Reviewed by Sara Perkins
Written by Sheryl George
We believe crispiness is better reserved for french fries, not hair, but that’s exactly what damaged hair can feel like. And the look? You’ll probably spot broken ends, dullness and frizz.
In this article, we’ll dive into how to tell if you really have damaged hair, from symptoms to root causes. And most importantly, we’ll uncover the right hair care routine to get damaged hair back to its former glory, stat.
If you’ve been staring at the ends of your hair and thinking “what does dead hair look like?” or “what does heat damaged hair look like?” you’re in the right place.
Frayed and broken hair are some of the major tell-tale signs but if you’ve been confused about what damaged hair looks like, we get it. Sometimes, more minor damage may just look like a lack of shine or dryness, which means you may be less sure that your hair is really giving you an SOS.
But whether your hair is dull or breaking, here are some signs of hair damage to look out for:
Hair that tangles easily
Split ends high up on hair
Hair that breaks off easily
Hair that feels brittle and straw-like
Now you know what damaged hair looks like, but you may still be wondering how exactly you fix the damage. We got you. Below, you’ll find info on everything from how to handle your hair to how to handle your stress so your hair can feel like a virgin again (cue Madonna).
Damaged hair tends to be as thirsty as an Instagram “model.” You can replenish hydration with moisturizing shampoos and conditioners — look for formulations that contain hydrating ingredients like argan oil, which can be found in this volumizing shampoo and conditioner.
This is also a great time to have a little self-care moment and add in that weekly hair mask or deep conditioning treatment you’ve been wanting to try. If your hair tangles easily, try a leave-in conditioner before using a wide-toothed comb on strands.
Love to go with all natural hair? One study demonstrated regular use of coconut oil, which seems to penetrate the hair shaft better than other oils, can help prevent hair breakage.
Also, if your hair has been parched, steer clear of deep cleaning or clarifying shampoos, which can get rid of product buildup but may strip too many oils from your hair. And while we’re also well aware of the no-poo movement, there hasn’t been strong evidence to indicate that washing your hair frequently can lead to damage.
When you’re fresh out of the shower, are you vigorously rubbing your wet hair with a towel? Yeaa, we’re going to need you to take that aggression out in a boxing class — not on your hair strands. Instead, wrap your head in a microfiber towel to minimize friction.
And while you’re at it, please don’t detangle hair while it's wet. Give your hair a few minutes to dry in your towel wrap and then gently (keyword here is “gently”) rake a wide-toothed comb through strands to detangle.
If you feel like you’re already dealing with some breakage, learn more tips on how to stop hair breakage.
Whether you’re blow drying your hair, or styling it with a curling iron or flat iron, it’s time to crank down the temps. Research indicates that high heat can damage the hair shaft, with one study showing that a blow dryer causes more surface damage than natural drying.
We get that air drying isn’t for everyone. But if you’re a tool time devotee, try using a hair dryer at a distance of approximately six inches away from the hair shaft. Also spritz on a heat protectant prior to drying to help protect strands against scorching heat.
Dialing down the heat also applies to Mr. Sun. Yes, we love a good beach day. But just like UV rays can damage skin, they can also mess with our strands. Evidence shows that protecting the cuticle (the outermost layer of hair) is very important for keeping the hair shaft’s integrity. To protect your hair, spritz on hair care products with UV filters when you're kicking it outside.
A major nutrient for healthy hair is called biotin. Many foods naturally contain biotin, so if you have a balanced diet that includes foods like meat, fish, nuts and seeds, you’re probably covered. If you’re a picky eater and dealing with hair breakage, thinning hair or brittle nails, you may be interested in taking a biotin supplement.
Hair damage can make hair more susceptible to breaking, creating an overall thinner appearance. Various hair loss treatments can help promote new healthier growth. Here’s the breakdown on the different options you could try:
Minoxidil drops: This topical solution contains 2% minoxidil. One of the most studied and effective hair loss treatments, minoxidil is believed to increase the speed at which your hair follicles go into the anagen, or growth, phase of the hair growth cycle. In turn, that promotes faster, more effective hair growth.
Oral minoxidil: This once-a-day pill helps kickstart hair growth by increasing blood flow to your hair follicles. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to change up your hair styling routine, this may be a good option for you. But we have to mention that oral minoxidil is only prescribed off-label for women experiencing hair loss, meaning it’s not FDA-approved.
Spironolactone: Studies have shown that this once-daily antiandrogen pill can also be helpful in treating female hair loss and promoting new hair growth. A prescription medication, spironolactone blocks androgen production, which in turn decreases the amount of DHT (the hormone that causes hair follicles to produce thinner, weaker hairs) in your body.
If you’re feeling like you’re dealing with actual hair loss instead of just some broken strands, read our guide to hair loss in women to learn everything from the root causes to additional treatment options.
Now you know more about damage than Danity Kane (helloooo, anthem of 2008). So here’s a quick rundown of what we learned:
Signs of damage include obvious broken hairs and split ends, but also more subtle signs like frizz and dull hair.
Damage can be caused by various factors, like chemical damage from bleaching, sun damage, heat damage from hot tools and aggressive handling.
Use gentle hair care products for women that boost moisture.
Try a hair growth treatment like minoxidil or spironolactone to help encourage healthy new hair growth.
All in all, remember there are healthy hair habits and other steps you can take to help restore your strands. If you’d like to get a more specific, healthcare-recommended hair regimen, get a consultation today.
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