Something’s been bothering me for a while now. For some time, my hair was happy. I’d figured out a regimen that suited; my hair was healthy, it was growing and retaining length…it was all good.
But then, like a diva, my hair decided it didn’t like my hair regimen very much. Neither did it appreciate the oils I’d forked out for, nor the luxurious deep-conditioning treatments I was using. Despite all the care and attention I was lavishing on my hair, my tresses were just not feeling it. Nothing was working and I was fast falling back out of love with my natural locks.
I clicked feverishly from site to site and through various hair care books looking for an answer but I just couldn’t work it out.I started to notice more tangles, single-strand knots and breakage, and I couldn’t understand it. Actually, it’s difficult to know whether the breakage is the legacy of the days when I paid less attention to what my hair needed and more attention to what I wanted it to do for me.
At that point, over 12 months ago, I’m sure I did a lot of damage to my natural hair through ignorance and vanity. I never looked after my scalp, so it’s possible that the ratty ends I’m seeing now are my payback for that.
All I knew is that my hair was suffering. There wasn’t much definition and it was getting really dry, really quickly (about six months ago I could last two days without moisture). So I went back to the drawing board to find out where I was going wrong – I figured I must have overlooked something.
What I found out is so obvious, I can’t believe that I hadn’t factored it in to my hair care routine – but I didn’t even give it a second thought, to my hair’s detriment…
I realised that my hair’s really fine. I don’t mean that my hair’s thinning – there’s plenty of it – but each individual strand is so fine that it’s almost translucent. I’ve noticed before that in the sun, it’s a lovely shade of reddish-brown. But unfortunately this means that every single strand is super-susceptible to breakage, especially if you have Type 4 natural hair (extremely coily or kinky).
Fine natural hair needs different handling to coarse natural hair because it’s even more vulnerable to damage. Some bloggers compare it to a precious silk shirt, cashmere sweater or antique lace – in other words, fine afro hair requires the gentle touch.
From what I understand, fine hair tends to lose its curl more easily and frizz up more easily. The ends need even more care and attention as they’re so fragile and it’s a very fine (excuse the pun) balancing act to use just the right amount of product on your hair, because it gets weighed down so easily, making it look dull and lifeless. Factor in low porosity hair like mine and you’re probably in for a right old battle!
Five Tips for Naturals With Fine Natural Hair
So, how do you deal with fine hair? It’s pretty simple really – keep in mind that silk and antique lace and make sure that you treat your hair like the precious crown of glory that it is.
1) Detangling – don’t lose patience and start tearing at your hair while detangling. It’s easy to lose your rag (trust me), but spending an extra few minutes detangling your hair thoroughly yet gently will save you from breakage and help you to retain the length you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
2) At one point I was using heavy oils and shea butter on my hair – and boy, did I end up with sulky strands! I’ve realised that this was far too much for my fine hair and I’ve cut right back on oils to seal my hair. I’m trialling aloe vera right now to seal in moisture. I’ve had good results with this before, so hopefully this will help me retain moisture by closing down the cuticles rather than using an oil to seal it in. I’ll let you know how this goes over on the forum …in the meantime, try using a light oil such as grapeseed or coconut oil (and don’t use too much).
3) Be careful when styling your hair. Low manipulation techniques are highly recommended. Some naturals may get away with the rough treatment, endlessly tugging and pulling at their hair, but if your strands are fine try to keep your fingers out of your hair as much as possible. Some ladies with fine hair don’t fare so well with protective styles such as twists, as the fine strands are easily tangled. Twisting can also leave the hair looking limp and scalpy (the hair looks wispy and you can see the scalp). I do use twists but I make sure that my hair’s well moisturised so that it’s easier to separate the strands afterwards. Be careful with weaves or styles like high buns that pull on your hair – remember, you hair’s extra vulnerable to breakage!
4) Avoid heat and chemicals if possible. Fine hair tends to absorb chemicals more easily – if you can remember back to when you used to relax your hair…did the relaxer crème work quickly and take really well? Heat too can make fine hair extra dry as the hair tends to dry much quicker with a hairdryer or straighten in no time at all with tongs. You may get a good result temporarily but over time, the damage will be irreversible. If you must use heated appliances on your hair, try to keep the heat as low as possible. Unless you can get away with it, I’d keep away from heat and chemicals as much as possible. Keep in mind…finest silk or lace!
5) Steer clear of shampoos that are too harsh. Fine hair is already more prone to dryness, and if you make your hair squeaky clean, it’ll snap and break even more easily. Go for moisturising shampoos as much as you can and if necessary, just mix a little water in with it to dilute its strength. Apply the shampoo to the scalp and let the solution run down the strands while you’re rinsing. That being said, make sure that you do clean your hair thoroughly, as dirt and grime are also culprits for dry hair because the moisture will not be able to penetrate through any build-up.
Really there’s not much you can do if you have fine natural hair, you just have to work with it. That’s the thing with black hair, it has so many facets. The real lesson is to know YOUR hair. Make sure you really know it, not just today but through every season if your hair’s particularly sensitive to seasonal changes or if it simply changes through age or for any other reason.
Because I adapted so quickly, I was able to avert a crisis and minimise the damage so all my good work wasn’t undone – thankfully! I went from pretty chronic breakage to low-medium breakage over a really short period of time.
I fine tuned my hair regimen, changed a few products, trimmed a tad, and spent some time treating my hair better – making friends with it again. So far, it seems to be working.
So look at your hair and if you have fine strands, just bear it in mind when you’re handling your hair.
Well, I hope that’s helped. Have you suffered breakage but didn’t know what you were doing wrong? Do you have fine hair too? Can you think of any more tips to handle fine hair?
Please feel free to comment, or visit the Natural Hair Forum UK to join in the discussion over there!
Members of the forum can enjoy a new service…we’re working with expert Keith Hobbs, a leading trichologist at the Institute of Trichology in London specialising in afro hair. He’ll be answering your questions on scalp care and hair issues over in the Hair SOS section of the forum, so post your questions there and make sure you take full advantage of this fantastic service and more than 50 years in the hair business!