Last week’s post on how to breakage proof hair brought up a question on the tiny wisps, coils or c’s. If your hair has tight curls and is kinky, you will almost definitely have seen these tiny little bits of hair. If you have not, then try to wear a white t-shirt or cover your shoulders with a white towel the next time you are detangling. These tiny wisps are indeed a form of breakage which can be greatly reduced but not prevented altogether. Here is why:
1. No action needed: Tiny wisps as a ‘normal’ feature
As stated in the introduction, if your hair is kinky and has tight curls, this type of breakage is a feature. You can almost always be able to get a few wisps simply by running your hand down your hair. The reason for this is that kinky hair is just more susceptible to this type of breakage. You can read a more detailed breakdown here. If you see a few (say 10 or less) c-shaped coils when you run your hand over your hair, you should not worry much, it is not serious.
2. Breakage reduction: Tiny wisps seen during dry handling (combing or styling)
If you see a breakage collection of over 10 tiny c-shaped coils when you comb (including finger combing) or style your hair, then you should be concerned about breakage. Some common reasons for seeing multiple small c-shaped curls include
-Overdetangling: I can seriously recommend that everyone should read Geniece’s piece on why some natural hair really just does not need to be detangled such that you can run a comb through from root to tip several times. In some cases it is counterproductive and encourages your hair ends which are repeatedly combed to break off.
-Rough handling: Please remember that no matter how gentle you think you are, your hair is the judge. Many finger combers think they are gentle by default but this is not true. If you are seeing many tiny little wisps, then you really must subdivide your hair even more, proceed more gently and reconsider what you are using to make your hair more flexible (sometimes oil is not enough, a mist of water or a little conditioner may be needed to make hair flexible).
-Heat use: I still remember the days in the salon when I would have my hair blow dried and see a million little curls on the floor and thought it was normal. Of course, I also thought neck length was normal too. If you see these tiny curls when using a heat tool even at low heat, consider the fact that your hair perhaps is not suited to heat treatment.
-Lack of moisture: Simply dipping your hands in water and running them over your hair prior to styling can really help in terms of making your hair just flexible enough for styling without creating unnecessary shrinkage. This little bit of flexibility will help to counter breakage as the hair is able to bend and twist more easily for manipulation.
3. Breakage reduction: Tiny wisps seen during wet handling / conditioner combing
In practice, it is more common to see breakage in long sections which can be mistaken for shed hair during wet handling. This is because water changes the balance between flexibility and strength of hair. More water means greater flexibility but a matching decrease in strength allowing the hair to break easily closer to the root when tugged. If you do see tiny wisps during wet handling or conditioner combing the most likely reason is that you are repeatedly combing the same area too many times. If you have only done 2-3 passes and end up with breakage, consider perhaps that your hair is no longer suited to conditioner combing. You may need to try a ‘drier’ method for example undiluted conditioner without wetting hair with water prior to application or a mix of conditioner and oil or using oil on its own. I do not encourage using protein treatments as they are just a temporary fix to breakage, finding the real mechanical cause will help to make length retention the norm.