The Mane Objective: Intro to Transitioning 102B: Breakage Prevention and Gentle Hair Handling
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Intro to Transitioning 102B: Breakage Prevention and Gentle Hair Handling

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There's been a lot going on, ya'll! But now let's dig back in to this transitioning series. In case you missed 102A, here it is.

Now that we have a good handle on breakage versus shedding, we can move right along into how to prevent breakage, as transitioners are more susceptible. Prevention is the best cure, by all means. There a few key ways to prevent transitioner breakage:
  • Gentle Hair Handling
  • Low-Tension Styling
  • Moisture Retention
  • Moisture/Protein Balancing
Gentle Hair Handling
If you care to do so, I have a video here that you can watch where I ramble on for about 15 minutes on gentle hair handling. You'll have to excuse how incredibly bootleg it is. But if you prefer the straight, no chaser route to gentle hair handling, here it is:

Detangle Gently and With Patience. The further along you are in your transition (like 6 months and beyond), the more difficult and frustrating detangling becomes. Don't give in to your irritation. Slow, steady, with care, and with the right products is the way to go. I'll elaborate more on this in 102C, the drama-free wash day post.

Wash the Right Way, With the Right Stuff. Of course, I will go into more detail in 102C of this series, but there are two main things you can do to suck the drama out of washing your hair. Both involve section washing. If your hair is prone to tangling and matting easily, keep hair divided in loose braids to section wash. More on that method here. If your hair is less tangle prone, washing in free sections, one at a time (my current strategy) is another option. Just remember to twist, braid, or clip each section back up after you're done washing it.

Comb, Brush, and Style With the Right Tools. Finger comb if you can, wide tooth only if you mustI do not advise Denman brushes and fine tooth combs for transitioners. This is a surefire way to encourage breakage. To sleek edges, I recommend using your hands, but if you must use a brush, use a soft bristle brush sparingly. Make sure your scrunchies do not have any rubber exposed, or have the little metal fasteners on them. Ditch cotton scarves, satin and silk only.

Stay Out of Your Hair For as Long As You Can. I am by no means saying you have to protectively style. I hate protective styling, although I would intermittently do it for 3 or 4 days at a time during my transition. For the most part, I rocked buns and banana clip styles, which caused for daily manipulation of my hair to some degree. Although I'd slick my edges, band at night, or make chunky twists before bedtime, I never combed my hair out more than twice a week, tops. Most times, it was once a week. That was just my general rule, you can adjust it to meet the needs of your hair. But the less time you spend combing and manipulating your hair, the less opportunities there are for breakage.

Low-Tension Styling
Although you don't have to style protectively, one thing I will recommend until I am blue in the face is low-tension styling for transitioners. Anything to place the least amount of stress on the line of demarcation and on your edges is best. My go-to low-tension tool was the banana clip...until my hair got too thick for it. Then I turned to double-looped headband buns (see here), and styles like satin strip braidouts (my all time favorite and go-to) on the weekends. Twist and curls, bantu knot-outs, curlformers, and flexi rods are all great texture-blending options for transitioners that don't place too much stress on the hair when done properly. All of these styles allowed me to have cute, versatile styles without taxing my hair too much. I'll update this section soon with a tutorial mashup of my favorite transitioning styles!

Satin Strip Braidout for Transitioners
Curlformers Tutorial For Transitioners
 
Moisture Retention
Moisture retention is HUGE for transitioners. And because natural and transitioning hair tends to be chronically dry, there is an overabundance of information about effective moisturizing techniques floating around the interwebs. One of the best articles that hits the nail on the head about moisturizing can be found on Black Girl with Long Hair. Click there to get a more in-depth explanation about how to effectively moisturize the hair. I'm definitely going to go into more detail about this in 102C, but for now, let's just break down what you should be doing to keep your hair moisturized beginning on wash day:
1. Pre-Pooing: With a penetrating oil (like coconut oil), conditioner, deep treatment, or mixture of any of the above for at least 20-30 minutes. You can kill 2 birds with 1 stone by having your pre-poo work double time as a detangler. My top picks in this area are Suave Professionals Almond and Shea Conditioner, Soultanicals Mango Dip Detangling Slip, Kurlee Belle Banana Nut & Avocado Deep Treatment, and Tresemme Split Remedy Conditioner (adding oil to this one is a MUST). All have amazing slip and great conditioning properties.
 
2. Sulfate-Free Cleansing: I'm not a stickler for saying cowashing is the only way to go. You can read more about my debate on cowashing with a special formula or regular ol' conditioner here. In fact, there are some pretty amazing sulfate-free shampoos out there, that will gently and effectively cleanse your hair - like tgin Moisture Rich Sulfate-Free Shampoo and Koils By Nature Refreshing Anti-Dandruff Cleanser. Of course, these are only recommendations and not rules. If you have a sulfated shampoo that does an amazing job on your hair, feel free to continue to use that.
 
3. Regular Deep Conditioning: When it comes to deep conditioning, anything goes. The idea is to use a product that moisturizes, penetrates, and nourishes the hair, while leaving it smooth and soft, improving elasticity, and laying the cuticle down flat. Most conditioners contain ingredients like stearamidopropyl dimethylamine, cetrimonium chloride and/or behentrimonium methosulfate - all of which are great cationic surfactants that perform excellent in the function of laying down the cuticle. Fatty alcohols like cetyl, stearyl, and cetearyl, combined with oils, butters, and extracts are perfect for softening and smoothing the hair, while plain ol' water does the moisturizing. Of course, there are other ingredients that are helpful too, like ceramides (more on that coming soon), but for now, the basic formula of water, fatty alcohols, cationic surfactants, and oils is more than enough for appropriate deep conditioning. Deep conditioning to improve the elasticity of the hair is critical to preventing breakage - especially at the line of demarcation. Laying cuticles flat via deep conditioning is super duper important in moisture retention - especially for transitioners. Heat damage and relaxing can cause the cuticles to be raised, so any treatments with the above mentioned ingredients are essential to correcting that issue. Note: the cuticles of the hair are akin to shingles on a roof. When raised, the hair structure itself is weakened and prone to breakage. Additionally, it is more difficult to retain moisture when cuticles are raised. Closing the cuticles with deep conditioners helps ward off breakage and make hair less porous.
 
4. ALWAYS Use a Leave-In Conditioner: File this one under "If I knew then what I know now". I used to just slap on some leave-in cocktail I made out of regular conditioner, water, and oil, or skip that altogether and go right in to moisture and styling products. No, no. no. It's levels to this moisture retention game. Always, always, ALWAYS use a leave-in conditioner. No, don't leave regular conditioner in your hair. Use a conditioner that is formulated to be left in the hair that won't cause buildup and other issues.
 
5. Moisurize + Seal: There's a lot of confusion around what constitutes moisture in hair. The answer is simple: water. Every product you see that says "moisturizer" or "hair lotion" or something of that nature on the label is water-based. If water isn't the first ingredient, drop it and run away. You can also feel free to use creams and butters that are water-based in this moisturizing step as well. Products like Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie (my favorite way to use this as a transitioner was mixed with aloe vera gel) and tgin Butter Cream Daily Moisturizer are great water-based moisturizers. You can also click here for a complete list of great moisturizers specifically for transitioning hair. Make sure to layer your moisturizer on top of your leave-in conditioner. After that, seal it all in! The greatest tragedy is to work so hard to infuse moisture into your hair, only for it to escape. Any butter or oil will make a great sealant. Alternatively, if you have really fine hair that is weighed down easily, aloe vera gel is an awesome sealer.
 
 
Moisture//Protein Balance
The last step to preventing breakage is to always (every week or so) assess your moisture and protein balance. If your hair feels chronically dry, amp up the number of deep conditioning, moisturizing, and sealing sessions. If your hair seems especially brittle, a protein treatment is in order. Cant figure out what you need? Take a strand of shed hair and gently tug at it. If it stretches and then returns to its original form, your hair fine and proceed as normal. If it stretches and remains stretched after tugging, you've got too much moisture, and it is time to amp up the protein. If your hair snaps instantly, try protein first to strengthen. If it still doesn't have any give, follow up with a moisturizing treatment. You can also try henna to help strengthen your hair. Here are some of my picks for both:
 
 
 

That's all for now folks! Hopefully this wasn't too much information. Stay tuned for 102C and How to Have a Drama Free Wash Day!

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