CurlyNikki on how to delicately handle fine hair and prevent breakage.
Calling all naturalistas: Do you have urgent tress questions? If so, you're in luck. Every Thursday, natural hair blogger extraordinaire CurlyNikki will be solving your curly hair conundrums! Submit your questions by tweeting them to @EssenceMag with the hashtag #AskCurlyNikki.
READER QUESTION: My hair incredibly fine, like see-through fine, and therefore susceptible to splits, breakage and tangling. How do I prevent breakage, especially when washing? It seems like I am always scooping handfuls of hair out of the sink.
CURLYNIKKI's RESPONSE: I have fine hair, too, and it's taken me years to develop a routine that keeps hair, especially my ends, on my head, rather than hanging out in the sink. I hate seeing pieces of my hair in the sink. In order for me to retain healthy length and minimize the impact of my styling sessions, I have to abide by a few rules.
1. Find a regimen and stick to it. Although my products are always in flux, my routine is pretty static. I do my best to keep it simple and as consistent as possible. This summer, I’ve been keeping to twice a month wash sessions with lots of protective styling in between. I’ve rocked many a bun and medium sized twists under summer beanies and religiously apply oil or butter (nightly) to my ends to keep them pliable and nourished.
2. Moisturize and Seal, As Needed. I moisturize with a water-based product and seal with a heavier-oil laden one, or plain oil. Some fine haired ladies don't do well with butters or heavy creams... I thought I was one of them, but my hair loves rich, heavy butters. I've recently revisited shea butter and have actually begun experimenting with coconut oil. When I religiously moisturize and seal, my hair is shiny, moisturized, happy and I see far fewer split ends. I’ve been using Redken Smooth Down Butter Treat to moisturize my hair and Blended Beauty Kicks For Curls to moisturize my daughter’s hair. LOVE that stuff! I repeat the moisturize/seal process as frequently as necessary between wash sessions, usually once or twice a week.
3. Stretch the ends. My fine strands curl up on themselves, knot and then split. Wearing twist-outs, a curl-former set or curling the ends, when I want to wear my hair down, really keeps my ends stretched out and happy. For some reason, they seem to retain moisture better in this state. I’ve learned the hard way that I must stretch, especially the ends, to enjoy healthy hair.
4. Frequent Deep Treatments. I do my best to treat myself to a deep penetrating conditioning treatment at every wash session. It’s difficult with the baby, as I’m much more pressed for time, but when I manage to squeeze this step in, I enjoyed softer, smoother hair during the interim. I’m loving AUBREY’s GPB (great protein + moisture balance) this summer. I leave it in for at least 30 minutes, sometimes over night and with or without heat.
5. Use tools sparingly. It’s very tempting to grab a Denman, comb or paddle brush to detangle… it makes the process much quicker, and makes the hair much smoother. However, my wet hair and any brush is bad news. I learned this the hard way. The best way to detangle fine strands is with your fingers (and/or a wide tooth comb like the Ouidad Double Detangler) and a crap load of moisturizing, slippery conditioner. It takes longer, but you don't lose as much hair.
Of course, I can’t conclude this article without mentioning the importance of gentle handling and TLC! I know you've heard it before, but it can't be said enough- treat your hair like old fine lace. Be patient when detangling and styling and please, please, please keep your hands out of your head as much as possible. I have serious HIH (hand in hair) syndrome, and I'm sure this adds to the few splits and knots I do get!
Ladies, chime in with other tips and advice for us fine-haired ladies!
Nikki "CurlyNikki" Walton is a successful psychotherapist and creator of one of the most credible online sources about natural haircare, maintenance, and decoding the psychological ties between black women and their hair. Visit her at her blog CurlyNikki or follow her on Twitter @CurlyNikki.