The main factor of hair breakage on fine hair is fragility.
Yes, hair breaks when it’s overly dry or overly processed or overly manipulated. However, when your hair is fine, it’s more subject to breakage due to how fragile the strands are.
For those of us with fine NATURAL (aka kinky curly) hair, keeping the curls clumped can help prevent breakage and ultimately lead to length retention.
Before I get into the why and how of clumping your curls, let’s take a basic look at the structure of fine hair followed by an overview of a hair’s growth cycle.
The Structure of Hair + What’s Missing in Fine Hair
The cuticle: the outer most layer of the hair shaft composed of cells that appear like “shingles” over-lapping. When your shingles are very tight, it’s difficult for moisture to get into your hair strand (low porosity hair). When your shingles are too loose or raised, your hair quickly looses moisture (high porosity hair).
The cortex: the middle layer of the hair responsible for providing your hair with it’s strength, elasticity and pigment.
The medulla: the innermost, nearly invisible layer of the hair that’s loosely connected by cells to allow for air space. Scientists haven’t discovered a real purpose for this layer of the hair shaft.
Fine hair lacks one layer of hair, the medulla.
That one layer of hair that gives thicker strands their extra “bulk” is missing in fine hair. Hence, the strand is much more fragile and prone to breakage.
As you can see, the structure of fine hair definitely plays a role in its tendency to break.
Hair Growth Cycle – The Lifespan
Once you understand your hair’s structure, it’s important to be aware of how hair grows.
The hair growth cycle is composed of three main cycles, anagen, telogen and catagen.
Anagen: the active phase of the growth cycle where a new hair is pushed out or shed. A hair can live in this phase from as little as two years to as much as six years or more.
Telogen: the resting phase of the hair growth cycle where the hair’s follicle is completely at rest.
Catagen: a transitional stage of hair growth lasting a few weeks. It occurs at the end of the anagen phase. A small percentage of hair all over your head is always in this phase.
Those are the commonly taught cycles that make up the life span of a given hair. Yet, that life span’s cycle is incomplete. Breakage is never mentioned as a part of the hair’s lifespan cycle.
Hair breakage IS a part of every hair’s life cycle and shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s not limited to fine hair. Even thick hairs break. The cause of hair breakage ranges from wear and tear (hair simply gets old) to chemical abuse.
Preventing Breakage in Fine Hair
With respect to hair’s structure and in spite of the potential for breakage at any point in the hair growth cycle, it is possible to cut down and prevent breakage in fine hair.
Aside from keeping the proper balance of moisture and protein, preventing breakage in fine natural hair can be done by clumping the curls and then leaving them alone (at least allowing only for minimal manipulation between wash days).
Why Clumping Your Curls Prevents Breakage
It’s not necessarily a science but more of an observation. Say you have one lone fine curl. All on its own, it’s somewhat of a lone ranger.
You’ve probably heard the saying, there’s safety in numbers. If you haven’t, let me be the first to introduce you to it as it applies to hair.
Take multiple fine curls, clump them together and you’ve created what could be called one big protective curl unit.
For so long we’ve only viewed protective styling as hiding the ends of the hair away. Another way to look at protecting your hair while styling it is by clumping your curls together to protect them.
How to Clump Curls
It’s not difficult to prevent breakage in fine hair by clumping your curls. It’s very simple to do and can be done in a number of ways:
- Using your fingers, take individual curls between your fingers and coil them together. Finger coiling is the actual term.
- When styling hair in a wash and go, instead of raking or shingling product through the hair, smooth the hair in medium to large sized sections and scrunch the hair upward to encourage clumping.
- Spiral set hair in small rod setting rollers and don’t separate the curls when removing the rollers.
- Two strand twisting the hair – Hair is still in its naturally curly state when twisted but clumped together in sections.
Clumping your curls is a very effective way of preventing breakage in fine hair that’s naturally curly. It allows you to maintain many of your favorite hairstyles while keeping your individual strands protected amongst themselves.