Dark, kinky, tight and curly – Afro hair could possibly be one of the most sexy hair types in the world, but it doesn’t come without its drawbacks. It’s still prone to hair loss and breakage is more common than in any other hair type.
Afro-Caribbean hair tends to be dryer and more prone to breakage than other hair types because the structure makes it more difficult for the oils to work their way from the scalp to the ends of the hair. It is extremely rare to find someone with hair that is both curly and oily.
People used to think that the individual hair shaft determined whether the hair would be curly or straight but in fact, it’s largely to do with to the shape of the hair follicle. While naturally super sleek and straight hair grows from an almost perfectly round hair follicle, Afro hair sprouts from an oval follicle and the the hair shaft comes out in a spiral fashion.
The biggest hair challenges black men and women face are dryness and unmanageability. Sometimes unruly hair needs a lot of discipline but if you’re too hard on your hair it won’t be very forgiving and the damage can in some cases be irreversible.
There are a lot of poor afro styling habits that can lead to hair loss. Hair extensions, braiding, weaving and cornrows place excessive stress and tension on the hair follicles and literally pull the hair from the root resulting in Traction alopecia and leading to the appearance of bald patches or a receding hairline. It’s a common form of hair loss often seen in the black community and even Naomi Campbell is no stranger to its self-inflicted damage, but it is circumstantial and can be avoided or even reversed with hair loss treatments.
Many Afro-Caribbean styles require the person to abuse their hair with chemical and thermal products but this only increases dryness. Chemical treatment such as relaxing and colouring and excessive heat during blow drying or styling can cause breakage and result in dry, dull and brittle hair. The points where the hair curls and twists are also points where the hair tends to break and because the hair is kinky, it tends to tangle more and pulling these tangles out can cause breakage. Also, hair trauma as a result of excessive brushing, back combing, weaving, and severe UV exposure can lead to hair breakage.
Split end aren’t uncommon either as excessive sunlight, chlorine, chemical treatment, insufficient conditioning and even brushing can alter the hair and result in breakage and cuticle abrasion.
Because Afro hair grows in a tight spiral fashion, it can be more vulnerable to certain scalp problems. Product build-up, lack of moisture and an increased sensitivity to certain products frequently lead to dry and itchy scalps.
Thinning hair isn’t as common in Afro hair as it is in Caucasian hair but chemical and thermal treatments can lead to strand thinning and the accumulation of hair breakage and possible traction alopecia can result in significant thinning, receding and the appearance of hair loss.
Afro-Caribbean Hair Care Tips
Curly hair requires different care than straight hair in order for it to maintain its natural health. People with afro hair have specific hair needs and they require products which add moisture, help to strengthen, protect, repair and condition the hair, as well as to add lubrication and shine.
- Comb your hair while conditioning to remove the tangles and when combing, start from the bottom of the shafts and work your way to the roots, holding the strands so as not to impart tension on the roots.
- Use a comb for your hair type, preferably a wide-toothed one as skinny-toothed combs will just end up pulling the hair and cause breakage. A good boar bristle brush is helpful for getting that smooth look when pulling the hair into a ponytail or bun but use it sparingly.
- Some think that over shampooing will strip the hair of its natural oils but it’s safe to shampoo as often as necessary (as long as only once per wash) with a product that’s designed for frequent use.
- Use a good conditioner with a low pH to add shine and detangle the hair and use a deep conditioning treatment once or twice a week, depending on hair’s length and condition.
- Treat hair to hot oil treatments on a monthly basis and use a daily moisturiser to combat dry hair. Always use a leave-in conditioner after washing your hair to keep it hydrated throughout the day.
- Avoid overuse of products with mineral oil or petroleum which tend to block the pores and are not readily absorbed.
- Rinse your hair after exercising to avoid a build up of salt and sweat on the scalp.
- Eat a well-balanced diet that includes a range of nutrients that are essential for healthy hair growth.
- Consult a stylist and find a style that works with your natural hair type and growth pattern and is easy for you to manage.
- Put as little heat as possible on your hair and avoid alcohol based products.
- Avoid relaxing your hair as this reduces the ability for the scalp to naturally oil the hair and weakens the shaft. Not only that, you’ll probably put heat on it anyway to try to get the curl back for some occasions.
We all want what we don’t, or can’t, have. People with wild curly hair want manageable straight hair but those with dead straight hair want lively curly hair. All hair types can look amazing but the key is to avoid the damage of dangerous habits you may be prone to and follow the rules for your hair type to work with what you’ve got and find out just how fabulous it can be.