Monday, March 26, 2012

The one true secret to thick, healthy ends revealed!

My philosophy, throughout my hair journey, has always been to create healthy hair by systematically seeking out and identifying my hair's major concerns (one by one) and working feverishly to eradicate them. Over time, I've focused my attention on managing moisture levels, addressing breakage, creating a healthy scalp, avoiding shedding and promoting thicker hair. Now it's time to turn my attention to maintaining thicker, fuller ends.

Thin, weak ends are common place for those of us who relax our hair. In any given day, one doesn't have to look far to find someone who relaxes and struggles to maintain thickness from root to tip. Often, when I read emails from some of you asking about hair advice, one of the areas I'm asked about is regarding creating healthy ends. Currently I'm at point in my hair journey where my focus is shifting to the ends of my hair. If I'm able to overcome this issue then my hair will be the best it's ever been. Thick, healthy ends must happen. Since I don't do much protective styling, I was a bit stumped as to how I would get these results.

It was while writing an email that I came to the conclusion that the ends of our hair will thrive under only one condition. One thing (and one thing only) makes it possible for us to have strong thick ends. And that one thing ladies Before you dismiss my advice as something you've heard before, let me just say that this "protection" I speak of goes way beyond the typical protective styling mantra that you've heard over and over again. Sure, protective styling is obviously the holy grail of protection. It's also fastest way to promote beautiful ends. But I'm a woman who believes in a holistic approach to addressing any and all issues. With that said, let's talk about the other means that you can protect your precious ends beyond just protective styling.

So what are some of the things we have to protect our hair from?

AIR (Dryness)
The greatest strength of protective styling is it's ability to provide unparallelled protection from the drying effects of air. Having our ends tucked away for the duration of the day is ideal. I remember the days when I used to do lots of protective styling under a baggy. When I took down the bun at the end of the day, my ends felt (and looked) amazing. If I were disciplined enough to maintain that practice day after day for an extended period of time, I'm certain that dryness would not be a concern for me. Avoiding dryness is key because anything and everything that is dry is highly susceptible to breakage. Moisture gives the hair the ability bend and flex without the concern of damaging repercussions. If your ends are seriously dry, begin to incorporate protective styling into your regimen right away. Other options would be moisturizing and sealing the ends on a regular basis or misting the hair from time to time to amp up moisture levels. Whatever you decide to do, don't allow your ends to remain in a state of dryness.

Breakage (weakness)

This week, while I was doing my hair, I noticed that most of the hair I lost, while styling, were not the long strands with the bulbs at the end (shedding) they were the little short little hairs (breakage). One thing I DO NOT mess around with is breakage. If left alone to it's own devices, breakage will rob us of every inch of progress ever made. Immediately I reacted with a (needed) minor trim and some coconut oil to elevate protein levels. Now my ends are behaving again thanks to my quick action. On next wash day, I will conduct a light protein treatment to address any lingering concerns and prevent future excessive breakage. Protecting your ends from breakage is essential otherwise you are bound to have thin looking, even ends. Anytime you see excessive breakage, act. Don't ignore.....act.

Do you protect your hair from heat? Or are you one of those people the pass the flat iron over the ends three or four times to makes sure your ends look super straights and perfect? If you find yourself grabbing for the flat iron day after day and exposing your ends to heat, then you are asking, no begging, for damaged ends. As the protector of your ends, your job is to do everything you can to keep your ends from succumbing to the damaging effects of heat. If that means investing money on an ultra-high end heat protectant, then consider it. If that means putting the flat iron away for a while, so be it! A while back I wrote a post discussing what happens when we actually comb our hair. Each time we do it, we are chipping away at the protective layers that cover the hair shaft. One practice that I've incorporated in my regimen is avoid combing on an every day basis. I'm happy to say that I've mastered the art of finger styling. Pretty much the only time I truly use the comb is on wash days when I'm trying to remove shed hairs. Even then, I make sure I'm using some specialized tools to help me with this process. Laying off the comb has helped me preserve thickness overall and I'm sure it's benefiting my ends as well.

One thing I pay close attention to is the type of material my hair brushes up against on a regular basis. On long flights and car rides, my hair is almost always tied up in a cute scarf. Even when laying on the couch to watch a movie, I'm aware that I need to tie my hair up. There's no difference, to me, between laying on the couch and when I go to bed at night. In both cases where I know that my ends will be rubbing back and forth against material, I make sure I use protection. Another way I manage the friction that occurs from just my normal practice of wearing my hair down is by reapplying a light layer of oil on my ends from time to time throughout the day. I've gone as far as to tie a scarf around my car's headrest for those times when I'm wearing my hair down. Whatever it takes to get the job done.

Every time I stretch my relaxer application, I'm protecting my hair (and my ends). But I know that stretching is not enough. I also have to ensure that I'm taking major precautions to protect the length of my hair every time I relax. So that means that I'm taking the time to apply some sort of product that acts like a barrier between my previously processed hair and the relaxer run-off. Protecting your ends everyday is important but one must never forget to elevate the protection levels on relaxer day. It's critical if you are serious about healthy hair.

I save this one for last because, for me, this is THEE most damaging influence on my hair. My constant (mindless) hair fondling has cost me big time in the past. There was a point in time where I would play with the back of my hair non-stop. Guess what happened....just guess. Yep, my nape quickly became short, broken and fragile. It was all my fault. A few times in my life I've seen women with 4b/c hair with serious length. Most often, they wore their hair in a simple pony tail. From my observation, I'm pretty certain those women wore the same style almost daily without much manipulation or touching. If I were one of those women who wasn't so obsessed with my hair, I guarantee you that I'd have way more length. More than anything, I need to protect my hair from myself. There are certain areas that I tend to go for whenever I wanna play in my hair. Wouldn't you know it, those are the same areas that seem to always struggle the most. So I've decided to take some of my own advice and allow myself the chance to truly benefit from all the my hard work without sabotaging it.

Remember that our ends are the senior citizens of our hair. They are fragile and require much more care and attention then our new growth. Yes, our hair needs moisture and strength but even moreso, it requires our protection. That is what allows our hair to thrive. I saw a sign once at a local park. The sign was located in a heavy populated area where pedestrians enjoy playing Frisbee. The sign said "please use the sidewalk, the grass is resting." It had several brown spots from being trampled by park goers. What would happen if no one were allowed to walk over that grass for months? That area would be so green, lush and thick. That's what I'm doing with my hair, I'm officially "resting" my ends for a while and soon I'll be able to enjoy full, thick hair from root to tip.
  1. Thank you for that excellent post you hit some key points and things I should be doing for my to grow past shoulder length. I never thought of the idea to put a scarf on the headrest in my car that is a wonderful idea and I can't wait to try it out. Hhj

  2. Great post and very much needed because I am trying to find ways to protect my ends. I think resting them is a great idea...thanks for sharing!!!

  3. Hey, im loving this post, but I have a quick question.... Im constantly (at least every night) trying to massage my temple areas to stimulate growth in the bald spots that have been there for at least a year & a half. Is this massaging causing my hair to keep breaking or just not grow? & wats something that can be done to get the areas back growing?

  4. @ Cymone-Great question! I would say, as long as you aren't messing with the hair excessively but focusing the scalp, you are doing the right thing. I would play with my hair while trying to convince myself that I was giving myself a scalp massage. Focus on the scalp and use a carrier oil or essential oil to amplify your hard work. Also, when you touch up, try to wait to apply relaxer in that area until last or (if the bald spot is really bad) don't apply relaxer in that area at all so it can "rest".

  5. this is one of the best articles I have ever seen... repost it from time to time and try different venues

  6. Thank u so much! I trying to do better with my hair overall, & I tend to play with my hair alot too. I need to just work on my massaging & get some good growth oils in my regimen. Thanks!

  7. Hi! Love your post, but can you elaborate on the kind of product that you would use as a barrier for your ends during relaxing? I know that Affirm used to come with some type of protective serum. Do you have any other products in mind?

  8. Fantastic! i definitely think you got the best pieces of information in this post on how to protect our ends. Although I'm terribly bored of protective styling, knowing that my hair is "resting" until it's ready to be let down is an instant motivator to continue! Not combing my hair everyday has also cut down on my breakage. Every lady should lay off the combs every once in a while!

  9. Great post! Just in time for me as I need to address some breakage and other issues now that I'm closer to my goal (MBL).

    at Tameca above, I coat my relaxed ends when relaxing with Mizani Honey Shield. Affirm has protecto but you are also supposed to put it in your newgrowth or that's what I recall from when I self relaxed last weekend. What I didn't like about protecto which doesn't happen with the Mizani Honey Shield is that the hair kind of clumps together and it's hard to separate the hair to apply the relaxer to the newgrowth on that section, and in my case it caused some breakage,mainly because I had a lot of newgrowth.

  10. Great post! Thick healthy ends have been my focus for the past 6 months!

  11. This is such a wonderful post!! Do you mind if I share it?? I have been on my journey for a little under a year but this is just such a great reminder, in the case you (I) start slacking lol

  12. Very good, thank you for sharing. I'm on a hair journey as well. Reading this reminded me of the reason I'm focusing on my ends. thank you for sharing. to God be the glory!