Before you read about ways to repair damaged natural hair, let’s get this out of the way. The only true fix for damaged natural hair is to cut out the damage and let it grow out.
Now that we’ve got the truth out of the way, below you will find tips to help you treat your hair so that if you don’t want to cut it, you don’t have to.
While trimming or cutting is the obvious solution to getting rid of damaged hair, there are some things you can do to support healthier hair and prevent further damage.
How Do I Know If My Natural Hair is Damaged?
Before we get into the actions you can do to treat damaged hair, let’s first examine the signs that point to your natural hair being damaged in the first place.
Here are the clues to look for to determine if your hair has been damaged:
- Your ends are splitting excessively.
- Your curls appear stringy or there’s straight pieces amongst the curls. This is likely heat damage.
- There’s a change in porosity – your hair has gone from low or medium porosity to high porosity.
- Your hair is no longer retaining moisture – this is closely tied to a change in hair porosity.
- There’s excessive dryness coupled with excessive breakage.
- Your hair feels rough and the cuticle isn’t laying smooth. Check out: Why you want your cuticle as smooth as possible.
- Hair should be able to slightly stretch without breaking. This is elasticity. Your hair has none.
- Hairstyles that once looked good no longer do and it has nothing to do with a change in length or styling products.
- If after clarifying your hair and using the same stylers, there’s still no change, it’s because your hair is likely damaged. For ex: Your wash and go looks stringy and the curl units separate too easily.
Can Damaged Hair Be Repaired?
As mentioned at the start of this article, it’s not possible to repair hair that’s been damaged. I know that there are some wild claims out there saying that it can be done but consider this…
If you damaged a piece of material made with delicate fibers, could you repair it to its original state?
No, you cannot. What you can do is:
- Patch it
- Sew it
- Glue it
- Cut away the damaged fibers and fuse new material to it
In each of these cases, the original material has been temporarily “fixed” but not completely restored to its original glory. Only the Creator, God can take something damaged and make it brand new but I digress.
It’s very much the same with hair, which is also a delicate fiber.
All of the products on the market are intended to patch and fill in gaps along the hair shaft to strengthen it. The damage is still there. It’s just not as obvious.
Ways to Treat Damaged Natural Hair
The methods for treating hair that’s been damaged are intended to help preserve the hair as healthier hair grows out.
Then, when the time is right you can cut or trim out the damage. In some cases, the damaged hair may even shed before new hair grows in.
In the meantime, here are some actions you can take to treat damaged natural hair:
I. Kick up your deep conditioning
Deep conditioning is beneficial for all hair but it’s critical for damaged hair because it helps with moisture retention which you need for healthy hair.
Concentrate your deep conditioner product on the damaged areas of your hair. Follow the manufacturers instructions but leave the product in your hair a little longer (not over night; just another 15 or 20 minutes).
Read about the Benefits of Deep Conditioning Here
II. Give your hair some much needed strength
When hair gets damaged, it’s the structural integrity of the hair that’s at risk. The protein bonds are weakened and hair can really start breaking if not addressed.
Do a protein treatment ASAP when you find your hair severely breaking. You can also add strengthening herbs to your deep conditioner to help fortify your hair.
Here’s a video that provides just the right information on using the king of strengthening herbs to fortify fine natural hair:
You can create a DIY hair mask containing herbs that strengthen or use protein treatment masks from the store. The important thing is that you do use something.
III. Make Sure Your Moisture and Protein Levels are Balanced
When your hair has too much protein (protein overload), your hair becomes brittle and prone to breakage; Too much moisture and your hair loses volume, vitality and is more prone to split ends.
Conversely your hair still needs moisture and protein. When your hair is damaged, it will be dry and brittle. Moisture is necessary to treat those conditions.
Also, protein strengthening treatments are needed to fill in areas along the hair shaft where those protein bonds have been broken or weakened.
As you can see, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Yet, with the right balance you are able to successfully treat or support hair that’s been damaged.
IV. Try a Hot Oil Treatment
Warm oils are great for giving your hair a bit of TLC. When damage creates really dry and crispy feeling hair, hot oil treatments can treat the problem.
Just remember, this is helping to temporarily address one symptom to the problem of your damaged natural hair.
V. Stop All Damaging Hair Practices
If you have natural hair that’s damaged, the first thing you want to do is stop doing things that will continue to damage it. These include, but are not limited to:
- Heat styling with flat irons, straightening combs (or brushes), crimping irons, and hot rollers
- Pulling your hair into tight hairstyles
- Using chemical treatments (straighteners, permanent color etc.)
- Brushing wet hair with a brush not intended for use on wet hair
- Back combing or teasing your hair (This is especially damaging for fine hair)
- Deep conditioning over night (This can cause hygral fatigue, throwing your protein balance off)
- Washing your hair too often (another cause of hygral fatigue)
You’d think that it’s just common sense to stop doing things that damage your hair in the first place. However, not all actions are as obvious to everyone. That’s OK.
I can’t recall the number of things I’ve done (not even hair related) that were counter-productive to my goals.
Recommended read: Are you sure your hair’s really Heat Damaged?
When It’s Time to Pull Out the Scissors
Lastly, when all else fails and you don’t see any improvement with hair treatments and ceasing damaging activities, trim or cut your hair.
The tips shared above were to help those with damaged natural hair to avoid trimming or cutting for as long as possible. Yet, may come a time when the damage is just too severe and you’ll have to cut.
The good news is your hair will grow back (as long as you’ve not damaged your hair follicles).