Sometimes we forget just how fragile our curls can be. Even if we avoid putting colors, chemicals or heat in our hair, there are still so many other ways we experience damage.
Part of the curly hair journey is learning to catch the signs of damage and recognizing when your curls might need some extra TLC! Having trouble spotting damage on your own? We’ve got your back. Here are some of the telltale signs that your curls are going through it!
10 Signs of Damaged Curls
Since curly hair is far more fragile than other hair types, damage can really affect the way your curls look and feel. Understanding the type of damage you have can sometimes point toward clues as to what might have caused it.
1. SPLIT ENDS
Every curly girl knows to look out for split ends, but did you know that splitting can occur in the middle of the hair shaft, too? Split ends can wreak havoc if they aren’t dealt with, especially if the cause of damage persists. Numerous things can cause split ends: dryness, over-manipulation, excess friction, snapping, heat/color damage... Name it!
Take extra care to moisturize your ends and get your curls trimmed by a stylist a few times a year to keep split ends at bay and prevent them from traveling further up the hair shaft.
2. TEXTURE CHANGE
Stringy, straight ends and looser curl patterns. These sorts of noticeable changes in texture can be a red flag. Excessive heat is usually the culprit, but bleach/color damage, dryness or over-manipulation can be contributing factors as well.
Can’t tell if your hair has changed or if you’re just imagining it? Try referencing some older pictures of yourself and compare your hair to how it looks now. If your hair has changed since then, it’ll be much easier to tell.
3. LACK OF ELASTICITY
As a curly girl, sometimes embracing your shrinkage can be hard to do. On the flip side, one of our favorite things to do is to stretch out our curls and watch them spring back into place. All fun aside, shrinkage is a sign of strong, healthy hair.
Damaged hair loses its elasticity, which is what causes our curl patterns to loosen and stretch. If your curls are looking a little limp, adding a deep conditioning step to your routine can help restore elasticity and bring back your bounce.
4. DRY & BRITTLE
Listen to your curls! If they are feeling uncharacteristically dry, then it’s time to turn up the hydration. Try spritzing with water daily to keep your hair hydrated and use oil on top to seal the moisture in. This paired with a weekly deep conditioning treatment will put your curls back on track.
5. TANGLES EASILY
The first step to battling to stubborn knots and tangles is to arm yourself with the right tools. But if you’re constantly wrestling with your hair, or find that your curls are tangling up almost right after you’ve just detangled them, then something just isn't right. Dry and damaged strands create more friction and snag on to each other more easily.
Be sure to be gentle when tackling these knots. If you’re too rough, you risk snapping your strands, which will leave split ends where your tangles used to be.
6. BREAKING & SNAPPING
It’s normal to see some shedding while styling and detangling, but it’s important to know the difference between shedding and breakage. Since shedding is part of your hair’s natural growth cycle, shed hairs will typically match the length of your curls.
Damaged strands break off at the weakest point in the hair shaft and typically vary in lengths but are usually a lot shorter than your overall length. While hydrating and deep conditioning can help fortify your curls, cutting off weak and brittle ends is the best way to prevent further damage to your hair.
7. EXCESSIVE FRIZZ
Nobody knows your own curls better than you. You know what is and isn’t a normal amount of frizz for your hair. Of course, there are tons of factors that can cause frizz (like humidity and over-manipulation during styling) but did you know dryness and damage could be part of the problem as well?
Think of your curls as having a memory : Each time you wash and cleanse your hair, it reverts back to the same shape. But any kind of damage can cause frizz since it roughs up the hair cuticle and makes it harder for curls to fall back into place.
Hot oil treatments are the best bet for smoothing out unruly hair, as they help seal moisture into the cuticle and add shine to your curls.
8. LACK OF SOFTNESS
Silky-soft hair is not only beautiful but a sign of healthy curls. Damage and dryness can leave your hair feeling rough and prickly. Take the ends of your strands and brush them against the side of your cheek. Do they feel soft and smooth like a paintbrush or scratchy like steel wool? If your ends are feeling like they’re bent out of shape, it may be time for a haircut. Trimming away the dead ends will not only help improve how your curls feel but also help them look better too.
9. HIGH POROSITY
It’s true that your strands need to soak up all the moisture and nutrients they can, but they also need to lock in the good stuff in order to stay strong. If you’ve got high-porosity curls your hair will absorb water more easily, but it also means the cuticle is too damaged to hold that moisture in your hair. This leaves it dry and susceptible to breakage. This is usually the result of color and chemical damage. Using oil after styling (read: after you've applied your styling product and your curls are fully dry) will help maintain the health of your hair and protect it from further damage.
10. YOUR REGULAR ROUTINE ISN'T WORKING
While coming up with your own curly hair routine can take some trial and error, eventually, every curly girl finds her way. But what do you do when your trusty wash n’ go somehow stops working? Healthy and damaged curls have different needs. Your hair might be trying to tell you that it requires more TLC, so you’ll need to switch your hair routine from maintenance mode to protect and repair mode.
This can be as simple as switching up how often you deep condition. Typically, you only need to deep condition once a month or every other week to maintain the health of your hair. But if you're trying to recover from damage you should try upping that number to at least once a week. This will not only help protect against further damage but also help revitalize your curls and set them on the road to recovery.
Feeling like your hair might be damaged? Don’t panic or beat yourself up! Every curly girl has to deal with damage from time to time, so don’t give up on your curls just yet. A little deep conditioning can go a longgg way and may be exactly what your hair needs. That plus a little patience + love and your curls could be bouncing back in no time.