10 Worst Things to Do to Black Hair

Don't Commit These Hair "Sins"

Have you ever wondered why your hair doesn't seem to flourish the way you think it should? The ends are always dry or it's thinning despite your best efforts at hair care. Although it sometimes seems we're doing everything we can to take good care of our tresses, that's not always the case. Are you committing any of these "hair crimes"? If so, that may be why you're not seeing as much growth or shine. These 10 bad things to do to black hair can negatively impair its health, so if you see yourself doing any of them, stop...and see if the health of your mane doesn't improve.

Applying too much heat to black hair is one of the worst things you can do.
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The tools that make our lives easier can also damage your hair when they're misused. That daily "bump" with your trusty curling iron can slowly but surely dry your ends. Even a one-time application with scorching heat can permanently kill your hair, so take it easy. Try gentler methods for providing curl and volume to your tresses, such as wrapping at night or satin-covered rollers. The occasional pass with a thermal styling tool should be safe, but always use a heat protectant as a barrier between a hot iron and your hair.

Good Heat Protectants to Try


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Bleaching is for white clothing, and when it comes to black hair, you need to ask yourself if you want healthy locks or to be a platinum blonde -- because you usually can't have both. Natural hair can sometimes withstand this extreme lightening, but not without heavy and frequent conditioning, but if you wear yours relaxed, choose another color, preferably one that doesn't lift your natural shade more than three levels.

If you use mayonnaise to try and strip a relaxer from your hair, at least you're not doing it permanent damage (though you're not doing anything else besides coating your hair with a condiment). But if you use dish detergent, harsh shampoos or products that promise to strip chemicals out, then you are very likely causing your hair harm. Relaxers are permanent -- once applied to the hair, the chemical process changes it. Nothing will strip a relaxer, so save your vinegar, coconut milk and detergent. Either practice patience or do the big chop. More »

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Using the Wrong Products

Choose the right products for your hair to keep it healthy.
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Walk into most drugstores or discount stores and chances are you'll see the "ethnic hair" aisle or little out-of-the-way corner. It's where retailers to stock products marketed toward African American consumers. The problem is that many of these products aren't good for black hair. They often contain suffocating ingredients like petroleum, or are so heavy that there's no way your hair will "bounce and behave." Instead of reaching for the first jar that promises instant growth (no such thing), look at the ingredients label. If petroleum or petrolatum is one of the first listed, put it back. You can also leave the ethnic aisle altogether and expand your shopping horizons. Brands like Paul Mitchell, Jane Carter Solutions and Shea Moisture work with all hair textures. Your health food store is a great place to shop. There's no need to use cheap, poorly made products that don't benefit your mane.​

Smart Product Picks:

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Shampooing Too Often

Shampooing black hair every 7-10 days is perfectly fine.
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Daily shampooing is fine for some hair textures, but black hair isn't one of them. Even if you shampoo the recommended once or twice a week, make sure you're using gentle cleansers. Avoid any that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, it's the ingredient that gives shampoo lots of lather, which is perfect for stripping natural oils out, the opposite of what you want for well-moisturized tresses that don't break.

Think about this: unless you walk around wearing a hat all day long, your hair is subject to dust, dirty air, grime, and pollution. You wash your body every day -- hopefully. While you shouldn't wash black hair every day, it needs to see some water more often than once a month. Not shampooing and letting dirt build up will not grow your hair. At least once a week is a good schedule to follow for shampooing but consider your lifestyle, too. If you exercise frequently, you may need to incorporate co-washes into your regimen; if your hair is very short and natural, cleansing it three times per week isn't going to be as drying as if your hair is relaxed and colored. Whatever shampoo routine you follow, make it regular. More »

Tight ponytails place too much stress along the hairline.
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A hairstyle shouldn't hurt, and if yours does, or causes tiny bumps to develop at your hairline, it's too tight. Too many children and women have painful hairdos that aren't necessary. This doesn't mean you can't wear a sleek ponytail if you know it looks good on you, but it does mean you need to loosen it before bed and not wear this same style day after day. Braids are a wonderful low-maintenance, protective 'do when done correctly. When done incorrectly, they can be a fast track to sparse hairlines and permanent hair loss. More »

By now, you probably know not to apply relaxer to previously processed hair, but with so many people applying chemicals at home, it's all too easy to make this mistake. Add permanent color (especially shades that lighten) to straightened hair and you often have a recipe for disaster or at least overprocessed tresses. To avoid this hair crime, it's best to see a stylist for relaxer and color applications. It's also a good idea to have an honest stylist on hand, one who will tell you that ash blonde isn't going to do anything for your relaxed hair except dry it out. Sometimes, we can't get everything we want in our hairstyle -- that's what weaves are for. More »

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Rough Handling

Treat your hair gently!
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Almost everyone gets tangles at some point, but it's how you handle them that determines whether you retain your hair or whether you pull it out. Instead of yanking at tangles, work through them with your fingers first and then with a wide-tooth comb. Detangle while your hair is saturated with conditioner if necessary. If you're in a hurry, save your untangling for when you're not -- it's when we're in a rush to do things that so often leads to pulling roughly instead of working through gently.

Ladies who are trying to grow longer locks often have a hard time with this one, but cutting away split ends is essential for healthy hair. Would you rather have a lengthy mane with thin, see-through sections where it's broken off? Or would you rather start off shorter, but with strong, thick locks? Unfortunately, some women choose the first option and walk around with unhealthy hair that shows. Split ends don't fix themselves -- you must trim them away as needed to prevent them from traveling further up the hair shaft and splitting even more. More »