I think all of us, at one time or another, have had some level of hair damage. Those of us new to the Curly Girl / Hair Method are probably the ones with higher levels of damage because of what we normally use to manage our curly hair. So now you are here using the method to return to your natural curls and waves and you are trying to figure out how much time and effort will be needed to get there.
The amount of past damage will dictate how long it might take for your hair to recover. If the damage is very severe, you may need to do a drastic haircut. But let’s leave this as a last resort (unless you want it) to see what you can do first. The average growth cycle of your hair is an average of 4-7 years to grow from the scalp, stop growing, and shed.
What causes hair damage?
Damage occurs for many reasons including:
- Colour and/or highlights
- Brushing and combing too much and too often
- Keratin, Brazilian or chemical relaxers/straighteners.
- Heat from irons, wands and blow dryers
- Chlorine and hard water
- Tight hairstyles (buns, ponytails etc)
- Harsh sulfates and/or silicones that dry your hair out or build up
- Sun and other harsh weather
Hair loss is a bit different than damage. I would like to over that as a separate blog in the near future. It could be related to internal issues like hormones, thyroid, health conditions and medications. If you are experiencing an increased amount of hair loss (realizing that a "normal" amount is up to 100 hairs per day, which is more than you might expect!), you should talk to your doctor.
How to Heal Your Hair
So…. what are some ideas to combat damaged hair and decrease future damage?
1. Start the Curly Hair Method if you haven't already!
Using little to no sulfates and silicones as well as just letting your hair be in it’s natural state is the best first step if you haven't started the Curly Girl / Curly Hair Method already.
2. Use the right brush.
If you want to continue to use brushes and combs pick ones that are recommended specifically for curly hair. Here at Curl Warehouse, the Flexy Brush from Curl Keeper is simply that – super flexible but able to get through all hair types even when wet without a lot of hair loss. Always go slow, start form the bottom in sections, and slowly work your way up. Use a wide toothed comb in the same manner. Dry brushing seems to be controversial and in all honestly I sometimes do it just before washing it but in the same manner.
When you are removing water from your hair don’t use the regular terry cloth towels that are used after a shower or bathing for drying your body. The fibers of these towels tend to be a bit too rough so get yourself a curl-friendly towel like this one from My Soigne. You can also use a cotton t-shirt.
4. Protect your hair when colouring.
If you want to continue to colour and highlight that is okay. You can add Olaplex 1 and 2 when you get your color done at the stylist as these are professional products. For at home treatments consider Olaplex No. 0 and No. 3. Note that these are neither a deep conditioner nor a protein treatment. They are a patented hair bond rebuilder and can be used weekly.
5. Use as little heat as possible.
Overall heat can be a controversial issue. Again I encourage you to follow what works for you because some of us still want to bring out the flat iron or wand. Knowing that this does cause hair damage, remember to reach for a heat protectant to ensure you do what you can to stop this. There are a few approved ones out there including this Hair Love Prep Spray from Innersense and others with silicones like the Maximum Thermal Protection range from Uncle Funky's Daughter. Generally speaking, using your blow dryer or low-med heat will not cause a lot of damage. If you like it a bit warmer or you tend to diffuse daily consider adding a heat protectant into your routine.
6. Use a chelating shampoo.
Chlorine and hard water are other ways that your hair might be getting some damage. In these cases regular use of a chelating shampoo will help remove the minerals and build up easily. We have Hard Water Wellness and Un Do Goo from Malibu C which are both good for hard water. I would go with the Un Do Goo if you are low porosity and Hard Water Wellness Shampoo for higher porosities as they are slightly different PH levels.
7. Wear loose buns, braids, and ponytails and/or the right protective style.
When it comes to styling your hair and wearing it up in a bun or braids etc. try to make all of these on the looser side. If you only do it every once in a while, it won’t make a big difference but if this is a regular way you wear your hair the constant pull and traction on it will cause breakage and potentially affect the natural pattern. There are some good gentle accessories like the Puff Cuff that can be utilized for this purpose.
Protective styles can also help reduce hair breakage and encourage healthy growth if done properly. Not all protective styles are created equal! Check out these two blog posts Everything You Need to Know About Protective Styles by Noussaiba Naciri and 10 Things Natural Hair Bloggers Want You to Know about Protective Styling from Self Magazine. Remember that an important part of wearing your hair this way is to keep your style moisturized and your scalp happy. Uncle Funky's Daughter's Supercurl and Defunk are great choices for protective styling, especially if you intend to leave your style in for an extended period.
8. Use a protein treatment.
Protein is also a great way to help out damaged hair. It temporarily fills in the cracks and chips along the hair cuticle. Look for hydrolyzed proteins in your products that stay on your like leave in conditioners and stylers. A strong protein treatment would be the Ecoslay Matcha Boost Shake.
9. Add a pre-poo to your routine.
Doing a pre-poo of a specifically formulated product like Ecoslay’s Hot Sauce or Righteous Roots Pre-Poo will also help to provide lubrication and flexibility and soften the tangles before you wash your hair. Remember to keep the amount light if your hair is fine.
10. Get a regular hair cut, especially if you're going to continue using heat tools and colouring.
Consider removing damaged hair if it doesn’t respond to your other efforts to heal the damage.
Bonus tip: 11. Be Patient.
You might have years of damage to deal with. Trust that this does not mean your hair can’t be helped - it can revert to its natural state. Depending on the level of damage you will need to treat your hair with loving kindness and possibly give it a lot of time (and patience) to recover. It can be done!