What is hair damage?
Hair damage is caused by destroying the outside protective "cuticle" of each individual hair strand. Once the cuticle is damaged there is no protection for the protein fibers and the cortex on the inside of the hair strand. After the cuticle gets torn apart, the hair may break-off, or look dry, frizzy and hay-like.
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Non-damaged hair has a protective cuticle which lies flat and reflects light, therefore, making the hair appear shiny.
Split ends happen when most of the damage is to the ends of the hair. Hair may weaken, causing an individual hair to split into two sections at the ends. These ends then become vulnerable to further splitting up the hair shaft, making the rest of the hair damaged and weak.
What damages the hair?
- Ponytails - The constant pressure from an elastic ponytail holder can wear on the cuticle of the hair under the elastic, causing this hair to break-off.
- Over-styling - You can over-style your hair by brushing out the hair while you blow-dry. This over-extends the hair shaft making it susceptible to breakage and cuticle wear. Curling or straightening your hair daily with heated tools can also wear down the protective cuticle.
- Over-processing the hair is done through coloring, getting perms (to curl the hair) or chemically straightening the hair. It is especially damaging to bleach the hair and then add another color over the bleached hair.
- Heat and Friction - Products do not typically damage the hair, but heat and friction does. Examples of friction are: towel-drying the hair by vigorously rubbing the hair in the towel, brushing the hair, stretching the hair when you are trying to undo a knot or untangle a messy patch of hair.
Heat damage is, of course, caused by your styling tools such as blow dryers, hot rollers, curling irons or flat irons.
How to fix/prevent it: You cannot fix hair damage. There is no way to “make” another cuticle and fix the areas that got damaged, but you can prevent further destruction of the cuticle, as well as grow out and cut-off the ends of your hair.
- Regular haircuts every 6-8 weeks are essential . Regular haircuts will stop the damage of split ends from spreading up the hair shaft.
- Air drying - If you have the time, let your hair air dry, because this method is completely safe for your hair.
If your hair does not “look right” without using the blow dryer to style, observe these tips:
- Do not blow dry with the dryer on the highest setting
- Don’t keep the blow-dryer in one place for too long
- Remove excess moisture from your hair before you begin brushing - Do this by using indirect heat (keep the blow dryer 3-6 inches from the hair), or air-dry until hair is damp and then begin to blow-dry and brush your hair.
- Reduce how often you color or perm the hair - It is also better to gradually change your color. Extreme color changes cause a lot of stress to the hair shaft.
- Keep the heat moving - Don’t use blow dryers or irons on the highest heat seating, and keep them moving. Don’t hold an electric styling product in place over a certain section of hair for too long.
Research from the Journal of Cosmetic Science (Jan-Feb. 2004, p. 13-17) states that a slight improvement in the strength of hair can be obtained by using a curling or flat iron on completely dry hair with minimal tension and keeping the iron moving instead of staying in one spot.
- Silicone - Use styling products with silicone (a conditioning agent) Silicone is often seen on the ingredient list under these names: dimethicone, phenyl trimethicone, or cyclomethicone.
Anti-frizz and shine serums that contain silicone will help to protect the hair as well as make the hair feel silky and give it a nice shine.
- Sun Protection - Cover your hair when you are out in the sun.
- Keep styling to a minimum - Constantly working with your hair can cause further damage. My hair was getting damaged from wearing ponytails too much and curling my hair daily. A great option is to buy clip-in hair extensions so that your hair looks thick and voluminous and you don't have to style it. Here are before and after photos of my hair after adding clip-in extensions. Notice how the extensions give more substance to my hair and make my hair shinier and more healthy looking.
Keep brushing to a minimum - Contrary to popular belief, it is not good to brush your hair often. Only brush when needed and choose soft brushes and combs.
When choosing brushes and combs, remember this: if the brush or comb tears and pulls at your hair, then it is damaging to the cuticle. This tip also applies to elastic ponytail holders.
In addition, when styling dry hair, do not back-comb as this action chips away at the protective cuticle thereby causing hair damage.
- Protect wet hair - Wet hair is more vulnerable to damage than dry hair. Never brush wet hair. Instead, use a wide-toothed comb or a wide-bristled brush with rounded tips.
Squeeze wet hair gently with a towel, and do not wring or rub the hair vigorously. Make sure that hair is completely dry before using a flat iron or curling iron on it.
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