How to Prevent Natural Hair Breakage, According to a Hairstylist

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Photo: Getty/Westend61
I love my 3B/3C hair, but I would be lying if I said it's been easy keeping it moisturized and hydrated during quarantine. It's a struggle to keep up with scheduled wash days, deep conditioning, and styling when I know I have nowhere to go. I've been unmotivated and because of it, my hair has suffered.

More than anything, I've noticed an incredible difference in the porosity and hydration of my hair due to the lack of maintenance that's, in turn, caused some breakage. Naturally curly hair, no matter the curl type, tends to be drier by nature, so we curly girls have to be more mindful and intentional about keeping it nourished at all times. In other words, if your natural hair is looking dull or dry due to salon closures amid COVID-19, know that you’re not alone.

After noticing the minor damage I caused my hair by not giving it the TLC I normally do, I reached out to my hairstylist Candace Witherspoon, natural hair specialist and owner of Candace Witherspoon Salon in New York City, for some professional guidance on how I can make my curls bounce back and prevent hair breakage in the future. Below are five tips she recommended that worked for me and that I hope will work for you, as well.

1. Shampoo and condition gently

I'm 100 percent guilty of not doing this. Every time I shampoo and condition my hair, I feel like I'm trying to win a race. I do it quickly and not-so-gently most of the time and that can cause a lot of damage. "Curly hair is very fragile, so manipulating it too much, especially while cleansing, can create tangles which can cause hair to break and shed," says Witherspoon.

2. Moisturize your hair once a week

Natural hair needs to remain hydrated and moisturized at all times to reduce breakage. Moisturizing your hair once a week will ensure your strands get the essential nutrients that will keep hair from feeling dry, lackluster, and damaged. Also, when you stick to a solid schedule, your hair shaft will build and become stronger over time. "Moisturizing doesn't have to be limited to leave-in products as you can also moisturize strands by performing a deep conditioning treatment," says Witherspoon. "My favorite at the moment is Curlsmith Double Cream Deep Quencher ($28) as it contains very nourishing ingredients such as aloe vera, apricot kernel oil, and avocado oil."

3. Perform a protein treatment

Your hair is made up of keratin, which is protein, so it’s imperative that we keep a sufficient amount of protein in our hair to keep it strong—that, in turn, reduces breakage. I performed a protein treatment on my hair twice a month until I felt it was strong enough to then only apply it once a month. It’s important not to overdo it, because too much protein can actually cause hair to become too strong and snap. (Think of dry spaghetti being snapped in half.) I opt for DIY protein treatments as they are natural and easy to do. My go-to recipe is:

1 egg yolk (contains protein)
1 Tbsp honey (conditions your hair and seals in moisture)
1 Tbsp almond or castor oil (contains essential fatty acids that soften hair)
1 Tbsp of fresh aloe vera juice (great conditioner, leaves hair smooth and shiny)

Mix the ingredients in a bowl until you get a smooth consistency. Apply to your hair and leave it in for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse out with cool water. Shampoo and condition as normal.

If the DIY life doesn’t suit you, OLAPLEX No. 3 Hair Perfector ($28) is an amazing alternative. It’s an at-home treatment that reduces breakage and visibly strengthens hair. It will restore your hair's healthy appearance and texture by repairing damage and protecting hair structure. It will improve your hair's overall look and feel in just 10 minutes.

4. Steam your strands

This is, by far, my favorite thing to do. As an esthetician, I often utilize steam to soften skin, break up oil, and open pores so that I can properly cleanse and so products can better penetrate into my client's skin. The same rules apply to your hair. Steaming strands will help revive hair as it increases elasticity to the hair by opening up the cuticle to allow more moisture to penetrate. For best results, steam hair while deep conditioning for 15 to 30 minutes. My hair steamer is the Red by Kiss and it actually duals as a facial steamer as well, which is amazing if you want to perform mini home facials on yourself. It is quite large, so you will need some space to place it. If you fancy something more compact, you should opt for this handheld hair steamer by Q-Redew ($79).

5. Wear protective styles

Protective styles are styles that prevent excessive manipulation of hair which, in turn, lead to less breakage. Common protective styles are box braids, two-strand twists, cornrows, and buns. The best protective styles are the ones where you completely seal your ends since the ends are the oldest part of your hair and responsible for length retention. Sealing ends while performing protective styling can be done by using an oil such as castor, argan, hemp, jojoba, or avocado.

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