It's easy to talk about things that keep ethnic hair healthy like gentle handling and good conditioners, but if those were the only things that mattered, everyone's hair would be doing great. In reality, despite meticulous efforts to grow a long, thick head of hair, many women still struggle to maintain length and reach their other hair goals. To get past a length hurdle or stop persistent breakage you have to realize one important thing: Damage is unavoidable. If your hair isn't making progress that means it is being damaged faster than it can recover.
Whether your hair is natural or relaxed, combing and brushing is stressful for your strands and should be kept to a minimum.
Every time you move or touch your hair, the cuticle layers of each strand rub up against each other and cause tiny abrasions, similar to light scratches. Those little abrasions may not affect how your hair looks or feels but they are always there. If you pull your hair roughly and follow up with a comb or a brush, you've inflicted a lot of stress on your hair at one time. True, there are some women who can comb and brush their hair all day without a problem, but those women usually have thick straight or wavy hair.
"Damage prone" is really an understatement when describing African American and Multi-Ethnic hair.
No matter what your hair type, the longer your hair gets, the more dry and tangle prone it will be. Shoulder length hair is already about 3 years old, so any weaknesses in your hair care routine will begin to show, just like bad eating habits start to catch up with you as you get older. If you hit a plateau in your healthy hair journey, get at least ½ inch cut off by a professional to remove any split or severely damaged ends. Then start a consistent routine of shampooing and applying a reconstructing treatment every week or two.
Whatever you do, just don't make the mistake of thinking you've avoided damaging your hair. The only way to avoid damage is not to touch your hair as it grows out of your scalp, and we all know that's impossible. If you love your hair, you want to style it and use it to express yourself. There's nothing wrong with that! You wouldn't buy a beautiful new sweater and leave it on the shelf all the time. What fun would that be? Instead, you have to wear it lightly, wash it gently, and get small holes mended as soon as they appear.
Updated September 18 2012