Unlike Caucasian or Asian hair (which has a circular shape), African hair has an oval shape and twists on itself as it grows therefore the hair changes diameter randomly down the length of the strand. Each hair may also twist in a random pattern, so the hairs won’t necessarily clump to form a curl (this is also why black hair forms an Afro, the strands just grow any which way and form a large ball of hair). So unfortunately curly-kinky hair is inherently weaker than straight hair, in fact the straightest and therefore the strongest hair actually belongs to East Asians (a fact I learnt from Blue Peter, they demonstrated this by holding up an apple with a strand of a Chinese woman’s hair. See television can be educational!).
|Healthy hair and damaged hair|
This weakness is why African hair needs more love and attention then the hair of other races. Lots of hair styling tools simply aren’t made for black hair (especially small-tooth combs, whoever designed the small tooth comb deserves a slap!) and a lot of products aren’t designed or tested on black hair (although that is changing now. In fact a lot of creams that are ‘made’ for black hair are made with ingredients like mineral oil and petroleum; these can’t penetrate the cuticle and be absorbed into the cortex so our hair is greased to the max on top, but the strand is dry on the inside.
Relaxers and constant straightening destroy and permanently break the disulphide bonds that produce the strength our hair requires causing a reduction in Cysteine levels as the hair grows out of the scalp. This causes the strand to continually break at the ends as they have a reduced foundation and the cuticle opens causing the cortex to be exposed and be damaged (and remember once your cortex is damaged, that’s it!). So if your hair is thin at the ends and is constantly snapping off, it’s not normal! I use to think it was just how my hair was, and that my hair could only ever grow to shoulder length - until I started taking proper care of it. Breaking, snapping, dry hair is a sign that your hair is damaged and that you’re doing something wrong! So whether your hair is relaxed, weaved, straightened, natural or braided, make sure to actually take care of your hair!
PS. I know I’ve told you guys already to change what you are doing to stop your hair from breaking but haven’t actually said what to do :P. I know a lot of you are interested in what we’ve actually been doing to our hair to make it grow and stop breaking and other more fun things like that. Zainab and I will start talking and making videos about this stuff soon, we promise! It’s just that studying medicine has made me want to go over all the basics and theory of hair before I do all the fun practical stuff. We promise the fun stuff will come soon!