Ask Afrobella: Knots and Splits and Dead Ends, Oh My!

It’s been a long time since I left you without an Ask Afrobella to step to! < /corny intro>

Sometimes when I get your Ask Afrobella questions it sparks a bit of an internal dilemma. I’m not really an expert-expert…can I really come up with an answer for this person’s question? Am I truly being as helpful as I could be? Well THIS Ask Afrobella is different on a few levels.

#1 – it’s from a guy! Shoutout to the afrofellas! Afrobellos! Whatever you prefer :)

#2 – I can only answer from my own opinion and experience, so for a REAL answer I turned to an expert in the field. If you’ve dealt with tangles and knots and little balls of hair, read on!

Hi,
I’m Shaquille, I’m an 18 year old Graphic Design student from Mississippi and I have a natural, EXTREMELY thick & curly fro.

I recently cut it all off due to so much damage. I am growing it back as soon as I found out more information about keeping my hair healthier. Anyway, my split ends traveled close to my roots and the knots…..don’t even get me started on knots. I would pull out these little hair balls and it wasn’t from not combing my hair. I would take a shower the night before and within that morning, there would be knots would be there. I’ve tried so many things that I could afford to put in my hair to try and keep it loose but still curly but nothing worked.

I’m a guy and i don’t know much about hair and I’ve asked many of my family members and they all keep telling me the same thing: Relaxers. But, I thought that would defeat the purpose of going natural, and i don’t want to walk around looking silly, haha. So PLEASE, Ms. Afrobella, I need your advice. What can I do to keep my hair healthy and not struggle with trying to combing knots out every morning while still keeping my curls?

Shaquille, two things off the bat.

#1 – I LOVE your hair. Please don’t turn to relaxer. Unless in your heart that’s what you want to do, in which case, do you. But if you truly want to keep your coils (and you should!) just love them and be patient. We’ll do our best here to help you!

#2 – I LOVE that you wrote to ask me this question and I bet many many MANY people reading this will more than identify with you. I get those little hair balls too! For me they usually happen when I haven’t detangled my hair in a while, or if I’ve done haphazard or careless detangling.

One question occurred to me while reading your letter. How exactly are you detangling? My advice is, slather your hair with conditioner – I love a thick, buttery conditioner especially for weekly use. It also helps me if my hair is quite damp. Then use a wide toothed comb and gently comb from the tip of your hair up to the root. I sometimes hold my hair while combing so I don’t pull too hard on the roots while I detangle. This is the ONLY way I detangle my hair, it’s the only way that legitimately works on my hair without too much pulling or struggle.

In terms of product, once you’ve detangled your hair try to use a product that’s moisturizing but will help to maintain your curl pattern. Everyone’s hair likes something different, but for very coarse hair I’d recommend products with a shea butter base. Also, how often do you detangle? I need to do it at least once a week, preferably twice if I want my hair to not be matted. For a really thick texture like what you describe, you may need to detangle even more often. And after you detangle – let’s say you detangled at night like you mentioned. Don’t just go to bed on a regular pillowcase without your hair taken care of! I sleep with a sleep stocking and on a satin pillowcase so my detangling efforts don’t go to waste. Make sure you’re sleeping on a silk or satin pillowcase, it can help with that overnight matting.

I hope that helps somewhat, Shaquille! But to give an even more precise and helpful answer I turned to an expert.

Alecia Tucker-Perkins is known on Twitter as @AfrosNBabyHair. She’s a professional hairstylist who lives and works in Chicago, and is making a major name for herself as a natural hair expert. I shared Shaquille’s question with her and she gave an excellent and detailed answer. Take it away Alecia!

Hey there Shaquille!

Sounds to me like you have one bad case of single strand knots and potentially split ends.

Remember these key points:

1. Single strand knots and split ends are two different conditions.

2. Naturally curly hair is prone to dryness. Due to the coil of the strand, lubrication has to fight to coat the coils.

3. Improper detangling, rough handling of the hair, and dehydration equal a recipe for disaster.

4. “Trichonodosis” is the knotting of the hair strand due to excessive stress, friction, or pulling.

5. “Trichoptilosis is the technical term for “split ends”

* Keep in mind, both conditions can exist on the same head of hair.

Dr. Baby Hair’s Orders:

When detangling the hair, work from ends up to the scalp. This works best on hair lubricated with oil or conditioner as a pre-treatment. Removing shed hairs will keep you from finding loose knot balls of hair later on.

I recommend a full detangle every shampoo. If that’s weekly you could potentially have hundreds of shed hairs lost in your hair jungle. Fully detangling on the day you shampoo will allow you to save your curls the stress of daily combing.

Handle your hair with care to reduce damage due to over manipulation. Minimize the amount of friction on your hair by blotting your hair with a towel as opposed to wringing or rubbing. Keep your hair deep conditioned regularly. Water based moisturizers daily (or as needed) will combat dryness between shampoos.

If you have split ends already, go ahead and get them trimmed. Damaged ends aren’t worth the trouble of keeping, especially when frayed. A clean slate, followed with a solid weekly maintenance schedule will result in well preserved ends. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

For more Natural Hair Chat you can follow me on Twitter @AfrosNBabyHair

And if you are in Chicago and without a hair care home visit styleseat.com/afrosnbabyhair for booking info.

Thanks Alecia!

Shaquille, I hope we were able to help you out and give you the information you need. One of the beautiful things with natural hair is the sharing of information you can find online – via Twitter or on blogs or on YouTube, there’s bound to be someone who can help! I am happy you came to me and I hope this was what you needed.

Bellas, if you have any advice for Shaquille, or want to share your detangling issues and tips, please do! The more information, the better!

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Comments

  1. Is this young man single??

  2. He is my hair twin…I have the same exact problems. This was beyond helpful to me, especially since my splits seem to be traveling up the strands. Are there any type of protein (or other) treatments to combat that?

  3. handsome young man. love his hair and love that he’s curious about the proper care for his natural hair.

  4. candycaines says:

    Afrobella is totally right about finding a good conditioner; Kinky-Curly’s Knot Today is a great one and it’s a leave-in, which I think helps a lot. I also think it’s important to find a spray leave-in or oil (or both) that you can spritz on every morning. Oyin Handmade’s “Juices” are great, Greg Juice, Frank Juice, or Juices ‘n’ Berries. Motions has a natural line and their hair oil is also good (it isn’t organic and has “drug store ingredients”, though, some ingredient snobs won’t love it). A cream moisturizer is good to have around too, like Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk or Hair Butter. The really important thing to do is experiment and see what works best for you :-)

  5. I agree with the previous post and Afrobella. What I have learned with my hair is when I workout, my hair plumps up due to the sweat and humidity. It makes it easier for me to comb out or untwist my hair. Water is also a good way to hydrate the hair. I use a hair spray/moisterizer from Sally’s called seven miracle hair mist(comes in a baby blue bottle). I love it because it smells good and it refreshes my hair and ends.

  6. I forgot to add when I use the seven miracle spray, I can slide my finger through my twist, and it unravels on its own without it getting knotted or stuck together. It took me awhile to get my hair to smooth itself out. I use to hate removing my twists but now I have a way to remove them easily. I wash/condition my hair and retwist on top of my old twist (I wash my hair with twist in, apply the morrocan oil from Sally’s while wet, let air dry a little and untwist, put carol’s daughter hair butter, comb through and retwist again) The morrocan oil helps with frizzyness. I like my hair to look fresh and neat. That is why I do not get it done unless it is for a special occasion. My twist are very small and IMO, it last longer and stay neater this way for me. I am sorry this is a long post but I want to share what works for me. My hair type is 4A/B. I also think working out helps with the removal of my twist.

  7. His hair is gorgeous! So cute. ;)

  8. Sassy_RN says:

    I LOVE HIS HAIR – stay strong and stay with what you want to do – it’s your hair – that being said, I agree with all the other recommendations. One of the biggest helps to my ‘hair ball’ problem is using a satin pillowcase – i usually fall asleep without a bonnet and my curls still look decent in the am. but if I use a cotton pillowcase – tangles and no sheen all day.

  9. What a gorgeous mane! Another conditioner I’ll suggest is the Suave Naturals line, the scents are almond and shea butter, rosemary and mint etc. Being a student, he may not have a large haircare budget. Suave has great slip and detangling is a breeze.

  10. He's Faithful says:

    Afrobella -

    Smart people know when to refer. Great job of getting an expert opinion to answer his question more in depth.

    P.S. I got your intro. That’s my all-time favorite Aliyah song! ;)

  11. Sound advice. I think it’s just a typo where Afrobella wrote, “Then use a wide toothed comb and gently comb from the root of your hair up to the tip.” As Dr. Tucker-Perkins wrote, tip to root is always the way to go– and it’s less painful.

    In addition to sleeping with the proper materials on both hair and pillow (i.e. silk or satin), I think it’s imperative in this case not to sleep with hair loose. Sleeping on loose hair works for some, but those who really struggle with tangles should always put in fat braids or twists before bed. That alone will drastically reduce the hair’s ability to tangle and knot during the night. And, since a rope is always stronger than a single thread, joining your hair strands together in braids or twists will fortify them a bit against any rubbing and friction, particularly if you sleep wild and move your head a lot. Wear and tear + dry hair = split city, so moisturize that beautiful ‘fro and put it away for the day!

    • absolutely right, that was a typo!! Good looking out. Edited and fixed.

      Since I wrote this, I have been experimenting with twists at night and agreed, it’s helped me to keep my hair tangle free (and looks great in the morning!)

  12. Mishara says:

    I really commend him for being a guy who cares about his hair. Also so many men will just cut thier hair off (get a fade) to avoid dealing with thier texture. So I love that he not only cares about his hair’s health but actually wears it LONG/BIG and proud. Please don’t relax your hair, I think single women would LOVE to see more men with full heads of natural hair (something different than the same old locs on brothas).

  13. Wow hes cute…why wasn’t he in my graphic design classes?

  14. HI Im a girl and i have long and thick hair(im a malayalee, from kerala) my problem is when i take tangles out my hair comes out wih it and its sad any help will be appreciated

  15. Hi, I have a few tips on split ends that go beyond this stuff, which in my humble opinion sounds really basic and commonsensical. I am mixed and while my hair is not exactly the same texture as many African Americans (if not all), it is very prone to splitting and breakage because it is curly, fragile, and dry. It has also been long most of my life…

    First off, some people’s hair is more fragile than others, so while Teri Laflesh might be able to go twelve years without a trim, many people cannot and should not try to measure up to that. For most of us, some splits are just going to happen, and the longer your hair gets, the more you will find that sometimes you inevitably need a trim. Do understand though that by finding the best regimen that works for YOU, and by searching and destroying those bad boys regularly, you should not have to deal with so many that you have to cut your hair off every time it gets long.

    Secondly, learn your porosity. Do a strand test by taking a clean strand of hair and putting it in a cup of room temp water. If it does not sink at all, you have low porosity hair, like me, and that means that your hair is going to take more work to moisturize, and you are going to have to take special care with the products you buy. Shea butter is actually good for some ppl with low po hair, but with anything, it must be used correctly because if used any ol way it can actually damage your hair because it closes the cuticle. If the strand sinks to the bottom you have high porosity hair which means your hair takes in moisture fast and easily but loses it just as fast. A relaxer can only permanently devastate high po hair, as can heat of any kind, even heated deep conditioning.

    Third, you need to obsess more about diet than hair. Eating meat, vegetables, eggs, sprouted nuts and seeds, brown rice, and nutritious fermented drinks as well as home made bone broth, these things are key to healthy hair. Keep yourself hydrated at all times. I wake up dehydrated so I keep water right next to me.

    Fourth, moisturize, moisturize, moisture. The more split prone your hair is, the more you need to moisturize. Water is the only true moisturizer, but it has to be sealed in, a good oil or Shea butter should help a lot with sealing in moisture.

    Catnip tea infusions. Go to my youtube channel. Catnip tea is the best for split prone hair.

    Okay now I have a special word on protective styling. Many ppl swear by them. For me, not sure what is going on, because my bloodwork is fantastic, but I am a breastfeeding mom and recently this year my hair was breaking, breaking, breaking until I finally stopped braiding it and wearing buns. Now it is on it’s way back to good health and I am telling you I cannot even do a loose braid at night. However most ppl do not sleep as still and gracefully as I do, so please, try putting your hair up in done way at night once it is again long enough. If you choose protective styling I recommend keeping it loose and simple as possible for your length and texture and never ever do a style that makes moisturizing your hair or washing it a pain. Your hair needs water immersion, not just spritzing, it is not enough long term. However, in between washes, never neglect to moisturize. I cannot speak on how often other ppl should moisturize but for me, my hair is really long and still recovering, I go at it two to three times daily whereas others can get by on it weekly, though in all honesty I question the health of their hair. For me, my hair could look nice for days without moisturizing, but the inside of the strand at this current condition and length will not hold on to the moisture that long so while looking nice on the surface. My ends are splitting before your naked eye. Split ends can be hard to see on curly hair.

    Get trims, I don’t care what anyone says, get trims with sharp shears and dust your hair as often as necessary between trims.

    Try finger detangling your hair when wet with conditioner or dry with coconut oil. If that is not doable, use a wide tooth.

    I do not have tight tight curls, so I actually have to detangle my hair pretty much every day. Plus I cannot wear braids as I mentioned. I never shed or lose too much hair. That has never been an issue for me.

    I want to advise that if you choose to braid your hair, please do not do it when your hair is wet, and if your hair is low porosity, don’t do it when your hair is damp either. Low po hair holds onto moisture for a long long time and if tucked away when water is present this can over soften the strands and cause breakage.

    Also split prone hair should not be brushed!!

    I hope this helps?????

  16. I have worked with hair products as a stylist for 30 years. I have use a;; expensive to inexpensive products! After using the Shielo Sealing Mist on my clients for the last 2 years – I noticed that it was also healing their split ends. Even on really short or really long styles. Besides the fact that it smells great, my clients hair soft and alot easier to comb through.

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