Brittle & Dull African Hair

Short African hair
Photo: Djomas/Shutterstock
Q: I have short African hair. My hair is very brittle at the ends. It's also very dull and breaks very easily. What can I do to make my hair shiny and healthy?
A: It sounds like your hair is suffering from dehydration and needs moisture. Commonly, ethnic-African hair tends to be porous, which means it will lose moisture more rapidly through daily exposure to the sun, wind, environmental changes and heat styling.
Hair that is porous has its cuticle layer raised, which is why the hair looks dull. The accompanying loss of moisture caused by the porosity of the hair is why the hair becomes brittle and breaks so easily.
The first thing you need to do is look for a shampoo and conditioner that are both gentle and offer deep moisturizing formulas. Look for products designed specifically for ethnic-African hair. You can also select products designed to care for chemically relaxed hair, because while your hair may not be chemically treated, its condition is the same as if it has been.
You can also look for natural oils and smoothing serums. The natural oils will soften the hair and lock in moisture, while the smoothing serums help to flatten and seal the cuticle layer to make the hair look shiny and healthier.
The key here is to protect and nurture the hair while it grows. Unfortunately, when the hair is damaged, the only changes that can be affected are cosmetic - surface changes. We can however, work to prevent further damage to new hair growth, which means that as the hair grows out we can slowly trim away the damaged ends and eventually have a head full of healthy hair.
You say that your hair is short. Depending on how short, you can see a return to healthier and more attractive hair in as little as 3-6 months. Remember that the hair grows at a rate of 1/2-inch per month on average, so if the hair is three inches in length, you can fully replace the hair in 6 months.
See also: The special needs of African-American hair