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Dr. Perry on Curly Hair Breakage

By January 27th, 202120 Comments

Dr. Perry on Curly Hair Breakage

Hair Breakage: When Your Hair Has Had Enough

Spring has arrived.

The air is warm with passion and promise for that which is to come.

We eagerly await full bloom and sweet smells of fruit and flower.

A light, delightful rain sprinkles us with renewed hope for joyous times.

I love spring, as this is a time for total renewal. We can renew our relationships with self and others, and hope to restore our faith in that which is important to us. Taking care of our being in better fashion is great to hope for at any time, but spring season offers a special time for starting fresh. With this is mind, I decided to express my thoughts about hair breakage/split ends and what to do about it if you are a wits end. Don’t fret, just make a vow to start anew and do better by you and your hair.

The most common cause of hear breakage is traumatic hair care practices. The mechanism and result of hair breakage is not complicated and is pretty much as it sounds- hair shaft gets weak and snaps. Breakage results in a shorter hair shaft still attached to the scalp and a piece of hair on the floor or in your hand.

Trichoptilosis (split ends) occur when the protective cuticle (outermost layer of hair shaft) is destroyed at some point along the length of the hair. Although this usually occurs at the distal end of the hair, a split can technically occur anywhere along the strand. A normal healthy hair cuticle looks like shingles lying smoothly on a roof. Top causes of split ends include; traumatic hair care practices, overexposure to sun’s heat and dry, cold weather, and excessive hair washing with follicle stripping shampoos (i.e. sulfates).

To prevent breakage and split ends:

1. Gentle daily management and minimal manipulation is critical. Never brush your hair when it is wet, as this causes hair to stretch and weaken. Always use a wide-tooth comb to detangle and comb hair when it is wet or very well moisturized. Start at the bottom (ends) of the hair and gently use the comb to detangle working upwards towards the scalp.

2. Shampoo hair with mild sulfate-free shampoos or conditioners. Some of my favorites shampoo products include Curls Cleansing Cream Shampoo, Mehandi shampoo Bars, Olivella Olive Oil Soap (this is a bar soap made of olive oil and can be used for the entire body).

3. Keep hair well conditioned with the appropriate products. Mineral oil and petrolatum are not healthy for hair as moisturizing agents, as they simply coat the hair and prevent effective emollients from being able to do their job. My favorite conditioners include Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose, Herbal Essence Hello Hydration, and Ojon Moisturizing Conditioner.

4. Deep condition at least once a week for at least 30 min with a warm towel, bonnet hair dryer or portable heating head wrap. Some of my favorite, inexpensive products include extra virgin coconut and olive oils, and argan oil. If you want to splurge, Morrocanoil Hydrating Masque and Kerastase Oleo-Resin are great deep conditioners. A little goes a long way for both of these products.

5. Remove split ends regularly. The timeframe for when to trim the hair varies from person to person. On average, a trim every 6-8 weeks of an eighth of an inch is a good rule of thumb to follow. If split ends aren’t removed regularly, the split travels further up the hair shaft leading to thinner and more fragile hair.

6. Avoid direct heat styling (blow drying, curling/flat ironing, hot rollers, and crimpers). This fact cannot be stressed enough. In my personal experience, I have found that an increased use of heat styling leads to the faster and easier development of split ends. Direct heat styling also results in the development of air bubbles within the hair shaft which causes it to weaken. Blow drying, in particular, reduces the moisture content in hair far below its normal level. If an appliance is too hot, it may cause the natural water within the hair to boil which causes bubbles of steam to form. These bubbles cause a weakening of the hair shaft which can then lead to easier breakage at the level of the bubble or somewhere near it.

Dr. Perry on Curly Hair Breakage
7. Chemicals (man-made products used to alter the color and/or texture of the hair) assist in weakening the hair which often results in breakage. Always have artificial coloring agents applied by a Color specialist (a professional) and deep condition at least twice weekly for a few weeks after the treatment. ANY color treatment should be followed by a deep conditioning treatment. Natural, chemical free hair care and coloring products are least likely to result in split ends and breakage.

8. Protect hair from the drying effects of the environment by lightly wrapping hair at night with a satin scarf or sleeping on a satin pillowcase. Keep ends protected with light oils/creams (i.e. coconut oil, jojoba oil, shea butter). If you want to splurge on great multi-purpose oil, check out Goe oil ( It is a combination of several different nutritious oils for skin and hair. Wear protective hairstyles. In cold weather, keep hair protected with silk/satin lined hats.

Take care of yourself, so you can care for others. Do your best to be your best. The better you are, the brighter the world gets.

Disclaimer: This information does not serve as a substitute for individual medical care by a physician. This article is an informative guide to point you in the right direction. All product recommendations and advice are suggestions which may or may not work for your individual needs. Specific medical issues and concerns should be addressed by your health care provider. Patricia Perry, M.D. is a dermatologist in private practice in Southern California who can be reached for consultation at 2625 W. Alameda Ave., Suite 504, Burbank, CA 91505. Phone: (818)559- SKIN (7546).


  • Anonymous says:

    I have very fine hair with a lot of split ends and a lot of breakage. I started using Shielo's Hydrate Shampoo at the recommendation of my hair stylist. I really notice a difference when I don't use it because my hair is much more knotty and gets tangled more easily. I noticed a huge reduction in split ends, and it makes my hair so much smoother. I paid a lot more for it at the salon, so I was happy to find it online at Shielo's website at a lower price. I bought two of them!

  • myraj says:

    Hey Dr. Perry,

    Thanks for your well-informed perspective. I've been hearing more and more Huetiful Hair steamer reviews, but have been weary of using this extreme heat (be it water or not) to force my cuticle to lift and to penetrate my hair.
    I was searching for some scientific perspective to help me make a definite yes or no to this product, and then I found your article. Above it states, "If an appliance is too hot, it may cause the natural water within the hair to boil which causes bubbles of steam to form. These bubbles cause a weakening of the hair shaft which can then lead to easier breakage at the level of the bubble or somewhere near it."
    In this one article I read, researchers used the term "hygral fatigue," but then I couldn't find it used anywhere else and couldn't get a better understanding of it. Is this weakening from steam bubbles considered hygral fatigue?

    Thanks for helping me make a decision about the Huetiful Hair steamer.

    peace and blessings,

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your tips, Dr Perry. Just a quick one. I have very porous hair which is usually not dry 12 hours later. Sometimes I find myself having to use a blowdryer (on low heat with a diffuser). I know this might sound like a silly question, but do I need to use some form of heat protectant (and would this be different from the "protective conditioning product" you mentioned above)? If so, are there any products/examples of products you would recommend for this? All the heat protectants I've come across seem to be laden with cones, and as I try not to shampoo often, this isn't a great option for me.

    Look forward to hearing back soon. Thank you.

  • KeetaRay says:

    Dr. Perry,
    Thank you for these tips. For the most part, I've been following the above tips, BUT when I did my two-strand twists the last 2 times, I did use a blow-dryer to stretch my hair for length prior to twisting. Next time, no blowdryer. I knew direct heat wasn't good but I didn't know EXACTLY how it affected the hair.
    Great info!!

  • Anonymous says:

    This post has been really helpful! Thanks Dr. Perry!

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks Dr Perry for responding to my query. Your advice is invaluable!

    So far I haven't experienced any damage with brushing. With regards to blowdrying, I'm going to do braidouts instead because that still stretches my hair out and reduces knots, plus it lasts up to a week. I'll see how my new routine goes.

  • Anonymous says:

    This information was quite helpful. I've been natural now for almost 6 years, but have been pressing my hair regularly. About a month ago, I stopped and started doing twists & twists outs/bantu knot outs, etc. However, I still haven't figured out how to maintain the twist out because I only twist it for the night and take it out in the morning. Hence, I've been re-twisting every night. (I know, I know…bad practice!!) Do you have any tips on how to maintain these twist outs? I've tried just covering it up with a satin bonnet at night, but the curls are almost stringy in the morning. I still have some heat damaged ends to trim off, and the hair from the roots are pretty much "afro'd" up.

    Thanks for any insight 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    Meant to say. 'Anything'. Sorry ladies, I'm typing while driving. Shhhh! Don't tell the po-po.

    Dr. Perry

  • Anonymous says:

    As long as you are not experiencing breakage or excess shedding with brushing, I can't see anthing wrong with it. You must determine what works for you. If you decide to brush, as with any other haircare practice, do a periodic evaluation of your hair to determine the effects. Too much hair in your brush, hand or on the floor? Stop brushing.

    HTH Dr.Perry

  • Anonymous says:

    Dr Perry, I use Denman brush occasionally to detangle my Type 4 hair. Is this detrimental to retaining growth? Should I toss the Denman?

  • Anonymous says:

    Dr. Perry,

    When is it safest to use a brush on natural hair, particularly kinky hair?

  • curlyq145 says:

    Dr. Perry,

    Thanks again for your reply and will check further into it.

  • Anonymous says:

    To curlyq145:

    As mentioned in my article on hair loss and in my comment above, Telogen Effluvium has a number of causes- postpartum shedding being only one of them (the most common one). Hypothyroidism , or any hormonal imbalance (a physical stressor on the body) can certainly play a role. Please check with your physician to make sure that your thyroid is in balance. For further management recommendations as to your particular hair loss issue, you may need to see a dermatologist for an appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan.

    HTH Dr. Perry

  • Anonymous says:

    To TiA_UK

    Many leave-in conditioners are water based. Not all water based conditioners are marketed as leave-in. Giovanni direct leave-in is a good basic conditioner with good moisturizing properties. The amount and frequency of application of a leave-in (i.e. daily, 2x/week, etc.) will depend on your individual hair care needs. How dry is your hair? If your ends are dry at the end of a given day, you may need to seal them with something like shea butter on a daily basis. Seasonal changes also play a role in how often you need to moisturize/condition.

  • curlyq145 says:

    Dr. Perry,

    Thanks for replying! I don't have any kids so would this still apply? I have hypothyroidism and take meds for that. I also take MSM and vitamin D. That's all I take. Pls advice!

  • TiA_UK says:

    Why is it important to use a water base moisturizer under a butter or oil. Is a leave in conditioner consider the same things as a water base moisturizer

    Please could I use Giovanni direct leave-in as a daily water base mosturizer? please could you recommend some that i could use. I thouht just mosturizing with shea butter was enough :s guess I was wrong…. again. I keep getting fairy knots nowadays as well 🙁

  • Anonymous says:

    To anonymous 1:01om

    Blowdrying the hair, infrequently (key) and on a low setting probably won't cause serious damage to your hair. Always use a protective conditioning product before blowdrying and deep condition weekly.

    Brushing wet hair (even damp hair)over time could possibly lead to weakening of the hair and subsequent breakage. It's hard to say whether or not this will happen to you, but why risk finding out. Perhaps, separating your hair into small sections, appling a conditioning product to each section and gently detangling with a widetooth comb. Also, please make sure your ends are trimmed regularly, as split/damaged ends is a common cause of knots.

    HTH Dr. Perry

  • Anonymous says:

    To curly 145:

    You may be suffering from a condition known as Telogen Effluvium. Please see my article on Hair loss for details. Telogen Effluvium is a condition which results in hair shedding. The classic hair seen is a hair with a white bulb at the end. The hair is shedding during its resting phase. This condition is common in postpartum women, anyone who has suffered froma major traumatic event (emotional or physical). There is no medical treatment for this condition and it usually resolves on its own. It can take a few months. Be gentle with your hair and add a multivitamin supplement daily. If condition persists, see a dermatologist.

    HTH Dr. Perry

  • Anonymous says:

    Dr Perry,

    I'm currently blowdrying my hair once a week because when its in its natural state it wraps around itself and I end up with a head of single- strand knots. So blowdrying helps reduce knots and damage. I blowdry on a low heat setting, is that okay or will it cause long-term damage?

    Also you said that its not good to brush wet hair, I used to comb my hair with a wide toothed comb but it was very painful, I've found that I hardly have any hairs in the brush, very little breakage and am able to detangle without causing myself heaps of pain. Do you think that brushing is always bad or am I an exception?

    I would love to know what you and the other ladies on CN think about brushing (on damp, not wet hair) and blowdrying (on a low-heat setting). Thanks!

  • curly145 says:

    Dr. Perry,

    Thanks for the topic as it hits home! Throughout the winter i wore my hair in twist outs.Cowashed with hello hydration and sealed ends with castor oil or shea butter. I wore my hair like this weekly and would redo once a week. When washing my hair i noticed a lot of hair coming out some with white bulbs and some hair without. I'm very careful in doing the steps mentioned in the article yet i still seem to have a lot of breakage. I'm trying to grow my hair and the breakage I see doesn't help at all! Please help me!

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