Welcome to our first blog post.
This and subsequent blog posts aim to highlight common hair problems that I see on a daily basis with patients who come to my clinic. I will offer possible solutions, explain what is the truth and what is myth and also hopefully initiate discussion on the topics. Importantly I want our audience to be able to contact us with comments and questions as receiving feedback ensures that the Fulham Scalp and Hair Clinic can continue to offer tailored and relevant advice.
As a Clinic that specialises in afro hair, many topics may revolve around the damage, treatment and maintenance of afro hair, but if your have a question about a different hair type we are still more than able to help so don't feel discouraged to contact us.
Blow-dryers and straighteners
Today I want to start discussing some common bad habits that leave hair with much to be desired. Blow drying and straightening are techniques that many people over indulge in when changing the look of their hair, but the subsequent damage can build up and cause hair breakage as well as reducing hair length.
Blow drying and straightening have the obvious weapon in common of direct and intense heat. Their use requires the application of a high temperature on a small amount of hair. However, this is essentially desiccating the hair, stripping all moisture from it and in some instances burning it completely.
There is also the effect of the round bristle brush which is often forgotten. Bristle brushes, by the nature of their uneven but natural texture, can scratch and shred the hair shaft making it easier for the hair to dry out and break, forming split ends. When that is followed by high levels of heat from hair-dryers or straighteners then you can be sure that you have dragged out every last drop of moisture from the hair shaft.
If this treatment is infrequent the hair might be able to withstand the damage, but when a habit is made of it, the effects are clear and noticeable.
What is left of the hair is similar to straw; dry, inflexible and easily breakable and this effect of heat on the hair is really enhanced in Afro hair as it is more porous than European and Asian hair types and so more easily dries out.
It’s a vicious cycle!
I understand that, particularly with very curly or Afro hair, one can end up relying on their straighteners and dryer to style their hair. Yet the more you use these pieces of equipment, the drier the hair gets and the more difficult it becomes to style it without them. It’s a vicious cycle, one which can leave men and women's hair addicted to their heat stylers.
As prolonged use sets in, many start to notice sever hair breakage, loss of sheen and vitality and a real difficulty to achieve and maintain length with their hair. The hair's growth is battling against the breakage at the ends, giving the impression that the hair has stopped growing. It hasn't stopped growing of course, but when the ends are constantly fraying and breaking, it’s like taking one step forward with growth but one step back with damage, giving the impression that length is remaining the same.
It’s at this point that we get many patients coming to my clinic, upset that their hair has changed from what they remembered it to be and depressed that it won’t grow.
Those that haven't sought out my help either have sense enough to cut off the damaged hair and start again without or with less heat, whilst others may go in the opposite direction and apply extensions or weaves to hide the lack of growth and provide versatility for styles. The use of extensions and weaves are a contentious subject for me, but I'll leave that for another post in the future.
When I see this type of damage in the hair of my patients and have explained to them how and why it’s occurring, the recovery process begins. Damaged hair should be regularly trimmed and then the hair should be thoroughly steam treated with a rich and nourishing mask to rehydrate the hair. I would introduce more gentle approaches to drying hair after washing if naturally drying your hair isn't feasible. My personal preference is the use of rollers and a hood dryer.
Until the next post, all the best
Teresa Angelina Richardson MIT