[protein treatment for natural hair]How to keep your hairline strong when you have a protective hairstyle
We willingly suffer through the bum-numbing, scalp-itching hours, watching the skilled fingers transforming our hair from “now” to “wow”, but how often do we spare a thought for the lingering effects trendy hairdos can have on our hairline?
Protective hairstyles look great, and can be a time saver. But sometimes they can be pulled so tight that it takes days to be able to see your blind spot when driving.
Keneilwe Pholo, stylist and owner of Azania Hair Boutique in Johannesburg, has seen style trends and their resulting damage come and go during her three years behind the salon hot seat. She sees a lot of clients with receding hairlines.
“We see a lot of hair breakage and damage in the salon and it’s mostly because clients don’t moisturise their hair, which causes it to be dry and easily breakable. A lot of clients who relax their hair don’t treat or moisturise the relaxed hair. You need a protein treatment to make your hair stronger,” she says.
Keneilwe says a receding hairline has one major cause: traction. “Stylists plait hair too tight and pull on the hairline. It causes the hairline to become almost bald. Once that happens, there’s actually nothing in the salon I can recommend.”
Once the follicles disappear and the root damage becomes permanent, only a dermatologist might be able to help, she says.
So how can we prevent further damage to a receding hairline? “If there’s still a bit of hair left, I would recommend staying away from plaiting for a bit, while you get your hair treated, to allow your hair and hairline to grow back,” she says.
“When we plait at the salon, we leave the ‘baby hair’ out. We don’t plait these, but rather put gel on them to layer them. We only plait where there’s an adequate amount of hair.”
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What damage hairpieces can cause? Keneilwe says plaiting with a “straight-back” hairpiece (and not braids) from the start of the hairline, also causes some pulling. She suggests to always start plaiting with your own hair and to only add hairpieces at the end.
This is her chosen method when working with children. “With kids we prefer to not plait with a hairpiece if they’re doing a straight-up style. We’d rather plait with their natural hair and only add the hairpiece on the ends. That way it’s not sore for the kids and there’s no pulling involved.”
Her team also prefers to do needle plaits with shorter hair. “With this method, you are not pulling on the hair. You’re just plaiting with a needle.”
The salon uses a popular threading style called “Benny and Betty” for longer hair, because it involves very little pulling. “You sort of hold the hair and work it all around – that’s how you plait the rest of the hair.”
She says braids are a good protective style, as are cornrows – “but not too thin”.
“Anything that’s too thin, might cause a bit of traction and pulling.”
Keneilwe recommends massaging Jamaican Black Oil into the affected area twice daily – in the morning and evening – for clients with a receding hairline. “Or they could use any shea butter and melt it in their hand and then apply it to the hairline daily.”
Pulling is not the only culprit. Keneilwe says blow dryers can cause as much damage to the hairline.
“We don’t use a blow dryer at all,” Keneilwe says. “If clients start blow drying from the roots and they keep combing the hair outward, it can cause already fragile hair from the hairline to come out. We also do not do those tiny, thin braids, because if the client keeps it in for too long, the braids end up coming out with the client’s hair,” she says.
“We prefer to do box braids and obviously if your hair is short, then we do what we call a ‘double plait’, where we extend the hair a little bit with a hairpiece before we plait, so that the braids aren’t pulling on your already short hair.”
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Do they have clients who suffer from alopecia? (A medical condition that causes balding from hair loss.)
“Oh yes,” Keneilwe says. “And there is absolutely nothing we can do for the client. Pulling on the hairline makes it worse.”
Haidee Muller is a radio presenter from Cape Town who suffers from alopecia. “I was diagnosed with alopecia in 2003. For the longest time I hid it, too ashamed to talk about losing my hair. When you lose your hair and know it’s never going to grow back again, you miss it like you would a relative that’s died.”