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baby hairs vs breakage

Baby Hairs or Breakage: Getting to Know Your Edges

Damaged hair plays a big factor in differentiating between the two.
21 Nov 2023

What are Baby Hairs?
Are Edges and Baby Hairs the Same?
What is the Difference Between Baby Hairs and Breakage
How Do You Care for Hairline Breakage?
How to Promote Hair Growth

Hair often has a mind of its own, especially when it starts growing in different directions and even changing in texture and curl pattern. When it comes to natural hair, education about styling, hair care products, and techniques is vital for the maintenance and care of curly and coily strands. One core part of natural hair care is styling and caring for baby hairs.

These short pieces of hair around the hairline are more than a cute styling opportunity as they’re a well-known aspect of natural hair in the Black community. Black hair is often politicized and the connection baby hairs has to the community lifts its importance even more. With so many terms around the subject — baby hairs, edges, flyaways, and hair breakage — it can be confusing to figure out if you’re handling your own hair care.

Even the most skilled stylists and braiders need a refresher every now and then. This makes this guide a vital resource for handling these short strands and determining if you’re dealing with baby hairs or breakage. Below, learn more about baby hair, as well as the best products for damaged hair and baby hair to keep your strands as healthy as possible.

What are Baby Hairs?

Let’s break down baby hairs a little more. Baby hairs are short hairs of regrowth that sit around your hairline — this can be in the front, sides, and nape of your head. These short hairs are called “baby hairs” as a cheeky nod to the small strands you grow as an infant. In the case of having baby hairs as an adult, it’s very common and just a result of fragile pieces not growing past a certain point.

These hairs will feel finer in texture than the rest of your hair and can even be lighter in color since it’s thinner. As stated earlier, hair has a mind of its own, and baby hairs are a significant example of that. They can be considered a type of flyaway since baby hairs are wispy and a little unruly, leading them to lay in whatever direction they want. Generally, flyaways are described as any short piece of hair (like breakage and baby hairs) that isn’t cooperating and usually sticks up instead of flat like the rest of the hair.

Through the decades, Black women have been styling their baby hairs for practicality and fashion. The necessity of slicking baby hairs down never really went out of style when it was first popularized in the ‘20s flapper girl era, but it gained traction in the ‘60s during the natural hair movement and again in the ‘90s. Fast forward to now, styling edges have gotten even more intricate (with hairs manipulated into wavy patterns, circles, and even large swooops adorned with hair gems) and is a necessary step to protect the delicate pieces that are often found on natural hair.

Are Edges and Baby Hairs the Same?

Baby hairs and edges are often used interchangeably and mean the same thing since both deal with short pieces of hair. Edges can be seen as an umbrella term to describe any short strand at the surrounding edge of your hairline — meaning you can lay short hair breakage as well as baby hairs. Since baby hair strands are shorter in length compared to the rest of your hair, they’re typically brushed and manipulated into a desired direction to keep them from sticking out.

This brushing technique is something you’re probably familiar with and know it as “laying your edges.” It’s a popular style choice to round out any protective style, natural look, silk press, or any hairstyle you’re going for. Laying your edges is also important to protect the short strands from any damage by keeping them flat on your upper forehead to limit unnecessary manipulation. Remember, baby hair pieces are very fragile because they are new growth so you’ll want to care for these short strands as gently as you would the actual hair of babies.

What is the Difference Between Baby Hairs and Breakage

First, tie your hair up and out of your face to better see these short pieces around your hairline. Baby hairs are what they sound like — small pieces of new growth that need extra love to stay healthy since they’re so fragile. These pieces may not ever “grow out, " making their maintenance an everyday thing for those with natural hair — since coily 4A, 4B and 4C hair types are prone to baby hairs.

Baby hairs are not inherently signs of hair breakage since these pieces grow fragile and thin. This doesn’t mean you can’t damage baby hairs. Hair breakage is any regular hair on your head that gets weak and brittle from damage and eventually breaks off. These pieces will be smaller (similar to baby hairs) but they can be found all over your head, not just near the hairline like baby hairs.

Breakage will vary in size and usually feels dry and brittle to the touch. Another indicator that your baby hair is actually hair breakage is if the pieces look and feel jagged or tapered at the ends, similar to split ends. Hair breakage along the hairline is commonly caused by high-tension hairstyles, over-manipulation, and harsh products. It can also be caused by the use of excessive heat without proper heat protection.

If you think about it, technically your baby hairs should really only be around your hairline. So if you’re noticing more small pieces of hair above your hairline where the rest of your hair length is, that may be damaged pieces that broke off. All short strands (both baby hairs and breakage) need to be cared for with hydrating products and better hair practices to promote hair growth and minimize any damage.

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How Do You Care for Hairline Breakage?

Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to wave that’ll fix hairline breakage overnight. But if you follow the proper hair care routine and limit damaging hair practices, your hairline can be restored over time. Below are a few tips to follow to repair damaged hair and the products you’ll want to add to your hair care regimen.

1. Wash Your Strands

If your hairline is looking a little worse for the wear, incorporate a shampoo specifically developed for damaged hair, such as Born to Repair Sulfate-Free Nourishing Shampoo, in your wash day routine. It gently cleanses without stripping hair of the moisturizing oils it needs while infusing strands with a blend of shea butter, Babassu Oil, and Amazonian oil leaving it strong and healthy. When your regular mane and baby hairs are starting to feel brittle and split ends are taking over your life, apply the Born To Repair 60-Second Moisture Treatment With Shea Butter to your scalp and hair (don’t forget your edges) after shampooing to help minimize frizz, soothe the scalp and repair damage.

2. Give Your Mane a Deep Treatment

When caring for hairline breakage, deep treatments are one of the best ways to give your strands an extra boost of moisture for a stronger and softer appearance. Once or twice a week, on wet hair, add a highly moisturizing treatment like the Black Vanilla Moisture & Shine Hair Smoothie. This hair treatment rescues dry hair with the formulation of cocoa butter, shea butter, and pro-vitamin B5 to deeply condition for softer, shinier, and healthier hair.

3. Seal in Moisture

The number one thing you need to prevent hairline breakage is long-lasting hydration. Take the extra time to pamper your hair with a hair oil like the Goddess Strength 7 Oil Blend Scalp & Hair Oil. It’s formulated with olive oil and coconut oil, which both penetrate and nourish hair, as well as grapeseed oil and castor oil to seal in hydration. Just remember, when it comes to hair oil, less is more. Start by adding a small amount to sectioned hair to limit flooded, limp strands.

4. Protect Your Hair at Night

In addition to using nourishing natural hair products in your routine, protecting your strands at night is one of the best ways to care for your mane. Cover your hair — and baby hairs — with a satin bonnet or scarf, or sleep on a silk pillowcase to limit friction that may lead to hair breakage. Additionally, any treatments or styling that you do at night is secured for an easier hair care routine in the morning.

5. Minimize Heat Usage

Flat-ironing or blow-drying your hair consistently can do a number on your mane, confirms the"style="color:#f09;">American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Limit how often you use hot tools and rely on heat-free styling tools like perm rods and flexi-rods as much as possible. You should also use hot tools on a low setting and always add a heat protectant to your routine to shield your strands.

How to Promote Hair Growth

As you’re caring for damaged hair your goal may be longer, healthier hair. Growing your hair out will eventually help you differentiate which pieces are baby hairs or breakage since hair breakage will eventually grow and baby hairs won’t. To get there you’ll have to focus on a set routine and styling techniques for the health of your hair. Here, discover tips on how to promote new hair growth while protecting your edges.

1. Rely on Protective Styling

Making the most out of protective styles is one of the best ways to promote new growth. Per the AAD, make sure your braids, cornrows, or extensions aren’t too tight as this can put a lot of tension on your hair and scalp resulting in breakage and damaging the hair follicle. If you damage your hair follicle you run the risk of strands never growing back. When cared for properly, these styles reduce the risk of damage and breakage and give you lasting moisture.

You can try braided hairstyles, twists, or faux locs to help minimize over-manipulation and keep your style in place for months at a time. According to the International Journal of Women's Dermatology, it is recommended to keep baby hairs out of protective styles and tight updos to protect hair from unnecessary tugging that may lead to hair loss.

2. Try a Scalp Massage

Scalp massages work wonders to give your mane some extra attention. They help stimulate blood flow to the scalp, which can help lead to new growth. Incorporate this spa-like tip into your regimen by massaging your scalp while shampooing or relaxing at home. Take your scalp massage to a new level with a hair oil that’ll add moisture and strengthen your mane. Reach for the Goddess Strength 7 Oil Blend Scalp & Hair Oil to keep your hair (including baby hairs) nourished and therefore protected from future breakage. This lightweight hair oil is infused with seven powerful oils including olive oil, jojoba oil, and castor oil to support the strength of hair as it gets longer.

3. Keep Your Strands Moisturized

Moisture is the name of the game for your entire mane. Whether your strands are long or short, you want to make sure that they are always hydrated. This goes double for fragile edges and damaged hair that’s breaking off. You can do this by supplementing your wash day and hair care routine with moisturizing products such as leave-in conditioners, styling butters, and hair oils.

When brushing or combing your hair always use a detangler like the Hair Milk 4-In-1 Combing Creme to limit pulling at your strands too harshly which may result in breakage. This detangler is made with agave and keratin (a much-needed hair protein) to gently loosen knots to make styling more manageable. This is a crucial tip that can prevent hair breakage, so you can keep your hair strong and healthy to encourage new growth.

4. Stay Consistent With Your Overall Hair Care

After all is said and done in hair care maintenance you need to keep up with it for the best results. That means washing your coily strands frequently with nourishing essentials — weekly or bi-weekly — and moisturizing in between wash sessions with your choice of serums and creams. Your baby hairs shouldn’t be a source of stress when doing your hair, and if you follow the recommendations in this guide you’ll be prepared to tackle flyaways and hair breakage all while laying your edges to perfection. Remember to give yourself time and grace as managing these short strands may not be easy the first few times. Caring for baby hairs (and hair in general) is all about trial and error. Practice makes progress with hair care, so if you’re struggling at first keep going because the results are healthier, happier hair.

Next Up: How To Grow Your Edges Back

  • Hair Milk 4-In-1 Combing Creme
  • Black Vanilla Edge Control Smoother
  • Goddess Strength 7 Oil Blend Scalp & Hair Oil
  • Born To Repair 60-Second Moisture Treatment With Shea Butter
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