Crown area hair breakage, or hair breakage that occurs at the middle, top, or center of the head, is a common hair complaint. Often times, the hair surrounding the broken crown area is growing beautifully with no problems. This can make crown area breakage more devastating and even harder to pin point. Most crown area hair breakage is chronic, cumulative breakage. This type of breakage can be years in the making.
Interestingly, the geometry of the head plays a role in crown area thinning and breakage and could be responsible for a great deal of breakage issues in this sensitive region of the head. For one, the sun’s UV rays shine directly down onto the crown area of the head. It is the section of hair most exposed to the harsh environmental elements. This can lead to extreme dryness and increased hair porosity in the crown area, particularly in the hot summer months. This article will discuss the top 5 reasons for hair breakage in the crown area of the head.
1.) Improper relaxer application causes crown area breakage and thinning.
Overlapping a relaxer is perhaps the most common cause of crown area thinning and breakage. Many people apply their relaxers using the 4 quadrant method suggested by relaxer manufacturers, and in general, there is nothing wrong with this technique. However, things can potentially go wrong a few ways using this common method.
First, if you apply your relaxer from the top of the quadrant (starting at the center where the parts join) and move outward toward the face, the crown area will process the relaxer for a longer period of time than other parts of the section. Over time, your crown area will become weak and brittle.
Secondly, if you are one who smoothes the relaxer from the 4 sections and works the hair back up into a ponytail, you are encouraging a great deal of overlapping not only in the crown area, but also all over the head. The head is shaped like a sphere, so it is almost impossible to avoid overlapping the relaxer during the smoothing phase-especially in the crown area.
Finally, when the relaxer is rinsed from the hair, most people are careful to rinse the edges out first as they tend to be the most delicate regions of the head. This often means that areas such as the crown and nape get additional processing time that can lead to breakage. It is also easy to miss rinsing traces of relaxer and neutralizer from the crown area since it is not as easily accessible as other sections of the head. This extra chemical processing can seriously weaken the hair fiber.
Another relaxer issue that can lead to crown area breakage problems is the fact that many people mistakenly think that their crown area hair is the coarsest area of their head. While it is indeed the coarsest area for many people, for some it only became the coarsest area after being subjected to harsh chemical treatments repeatedly and improperly. Because the crown hair feels coarse, they then proceed to relax it for the maximum length of time or longer. Then, other factors may add to it by affecting the actual processing time like the improper rinsing and smoothing issues we described earlier.
When hair is stressed repeatedly in an area either by heat or with chemicals, the texture of the hair changes. With heat, the change is to the actual fiber, but with a relaxer, changes can occur at the follicular level. The actual shape of the hair follicle can change causing the hair to “grow in” more coarsely for a period time. Overprocessing and damage to the actual hair follicles in this area may cause an unwary person to use harsher or more frequent treatments on the area to correct crown area coarseness and breakage, when in fact the harsher treatments were the very reason for the problem. A 4-6 month relaxer stretch might be in order to determine if follicular shape changes have resulted in a different texture to the crown area. Some refer to this hair as “scab hair.” A stretch will also give you time to determine if your crown area is indeed overprocessed.
2.) Hooded dryer usage can cause crown area hair breakage.
While the hooded dryer is often touted as the safest heat source for styling hair of all types (and it definitely is in my opinion), it does not come without problems. Hooded dryers tend to focus heat through the center of the unit which is where our crowns tend to be. This directed heat flow causes the crown area to receive a lot of heat, and it ends up drier faster than other sections. Advanced and typically more expensive hooded dryer models circulate heat more equitably under the hood so that the head receives a fairly even hot air distribution. Many economy table top models tend to direct heat down to the crown without mercy. Advanced temperature dials are also helpful in controlling the flow of heat to your tresses. BUT! Expensive dryers aren’t a complete guarantee of good heat distribution in and of themselves, so you should always use your judgement. Too much direct heat in the crown area can result in a super dry, parched crown area and itchy scalp problems whether a $20 Conair or $200 Pibbs did the drying!
3.) Wrapping can trigger crown area hair breakage.
The old popular hair wrapping style and night setting technique is also another well known crown area breakage culprit. While the style works well as a set at night, the manipulation required to get the hair secured into the wrapped configuration can be too much for some heads of hair. In addition to bringing about some crown area breakage problems, wrapping has also been charged with making one side of many people’s hair thinner and even shorter than another side depending on the direction and tightness of the wrap. Wrapping the hair with significant new growth is also a no-go and is just asking for breakage! And unfortunately, switching the direction of the wrap is only marginally beneficial for some with super sensitive crowns. If you suffer from problems with your crown area, avoid wrapping the hair as much as possible.
4.) Relaxer Stretching may encourage crown area hair breakage.
Relaxer stretching has many more pros than cons, but yes, file this one under the dangers of relaxer stretching! Crown area breakage can occur when hair that is either transitioning or being relaxer stretched for a given period of time is combed or smoothed back into a ponytail. The shape of the head plays a role in this form of breakage. Hair that contains about a half inch of newgrowth and with a significant amount of relaxed hair is weakest at the point where these two textures meet.
Try to imagine the top of your head, as you move from your frontal hairline to your nape. You have newgrowth meeting relaxed hair at various points heading back along your head. Pressure placed on the top of the head by your comb or brush attempting to smooth hair back from the face, runs into mostly newgrowth once it reaches the crown area- because the head is round. So while the hair may be totally relaxed on top of the ponytail (which basically consists of the relaxed ends coming from the very front of your head/hair line), the hair underneath at the crown area tends to be new growth rather than relaxed length. Combing against these two textures will ultimately lead to breakage.
5.) Stress may contribute to crown area breakage and thinning.
Stress is another often used explanation for crown area breakage. For many individuals, this sensitive area along with the frontal hairline tends to respond easily to emotional triggers and stressors.
Finally, in addition to checking for these 5 reasons– always be sure to rule out medical causes for hair loss and thinning by seeing a dermatologist. Good luck!