CHAPTER 1: SOME BASICS
CHAPTER 2: CHEMICAL DAMAGE
CHAPTER 3: EXCESSIVE TRIMMING
CHAPTER 4: AVOIDING SETBACKS
CHAPTER 6: MOISTURE
CHAPTER 7: PRE-POO
It is no secret (I hope) that excessive manipulation of the hair can lead to breakage. This includes excessive combing. (For studies on combing and hair damage, see below.) A big part of retaining length involves minimizing hair breakage, and one way to do this is to develop a minimal/no combing routine.
Now for the questions: How do you detangle your without a comb? How do you keep your hair groomed within the week? How do you minimize/eliminate comb usage altogether? Well, here are some strategies ...
1. WEAR PROTECTIVE STYLES
Wear styles that require no manipulation and protect the ends of the hair. Examples of such styles, include buns, twists, braids, updos, bantu knots, cornrows, sew-ins, wigs, etc.
2. WEAR LOW-MANIPULATION STYLES
Wear styles that require little manipulation. Examples of such styles, include ponytails, strawsets, twistouts, braidouts, bantu knotouts, rollersets, etc.
3. USE YOUR FINGERS TO STYLE
Freshen up certain hairstyles with your fingers instead of running for the comb. Rollersets, braidouts, and twistouts can be fluffed with the fingers. If you are either really skilled or do not care about the parting, your fingers can be used to make sections for braids and twists.
4. USE YOUR FINGERS TO DETANGLE
When taking down braids or twists, your fingers may be sufficient detangling tools. There are some cases in which the comb will be needed, but starting off with your fingers will help to reduce breakage from combing.
5. WASH IN TWISTS/BRAIDS
This step will minimize tangling thus minimizing the need for a comb.
For some of us, the comb cannot be avoided entirely, so here are some tips to minimize damage when it is used:
1. OPT FOR A WIDE TOOTH COMB
Wide tooth combs are by far less destructive than thin tooth combs, rattail combs, and brushes. Their bigger teeth are less likely to damage the cuticles and break the hair.
2. MOISTURIZE, PROTECT, & LUBRICATE THE HAIR BEFORE COMBING
Combing dry hair is asking for trouble, in my opinion. At the very least, ensure that the hair is moisturized. Moisturized hair equals soft, pliable hair that is able to withstand combing. When it comes to detangling, it is encouraged to do so on damp hair (not too wet, not too dry) that is protected and lubricated with conditioner. Not just any conditioner will do; use one that has ingredients that -- let me say this again --protect and lubricate the hair. What are some examples of conditioners that do this? Deep conditioners containing protein and oil (e.g., protein conditioner or egg mixed with extra virgin olive oil), coconut oil and cholesterol (e.g., coconut oil mixed with LustraSilk), or protein and cholesterol (e.g., egg mixed LustraSilk, LeKair). Protection comes from coconut oil or protein; lubrication comes from oil, cholesterol, or both. Cholesterol can also weigh the hair down, thus stretching the curl pattern temporarily; this is an added benefit for those with natural hair since it eases the detangling process. Allow whatever deep conditioner you use to penetrate and soften the hair for at least 20 minutes prior to combing.
3. BE PATIENT
Impatience while combing can lead to breakage or ripping the hair out from the roots.
4. START COMBING FROM THE ENDS
.. then the middle, then the roots.
MY MINIMAL/NO COMBING ROUTINE:
(I only comb 1x a month or couple of months. The routine was derived from a popular member on a natural hair care forum.) 07/12/2010 UPDATE: This routine was while my hair was short/medium length. As it's gotten longer, I've gradually increased the combing to 1-2x a month.
*ALTERNATE BETWEEN TWISTS & TWISTOUTS:
Twists, twists, and more twists. I move directly from one twist style to another using my fingers alone. If I feel like wearing a loose style, I move from twists to a twistout. I wear the twistout for a few days and then go back to twists using my fingers alone. No comb. As I move into a new set of twists, I am sure to remove shed hair and detangle with my fingers.
*WASH IN TWISTS:
I usually wash my hair in its current twist style. Doing this minimizes tangling of the strands. Once my hair is done airdrying, I either wear the twists for some days, redo them, or undo the twists for a twistout. I try not to wash my hair loose.
When washing in my twist style, I try not to manipulate the roots too much. Doing so will cause premature matting.
*WEAR LOOSE HAIR FOR SHORT PERIOD:
I try not to wear a twistout for too long. My max duration is somewhere between 2-4 days before tangling starts to occur. When my hair was shorter, I was able to get away with 5-7 days.
ABSTRACTS ON BLACK HAIR & COMBING DAMAGE:
African hair length: the picture is clearer.
What is normal black African hair? A light and scanning electron-microscopic study.
African hair length in a school population: a clue to disease pathogenesis?
Apparent fragility of African hair is unrelated to the cystine-rich protein distribution: a cytochemical electron microscopic study.
ABSTRACTS ON HAIR BREAKAGE & COMBING:
Hair breakage during combing. III. The effects of bleaching and conditioning on short and long segment breakage by wet and dry combing of tresses.
Hair breakage during combing. IV. Brushing and combing hair.
Hair breakage during combing. I. Pathways of breakage.