When hair becomes dry and brittle, the shaft breaks, leading to frayed and split ends. It’s a common problem that can be avoided when you know how to take good care of your hair to keep it well hydrated. By changing the products you use and being gentle with your hair, you can have shiny, vibrant, healthy hair that won’t break.
Changing the Products You Use
Use shampoo that’s right for your hair type. If your hair is naturally brittle, it’s important to use a gentle shampoo that won’t strip away all of its natural oils. Dry, coarse hair is more likely to break than hair that’s oily. Look for a shampoo made with replenishing oils like shea butter, argan oil or almond oil. These will trap water against your hair shaft and help it stay hydrated and healthy.
Look for shampoo labeled “sulfate free.” Sulfates are harsh cleaning agents (the same ones used in dish detergent and other cleaning supplies) that strip the oils from your hair, leaving it dry and defenseless. Choosing a sulfate free shampoo is better for your hair.
This is especially important if your hair is curly, wavy or coarse. It’s more difficult for sebum, the natural oil produced by your scalp, to travel to the tips of these hair textures.
Consider low poo or no poo methods if your hair is extremely curly or coarse. Many have found that foregoing shampoo altogether and washing using only honey, conditioner or even plain water is better for their hair than using shampoo.
Use a hydrating conditioner. This replenishes the oils that your hair loses when you shampoo your hair. No matter what kind of shampoo you use, you should condition your hair to keep it from getting too dried out. Choose a conditioner that does not contain silicones, which coat your hair. Silicones are added to conditioner to hold moisture in, but they can only be washed away using harsh sulfate shampoos, so it’s better to avoid them. Look for conditioners that contain oils as well as aloe and other natural hydrators. Deep condition your hair once a week by treating it with a deep conditioner product such as Moroccan hair oil, letting it soak in for several hours, then rinsing it out. This will protect your hair during the course of the week, helping it to stay hydrated.
Coconut oil or olive oil are both great natural deep conditioners that you might already have in your cabinet. Comb a teaspoon or so of oil through your hair, put on a shower cap for 2 hours, then wash out the oil. .
Avoid styling products with harsh chemicals. Most commercial styling products are loaded with an array of chemicals that aren’t very good for your hair. In addition to sulfates and silicones, you’ll find alcohol, fragrances and other components that don’t do you hair any favors, especially if your texture is coarse or curly. Toss out the hair spray, mousse, gel and other products with an inch-long list of ingredients that are hard to pronounce. Switch to a natural hair spray and mousse. You can make your own hair styling products by soaking a tablespoon of flax seeds in a cup of water overnight. Drain out the seeds and reserve the liquid. Flax seeds contain a natural gelling agent that works well when you need a light hold.
Coconut oil and argan oil are useful for smoothing flyaways and giving your hair a sleek look.
Switching Up Your Hair Care Routine
Wash, dry and comb your hair gently. Many people handle their hair roughly in the shower, scrubbing it from the roots to the tips. Then they towel it dry vigorously and brush out the tangles. This routine is terrible for hair, which is more fragile and breakable when it’s wet. Don’t scrub it, rub it, wring it out or brush it. Being gentle with your hair will prevent breakage. Don’t brush your hair, since this can cause it to break, especially when it’s wet. After your shower, use a wide-tooth comb to gently comb out the tangles, working from the tips upward instead of the roots downward.
Gently pat your hair with a towel to absorb the excess moisture, then let it finish air drying.
Blow your hair dry sparingly. Aiming hot air at your hair is a sure way to damage it. Heat has the power to make hair look smooth and sleek, but unfortunately it comes at a high price, especially if you blow your hair dry every day. Save your blowouts for special occasions, and plan to let it air dry on an everyday basis.
Avoid using other heating tools, too. If you’re going to prom, a wedding or a cocktail party, you might want to straighten or curl your hair. Otherwise, keep your heating tools in the cabinet. Using them every day is sure to cause your hair to get dried out, leading to breakage and frayed ends. Straighteners and flat irons, curling irons and curlers should all be used only sparingly.
When you do use heat on your hair, smooth in a heat protectant product to mitigate the damage as much as possible.
Use alternate methods to achieve your favorite styles. Just because you shouldn’t use heat on your hair doesn’t mean you have to go without beautiful tresses. There are other ways to achieve your favorite looks; you just have to get creative. Your hair may not be as bone straight and shiny as it would be if you used a flat iron, but it’ll sure look better than it would if you allowed it to break and fray from too much heat exposure. T-shirt curls look beautiful and require zero heat.
Straightening with a fan instead of a hair dryer takes patience, but it works.
Avoid using elastics and barrettes that pull on your hair. Every time you use them, you break a few strands. Try wearing your hair down more often instead of pulling it back into tighter styles. If you love updos, there are great alternatives to your typical drugstore elastics. Choose elastics and headbands made of soft cloth like silk or satin. They won’t dent or damage your hair.
Avoiding the Worst Habits that Lead to Breakage
Don’t get a chemical blowout. It might look gorgeous in the short term, but in the long term this is seriously damaging to your hair, and potentially even your health. Many products used in chemical blowouts contain formaldehyde, which has been connected to bad skin reactions and even cancer. If you absolutely must get a blowout, do it very sparingly.
Avoid dyeing your hair with chemicals. You might love trying out different colors, but this can wreak havoc on your hair. This is especially true if you have dark hair that you’re always trying to dye a shade or more lighter, since your hair has to be stripped of color before it can be dyed. That being said, there are ways you can subtly change your color that are actually restorative for damaged hair:
Henna dyeing is a great way to enhance your natural color by making it look richer and deeper.
Tea rinses are easy to do and can help blond shades get a little darker.
Honey and cinnamon are both effective hair lighters that aren’t damaging to hair.
Never bleach your hair. No matter how healthy it is to begin with, your hair will suffer if you bleach it. Even if you get it professionally bleached at a salon, the process of stripping color from your hair is going to be very damaging. If you decide to bleach, proceed with caution and make sure not to leave the bleaching product in for too long, or you could burn off your hair.
Avoid getting weaves. Most hair weaves, even those put in by a professional, have the potential to cause breakage and even bald spots. Heavy pull on the roots of your hair causing it to fall out. The hair can also break in the places where the weaves are sewn or glued in. Instead of getting weaves put in, consider clipping a weft to your hair using a clip that can be easily removed without pulling. If you do decide to get weaves, always go to a professional who knows what she’s doing.
Don’t forgo regular trims. When then ends of your hair start to split, there’s no going back. Getting a trim every few months is a good way to keep your hair shaft strong and healthy, so it doesn’t start to fray. Ask your stylist not to use harsh tools, products and techniques on your hair, especially if your hair is very dry, curly, wavy or coarse.
Hair thinners are particularly bad for curly and dry hair.
Stylists tend to yank the brush through your hair while it’s wet. If you’re concerned about breakage, ask the stylist to use a wide tooth comb.
If you don’t want products containing sulfates and silicones to be used on your hair, you can shampoo and condition your hair before going to the salon. That way, the stylist can just re-wet it instead of washing it.
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Sources and Citations
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