The Importance of Wet Assessment
Though hair health assessments can be performed on dry hair, determining your cause of breakage is often easiest on wet hair. Hair in its wet state exudes the basic properties of elasticity and strength excellently. In fact, these qualities are often exaggerated on wet hair. Thorough and frequent wet assessments will help you maintain your hair’s health and condition.
Hair in its optimal condition will not break when wet unless undue stress is placed upon it through aggressive combing, detangling, or unusual types of pulling stress. Balanced hair will feel soft and supple, yet strong while wet. When you comb through it, it should resist excess stretching and will hardly break if you are careful. Over time, and with trial and error, you will be able to tell what is normal stress for your hair.
If your hair does indeed break when wet, the way the hair breaks under these conditions will give you a sure indication of whether more moisture or protein is required to regain the proper balance.
How Do I Perform a Proper Wet Assessment?
It would be difficult for you to wet assess your hair by holding a single strand and pulling on both ends. That type of stress would be considered “undue” stress, because no single hair is ever really subjected to that sort of tension at one time. Any strand of hair (healthy or not) that you pull on by both ends has the potential to snap depending on the pressure you apply to it. Hair should be wet assessed by the normal act of combing though it or touch-testing it.
Wet Assessment Hair Breakage Break Down
If your hair:
(When Wet or Dry) Stretches slightly and returns to its original length without breaking, you are balanced! Stick with maintaining!
(When Wet or Dry) Stretches a little more than normal then breaks, you need more protein in your regimen.
(When Wet or Dry)Stretches, stretches, stretches with no significant breakage yet, add a bit more protein to your regimen.
(Wet)- Feels weak, gummy, mushy, or limp, you need to add more protein to your regimen.
(Wet or Dry) Experiences very little to no stretching, and simply snaps or breaks, you need to increase the moisture in your regimen.
(Dry) Feels rough, tough, hard, dry, tangly, brittle, or any combination of those, you need more moisture in your regimen.
Unsure? Err on the side of caution and give your hair more moisture. So now that you have figured out what type of hair breakage you have, what should you do?
When the Balance is thrown off by too much protein
Hair that is shifted too far on the protein side will break easier, both wet and dry, because it lacks elasticity. Elasticity is what allows us to style, stretch, and manipulate our hair without breakage. Hair that breaks with very little tension or stretching is a sign of an overabundance of protein, and a deficiency of moisture. Any type of stretching or tension will break it because the protein goes in and adds structure to the hair. Too much structure makes the hair rigid, and decreases its elasticity. The result? Brittle, breakage-prone hair. This was the issue with Kim’s hair. She was feeding her hair more protein than she needed to maintain a healthy balance.
If this describes your hair at any time listen up! To correct this imbalance, you will need to go into a simple deep conditioning and moisturizing regimen. Protein induced breakage conditions can take several weeks to correct repair, and this form of breakage requires much more intensive conditioning and treatment than moisture induced breakage does. It is by far one of the most aggressive and common forms of breakage. It is much easier to overload your hair with protein and cause breakage, than to overload your hair with moisture and cause breakage. That is why if you are not sure what is causing your hair breakage, you should always try giving it moisture first. Depending on your level of breakage, this regimen may need to be followed for consecutive washes.
Clarify your hair with a really good stripping shampoo like Pantene Pro-V Purity ($3-$5) to remove any excess product buildup. Then, deep condition your hair for 30-45 minutes once, preferably twice a week with heat with a thick, creamy moisturizing deep conditioner. Apply a water-based moisturizer to your hair, concentrating on the ends daily. I would watch out for excess protein in common products like leave in conditioners, moisturizers, gels, and instant conditioners like Suave and V05. Protein hides in a lot of everyday products, so avoid those for a few weeks until your moisture balance is corrected. This will give your hair a chance to even out the protein/moisture balance.
When the Balance is thrown off by too much moisture
Yes! There is such a thing as “over-conditioning” the hair and Trina found that out the hard way. Hair that is shifted too far on the moisture side will be “super-elastic” and stretch more because it lacks a sound protein structure. Many people describe the feel of over-conditioned and over-moisturized hair as “mush-like” or “overly soft,” especially when wet. This kind of hair has a weak, limp, spongy feel to it. Protein deficient hair will tend to pull and stretch along with the comb and then break. It will always stretch first then break because of the low structural protein stores, and overabundance of moisture. Does this describe your hair? Listen up!
To solve this problem, you will need some kind of protein to give the hair structure again. Moisture Induced hair breakage is typically corrected in one protein deep conditioning session. The mildest forms can be corrected by simply moisturizing the hair twice a day with a protein-based water based moisturizer. For mild breakage, Aphogee 2 minute keratin reconstructor works very well. For moderate to heavy breakage, apply a moderate protein conditioner like Organic Root Stimulator Hair Mayo to the hair for about 20-30 minutes, then rinse. For serious or long standing forms of moisture induced breakage opt for a heavier protein treatment like Aphogee Treatment for Damaged Hair.
Even if your hair is stretching without breakage you should use a light protein product to correct this. When your hair stretches, the strand “thins” and becomes weaker across the cross section. It may not break right then at that very point in time, but stretched out of and beyond its shape, it is compromised and will eventually break at some other point. Your hair should be springing back to position. If it’s stretching and stretching without breaking it may be your hair’s way of telling you, “Hey, I need a little structure (protein) here! I’m getting waaaay too elastic, but not yet enough to break– so do something now!” This is where a preventive maintenance protein application would come in. You don’t have to wait for breakage to act. Your hair is telling you now! Start light, and work from there. You may not need a heavy protein treatment just yet.