We’ve learned all the ways we can damage our hair. From overusing hair tools to wearing tight hairstyles, there are many things that can lead to split ends, dryness and breakage. Although these results may seem alarming (and downright discouraging), there’s no need to throw in the towel just yet. We chatted with five hairstylists to share how to fix damaged hair for gorgeous tresses from now on.
Meet the Experts
- Lacy Redway is a celebrity hair stylist and brand ambassador for Dove. She works with all hair textures and uses her skills in editorial, red carpet, film and advertisement opportunities. Her work has been featured in publications such as Allure, V Magazine, Vogue and Vanity Fair. Her clients include Tessa Thompson, Emmy Rossum, Laura Harrier and Hunter Schafer.
- Shab Caspara is a hairstylist and a trained trichologist based in New York. She has over a decade of experience as an expert source on hair and scalp health, trends and haircare. She’s also the founder of Leona, a haircare brand that offers personalized products, devices and solutions based on your hair concerns and needs.
- Helen Reavey is a celebrity hairstylist, board-certified trichologist and founder of Act Acre. She has experience working in runway, editorial and brand campaigns. Her previous clients include Bella Hadid, Harry Styles, Sarah Snook and Marisa Tomei.
- Dereq Clark is a hairstylist and a brand ambassador for Wella Professionals. He has more than 12 years in the industry, specializing in cutting and coloring services in the Atlanta area.
- Bridgette Hill is a certified trichologist with more than 20 years of experience in scalp care, color services and editorial styling. She’s also the founder of Root Cause Scalp Analysis, a virtual questionnaire and consultation site that helps people better understand their scalp and hair health. Additionally, Hill consults for top brands like René Furterer.
1. Avoid Harsh Ingredients in Your Haircare Products
When it comes to your wash routine, finding a shampoo and conditioner that focuses on repairing and strengthening your strands is key. To do this, our experts suggest taking a closer look at the ingredients’ list. “Certain ingredients are very strong detergents and strip the oils from your hair. These cleaning agents are so harsh they can damage the hair, make it brittle and increase frizz. They can also cause allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin,” says Clarke. All the pros we interviewed for this story recommend steering clear of ingredients like sulfates, mineral oil, parabens, alcohols, fragrances and silicones in your collection.
2. Use Hair Oil
Your styling routine is just as important as your wash routine. The stylists recommend adding a hair serum or oil to your lineup to help seal split ends and boost shine. “It helps to hydrate, seal and smooth the hair cuticle, which is important when correcting damaged hair,” says Clarke, who adds that it’s best to dispense a few drops of oil onto your hands before distributing it throughout the mid-lengths and ends, and brushing through to make sure you get good coverage without overdoing it.
3. Use Bond-Repairing Treatments Regularly
Bond-repairing hair treatments are always the way to go when you need to give your tresses some much needed love. “Bond-repairing hair treatments can offer results for chemically and thermally damaged hair as they can penetrate the hair shaft and repair broken bonds from within,” says Caspara. The stylist recommends doing a treatment bi-weekly or once a month to maintain hair health without overusing it. Note: Those with fine or thin hair should avoid using these treatments as their hair might be more porous and absorb too much of the product, cautions Caspara.
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4. Do a Weekly Scalp Treatment
Scalp care is essential to building up stronger strands. “It’s so important to remember that healthy hair starts at the scalp. Adding a scalp treatment to your weekly routine ensures your hair grows healthy and strong,” says Reavey. Whether you prefer a scalp scrub, serum or mask, these treatments can exfoliate the scalp, remove dirt and grime and encourage hair growth. Reavey suggests using your treatment of choice once a week and letting the product sit on the scalp for 15 to 20 minutes for the best results.
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5. Try Double Cleansing
If you’ve ever wondered if you should double-shampoo in the shower, the experts are here to tell you that you should definitely consider it. “It’s actually a myth that you shouldn’t wash your hair too often. There is no [scientific] evidence to show that shampooing damages the hair, and actually there have been studies that show the opposite,” says Reavey. “I recommend double cleansing since the first cleanse removes product buildup while the second wash cleanses the scalp.”
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6. Detangle Your Hair Correctly
This might seem like a no brainer, but the way you detangle your locks can play a big role in preventing damaged strands later. “I like to start by finger combing the strands, and then using a wide tooth comb or brush at the tips, before slowly working my way up to the scalp to avoid breakage,” explains Redway. She also recommends detangling your hair while it’s still wet and coated in conditioner or leave-in to prevent snagging.
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7. Try Heatless Styles
As mentioned, heat tools are often the main culprit of hair damage. “One mistake that accelerates hair damage is using your hot tool on the highest setting the day after you’ve styled your hair in order to refresh it. Re-curling or attempting to re-smooth your hair on day two or three does not yield the same results as day one, and only further damages your already vulnerable hair,” says Caspara.
However, our pros found a solution to limit your usage: heatless styles. For fine, wavy or straight hair, Caspara recommends a loose bun and French hair pins as “both can protect your style and you won’t have to redo it the next day.” For those with thick and/or natural hair, Redway suggests pin curls or wrapping up your silk press to preserve the style.
8. Ease Tension At the Scalp
This tip is specifically for those who love rocking tight ponytails and/or protective styles. Hill recommends easing off on some of your fave styles every once in a while. “From too tight ponytails to cornrows, these hairstyles can put excess tension on the hair. You want to avoid putting too much tension on the same area of your hair day in and day out. Try wearing a high ponytail one day and maybe a low pony the next,” she says. As for protective styles, Redway suggests swapping traditional box braids for knotless ones.
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9. Implement Silk Accessories
Redway recommends incorporating more silk/satin accessories to your collection as the fabric helps minimize breakage and frizz in the long run. “Friction can prevent you from achieving healthy-looking hair. By sleeping on harsh fabrics or using elastic hair accessories, you can split the cuticle, which is the outer layer of your strand,” she explains. “These small tears result in hair appearing flat and dry, so invest in silk or satin pillowcases, bonnets and scrunchies to reduce breakage.”
10. Trim Your Hair Every Three Months
One way to remove damaged ends and aid hair growth is to keep up with trims. “I recommend trimming your hair every 12 weeks. A healthy trim will remove the damaged, thinned strands and give your hair a refresh,” says Reavey. Sticking to this plan can help get rid of split ends and reduce the chances of breakage.
11. Swap Out Your Brush
We’re always talking about haircare products and heat tools, but have you ever considered your brush can be causing more harm than good to your locks? “You might want to rethink the brush you use to blow dry your hair. One that isn’t gentle enough can inflame the scalp and cause hair breakage,” cautions Hill. Instead, she suggests using a boar bristle brush (or one that has a mix of plastic and boar bristles ) and stay away from metal brushes as they can be too abrasive to your scalp and hair.
A Few More Things to Know
What Are the Leading Causes of Damaged Hair?
As mentioned there are a few factors that can contribute to damaged hair, which can be broken down into four categories: chemical, mechanical, thermal and environmental. As Caspara explains, “Chemical damage is done through coloring or straightening services and certain hair products. Mechanical damage is caused by brushing your hair too aggressively when tangled or wet, breaking the hair with certain ties or accessories, tying hair too tightly in any hairstyle for an extended period of time.”
She continues, “Thermal damage is done from any hot tool including blow dryers, flat and curling irons. Finally, environmental damage happens through sun exposure, air pollution, contaminants in the water and even the wind.” Other factors to consider include diet, stress, hydration and hormonal imbalances.
Can You Actually Repair Damaged Hair?
All signs point to yes. There is hope in repairing damaged hair, or at least reducing the signs of damage (like dryness and dulless), according to the stylists. “Hair that is severely damaged can take up to six months to a year to see improvement. In the meantime, oiling your hair can nourish and improve hair health. It’s also important to properly cleanse your scalp, cut back on heat styling and wearing your hair in low manipulation hairstyles,” says Clarke. Here’s to stronger, healthier hair!
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