You have to slow down the rate at which you damage your hair. Reduce is the word of choice used because it is impossible to eliminate all damage. Your hair is damaged to some degree every time you wash it, detangle it, and even touch it.We will concern ourselves with the 4 types of damage that can occur and how to prevent these sources of damage altogether:
Manipulation of the hair
The more you comb, style, or touch your hair you are causing damage to it. If you have particularly fragile hair, like 4b or 4c hair, this type of damage is easy to come by. Even if you are chemical free and you do have a good moisture routine, damage from manipulation will get in your way. To resolve this issue you have to be gentle with your hair. You might be thinking to yourself, well I am gentle! Well, if you are experiencing breakage you are not being gentle enough. As stated before you want to reduce the amount of damage that you experience, because you cannot eliminate it completely. You still have to wash your hair, you still have to style it, and detangle it. The key is to cut down on the manipulation of your hair. How much manipulation is reduced will all vary from person to person.
For particularly fragile hair types you will want to keep your hair in protective and low manipulation hairstyles 80% -90% of the time and instead of detangling with combs or brushes you may want to try finger combing instead. During the length retention phase where you are trying to gain length, maintaining styles for 2 to 3 weeks at a time will help you to hold on to the hair that would have normally broken off had you worn a style that requires daily styling. However for some naturals this is not practical, wearing styles for 2 to 3 weeks at a time may simply be unnecessary. Only you can determine this.
Nevertheless, even for naturals with looser curls and more resilient strands protective styles help to protect hair from damage.
Dryness of the hair will lead to hair breakage and split ends which ultimately prevent hair growth. You have to have a good moisture routine if your goal is to have longer hair. One problem is many people do not know how to effectively moisturize their hair. Let’s first start with defining what a moisturizer actually is! A moisturizer is a water based solution. Which means oils, greases, and butters are not moisturizers, they are sealants, so in other words they help to keep moisture in your hair but they are not moisturizers. So every time you set out to moisturize your hair, you should lightly be misting with water or a water based product first, then sealing in that moisture with an oil and or butter. When you moisturize you should moisturize all of your hair, but you want to pay close attention to the ends of your hair because they get particularly dry and they are the oldest and most delicate part of your hair. This will also help to prevent your split ends from getting too severe. You may need to moisturize each day, every other day, or even once a week. This is all specific to your hair. You will know what works for you by the look and feel of your hair.
While heat is a useful tool for giving us gorgeous stretched out styles, it is also good for sucking the moisture out of hair. Does this mean you can never use heat? No it does not, but if you want healthy hair you should cut down your usage of heat down to the bare minimum. When you frequently use heat, you will also find that you will have to trim your hair more often, which again results in lack of hair growth progress. You also have to keep in mind that you may not have a consistency in style if you continuously heat style your hair. High heat will cause permanent straightening of hair strands for some naturals. If you are transitioning this is why you should avoid flat irons and hot combs altogether until you are fully natural. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between relaxed hair and the hair that has been permanently straightened from heat damage. If you must have heat in your regimen do not use it more than every 2 to 3 weeks. Try to stretch out the time you use heat as long as you can! I encourage you to try going 6 months without using heat styling tools in your hair. You will see a big improvement in your hair’s health. There a other methods for stretching hair such as braids, twists, and banding, if you want stretched out hair.
Relaxers, texturizers, and hair dyes will all cause some form of damage to the hair, because of the drastic changes that it does to the hair’s structure. If you are a transitioner, you will notice that your relaxer may even be breaking off on it’s own. This is most likely due to the differences in the two hair textures that you have on your head, (the curls and bends represent weak points) and your ends are weathered from time while also being weakened from the relaxer. During your transitioning stage, you will want to practice all of the above: protective styles, no heat, and moisture. As time goes on you will slowly trim away your relaxed or texturized ends. Hair dye, especially if you are going to a lighter shade is drying to the hair. Which is why if you decide to permanently color your hair you will have to be strict with your moisturizing and conditioning routine. Otherwise, your hair will become dry and ultimately break.
What to Expect
Remember you have to be consistent with good hair care practices. You cannot use heat daily, constantly manipulate your hair, and then expect for it to grow just because you slapped some moisturizer on your strands. Give your hair a few months or so of using good hair care in order to see significantly healthier hair and growth. Progress will not happen over night.