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Expert Q&A: African-American Hair Care

Why does my hair keep breaking? continued...

Chemical and heat styling suck the internal moisture from hair, making it brittle and fragile. To avoid breakage, look for heat-shielding and hydrating products that contain silicone, Taylor says. They coat the hair and help seal in moisture.

LaVar tells her clients to avoid products designed for limp hair. Ingredients that add body can actually strip oils and remove moisture, she says.

Experts also suggest wrapping your hair in a satin scarf or bonnet before bed to help your hair retain moisture. Cotton fibers in your pillowcase will wick away hydration.

Are there any moisturizers that don't feel greasy?

"If the product feels greasy, it's probably not adding moisture inside the hair," LaVar says. "You need a penetrating conditioner with lightweight oils that are absorbed rather than sit on top of the hair."

Kimble agrees. She says that lanolin or other greasy products moisturize, but they clog the pores on your scalp and weigh hair down. She prefers conditioners with essential oils -- like grape seed oil, for example -- that moisturize without leaving an oily residue.

LaVar says that body lotion can be a good stand-in for a leave-in conditioner because it is designed to be absorbed into the skin. Rub a dime-sized drop between your palms and smooth it over the length of your hair.

Why is the hair around my temples thinning?

Experts say that braids are often the culprit of a thinning hairline. Tight or aggressive handling of the hair causes traction alopecia, a form of hair loss, Taylor says.

Plus, Kimble says, the weight of braids can stress the hair follicles and cause hair to fall out.

Thinning can also result from hormonal changes, genetics, or a health condition, so you should see a doctor as soon as you notice a change in your hair growth or texture.

Are at-home relaxers safer than salon versions?

The short answer is no. "One of the most common mistakes I see is over-processing," LaVar says. Women have the misconception that no-lye relaxers are safer or that leaving a relaxer on longer helps it work better.

"You just need to relax the curl enough to break up the wave," she says. Leaving it on longer leads to more damage.

"I don't advocate people doing relaxers at home," LaVar says. Experts agree: Strong chemicals need to be applied properly -- without overlapping the last chemical treatment -- and rinsed completely.

Do-it-yourself application can be risky (and costly), LaVar says. Without a professional application, you risk hair damage that needs to be repaired.

Brush Up on Beauty

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