By Audrey Sivasothy, author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care
When the rest of your hair is growing on cue, it can be really
frustrating to deal with a stagnant crown area. Although natural hair
tends to mask crown area breakage better than relaxed and transitioning
hair, crown area breakage can affect anyone. Crown area breakage is a
chronic breakage problem that results in hair that is noticeably thinner
or just stands or sticks up right in the center of the head. When the
hair is straightened, it usually falls in a W-shaped pattern along the
back, rather than falling in a standard U or V-shaped hemline. Luckily
for us, most crown area problems can be addressed by identifying the
physical concerns/practices that contribute to the issue.
1. Texture & Curl Pattern Differentials
It’s not uncommon to have a slightly different texture or curl
pattern in the crown area of the head. Often, this area will naturally
have different moisture and handling requirements to ensure that it
thrives. If your crown area is finer, coilier or kinkier than the
surrounding strands, customize your hair care to this area by giving it
extra moisturizing and conditioning time.
Texture/curl pattern changes can also occur along the same fiber for
those with with relaxed or transitioning hair. If your hair is relaxed
or transitioning, your texture contrast between the chemically
straightened length and the new growth will create demarcation issues
that you’ll need to be aware of. The demarcation line will likely be
more pronounced and any major shift in curl pattern will be a prime area
for breakage. You are essentially working with a fiber shape that looks
like: ~~~~——– rather than ~~~~~~~~~~. Both types are vulnerable to
crown area breakage, but the first example is more so. Handle your hair
Many people also notice that their crown area is well . . . itchy. I
find this to be true for me when I’ve allowed my scalp to get dry and
tight– which usually happens just before it’s wash time. Avoid
scratching the crown area recklessly into oblivion as this can break the
hair and lead to a tender scalp. If you’re itchy, carefully massage the
area with the pads of your fingers and get some moisture to the area
2. Physical Trauma
Physical trauma culprits for crown area breakage include styling stressors like:
sew ins, braids and other weaves done too tightly
picking out and fluffing the hair with hair tools (combs/picks)
pinning hair in the center/crown repetitively (or putting weight on the crown area w/ ponytails, etc)
wrapping the hair (especially if you are contending with roots (pressed, reverting roots, or standard relaxer new growth)
overlapping during 4-quadrant chemical services (relaxing, texturizing or coloring.)
high pressure shower water
Free form styles like braidouts, twistouts, twists and rollersets
(provided tangling is kept to a minimum) are good for maintaining and
growing out a crown. Puffs can also work, but they may stress the edges
and hairline if not drawn properly.
Our trusty friend the hooded dryer has also been well regarded in the
healthy hair community for its delivery of indirect, safer heat. But we
also have to be careful with hooded dryer heat because the delicate
crown area can receive a lot of heat attention under this type of dryer.
The crown area is often the very first section to dry. Make sure that
your dryer model circulates heat well and that you are able to adjust
your heat settings as needed. Check your crown area regularly if you’re
setting your hair. If your crown area dries first, lightly mist the
crown area to allow the other areas of hair to catch up and dry. To
reduce heat to the crown area, use the hooded dryer to dry your hair to
80-90%, and allow the surrounding air to dry your hair to completion.
Discontinuing these stressful physical practices will turn your crown area around in several weeks.
3. Improper/Insufficient Conditioning
Lack of proper conditioning is another cause of crown area failure.
Because the crown area is the most exposed area of the head to the
environment and elements (and may often be the coiliest/kinkiest)- it
can really take a moisture beating if it is not singled out and given
specific attention during regular moisturizing and conditioning. You
really want to focus your conditioning and moisturizing efforts in the
middle! It’s very easy to miss the crown during moisturizing and
conditioning because many of us tend to graze over the top and sides of
the hair without really digging in deep to get the underlayers of crown
hair. You’d be surprised at the number of people who simply coat the
edges, barely scrunch through the middle, and slather the ends with
conditioner or moisturizing product. You have to get in there good and
make sure the crown area gets some love!
When all else fails, attacking crown area breakage from the
conditioning angle almost always works. Isolate the area and give it
some extra TLC.