If there is one thing we can all get behind when it comes to our hair, it’s that hair damage is never a good thing. Say what you will about your ultimate hair goals, but I think we can all agree that having dry, brittle strands that split and break off is never a good thing, no matter what your hair type, color, or cut may be. Unfortunately, it’s our daily hair care routines that often cause the most damage to our manes (think heat styling, aggressive brushing, sun damage, and improper washing), which is why it’s essential for you to make sure that you’re not only caring for your hair but that you’re also doing it correctly. What exactly does that mean? We recently caught up with our lab team to dish on why hair breaks and what you can do to stop it—here’s what they had to say.
What Is Hair Damage?
Hair damage occurs when aggressors (think friction, heat, and harsh chemical treatments) attack the protective outer layer of your hair (a.k.a the cuticle) leaving cracks in its exterior. Once cracked, the cuticle lifts (or opens up), causing your hair to look dull, dry, frizzy, or brittle, while also making it more prone to damage and breakage, thus continuing what can seem like a neverending hair nightmare. But don’t worry—all hope is not lost! While you may not be able to completely repair hair that is already damaged, there are still plenty of steps you can take to help prevent it from happening in the future.
1. Improve Your Hair Brushing Skills
You may have heard that brushing your hair 100 strokes a day is part of a healthy hair care routine, but that’s nothing more than a myth. In reality, an excessive amount of brushing can cause severe damage to the hair, especially when your hair is still wet, as that’s when it is its most elastic and therefore, more likely to break. Instead, it’s recommended that you apply a post-shower conditioner, like our fully customizable leave-in treatment, to wet hair and, using a wide-tooth comb, gently rake it through your strands, detangling them as you go. You should also avoid brushing your hair throughout the day, making an exception only when you need to detangle again, as dry ends are also at risk of snapping.
2. Invest In Good Hair Ties
Now, don’t get us wrong, we love our hair ties (how else would we be able to get through a workout?), but that doesn’t mean that we don’t see them for the hair-damaging culprits that they are. Useful though they may be, hair ties have a tendency to pull on the scalp and hair cuticles, which is why you may sometimes notice that your hair falls out a bit every time you undo your elastic. To prevent this, try wearing your hair down more often, or, at the very least, opt for a breakage-preventing style, like an Invisibobble.
3. Step Up Your Blow-Drying Game
It’s no secret that blow-drying your hair every day can cause severe damage, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to commit to a lifetime of air-drying either. The key is to learn how to dry your hair the right way. That means allowing your hair to air-dry a bit first (about 75% of the way) before finishing it off with a blow-dryer, and giving your strands a break from the heat at least a few times a week. When you are drying your hair (preferably on the lowest heat setting), make sure to also put at least a half an inch of space between your strands and the dryer to avoid scorching your ends, and always, always, always apply a heat protectant first. (In case you haven’t heard, our customizable leave-in treatment is an excellent option for this *wink, wink.*)
4. Don’t Heat Style Dirty Hair
While we’re on the topic, it’s also worth noting that using a straightener or a curling iron on hair that hasn’t been adequately cleansed is also a big no-no when it comes to combating hair damage. That’s because, in addition to the already inevitable damage from heat styling, some styling products (dry shampoos, texture sprays, waxes, etc.) contain ingredients that aren’t meant to be combined with excessive heat. Instead, reach for products that are specifically designed to hydrate and protect your strands in-between washes and, as always, never use your heat tools without applying a heat protectant first.
5. Know How Often To Wash Your Hair
Let’s get this straight once and for all: how often you cleanse your mane is entirely up to you and is dependent upon your hair type, hairstyle, and lifestyle. That said, there is such a thing as over or under washing your hair, both of which can lead to damage. While daily washes are fine if you have oily hair, extremely dry hair may only need weekly shampooing, according to the Nemours Foundation. Either way, you want to make sure you’re washing your hair with a shampoo that’s formulated for your hair type at least every couple of days (or whenever it gets dirty) as infrequent washing can lead to a buildup of dead cells, product residue, oil, and bacteria, all of which can cause—yep, you guessed it—hair damage.
6. Protect Your Hair Against Chlorine + Salt Water
While undeniably fun and refreshing, it’s no secret that chlorine and salt water are also incredibly harsh on our delicate strands, often causing them to become dry, brittle, and lackluster. Now, we would never suggest skipping out on your next beach vacation (you earned that!), but that doesn’t mean you have to live with the resulting damage either. Instead, take the American Academy of Dermatology’s advice and immediately rinse the ocean/pool water from your hair before applying a deep conditioning cream or oil, which will help form a protective barrier around the hair shaft and lock in moisture for an extra dose of damage prevention.
7. Make A Standing Appointment With Your Hairstylist
The easiest way to stop hair damage in its tracks? Cut it off! While cutting your hair may seem a bit drastic at first, regular hair trims are a great way to keep your hair healthy and free of split ends, which are capable of traveling up the length of your hair, causing even more breakage. Rather than letting your hair get to that point, simply book a standing appointment with your hairstylist for every 6-8 weeks and your split ends won’t stand a chance!
8. Ditch Your Regular Bath Towel
Using the wrong towel can literally make or break your hair (specifically the latter), as your hair is in its most vulnerable state when it’s fresh-out-of-the-shower wet. Rather than using a harsh cotton towel, which can cause friction, frizz, and breakage, reach for a plush microfiber towel or a cotton T-shirt instead. Both fabrics are not only softer and more gentle on your strands but also specially designed to help dry your hair faster, thus reducing the amount of swelling that occurs in wet hair, which is what makes it vulnerable to damage in the first place.
9. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
While properly hydrating your hair may seem a bit obvious, it’s worth repeating that without optimal hydration, your hair is much more prone to breakage. Any good hair care routine then should start with a quality shampoo and conditioner that provide ample moisture, sans all those nasty ingredients, like sulfates and alcohol. Our customized shampoos and conditioners not only check off both of those boxes, but they also give you the option to add a number of damage-fighting hair goals to your formula, including “deep condition,” “replenish hair,” “strengthen,” and “fix split ends,” so your hair can stay smooth and healthy all year-round.
10. Beware Of Overprocessing
Sorry, color-treated girls, but all of that chemical processing you’re doing may be causing irreversible damage to your hair. While not all color treatments are the same in regards to the amount of damage they create (a semi-permanent process like a gloss is far less damaging than a double process like bleaching), they are still anything but harmless. That’s because the harsh chemicals present in these dyes can make your hair shafts porous to the point of exposing the hair cortex, which once broken, leads to extreme breakage. To help counteract those adverse effects, it’s important to keep the hair constantly hydrated and to use products that help repair the hair, like a deep conditioning mask or a daily leave-in treatment (seriously, is there anything a good leave-in product can’t do?). The AAD also recommends extending the time between your sessions to 8–10 weeks, if possible, to ensure you’re not overdoing it. Your hair can only take so much, after all.
Ready to say goodbye to your hair damage once and for all? Start by creating your perfect customized hair care formula here!