topic at hand: I too have the weird crown area. Oddly, my crown has hair that is actually finer and wavier than the rest of my 4a coils. In spite of that, the hair somehow feels wirier and is prone to knots and dryness.

Anonymous said...

My crown is the loosest part, practically straight (not like the rest of my hair at all!), and does not really cooperate with twist-outs; barely waving or curling. Hmm...

hairscapades said...

ChrLvsBks - Awwww, thank you ma'am!!! I've seen you around CurlyNikki since I discovered the site last year and I'm humbled and honored that you would thank Nik for "introducing" us:).

Anon @ 12:46: I'm going to work on that this morning! We will see how it goes!! Got my hair tied down with a scarf and some molding mud now (I haven't used this stuff in a couple of years, so we'll see how it works, but it's more about the style anyway). So, check in @ hairscapades.com and/or my YouTube channel, Skillsgill (I know, it should be Hairscapades:(! LOL!) over the next couple of days to see if it is posted. Thank you!

It's very interesting to read how some have finer, looser strands at their crown, BUT still find that to be the challenging, uncooperative area of their hair! So, the texture may be what it is (and I didn't mean to imply by the post that the sun makes that hair curlier or kinkier, just saying that a lot of people seem to have that difference in curl at their crown), but the potential sun damage can still cause issues with the structure of that hair. Things that make you go hmmmmmm ..... ;)

Shelli

fabwtalk said...

My crown gets the driest so because of this I have learned to delicately care for it and double the moisture. Due to this it has grown pretty long and is healthy, thank god. Great tips!

hairscapades said...

Hi all! If you were interested in a video tutorial on the double bun style featured, I just finished the post and video link that will be available Friday 11/11/11 at 6 a.m.:

http://hairscapades.com/2011/11/11/two-bun-banana-clip-updo-tutorial-video/

Thank you!

Shelli

Anonymous said...

I'm curious how this environmental/crown "issue" ties in with young children and/or babies that also have the different hair texture at the crown They have not been exposed to environmental factors as long as we have.

AT said...

Man just saw this article. Explains a lot, especially since doing wigs for a year protective style challenge that my crown and sides have been growing soo much faster now. I will start to pay attention once I let my hair back out free. I wanna keep that length and mostly that thickness and sheen.

hairscapades said...

I think the crown issue for babies may be related to them laying on that part of the head/hair for extensive periods of time ... so, it's more related to frictional damage. But, don't quote me! LOL!!

hairscapades said...

AT, glad this was helpful!!

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