Hair is not only a significant part of our overall look, but it’s also a way of expressing our personality. So, we go to great lengths to make it look a certain way. But in our efforts to get goddess-like hair that turns heads when we walk by, we can often do a fair bit of damage in the process. As we wash and dry it, straighten it, curl it, brush it, tie it, and color it, our strands can experience a serious amount of stress in their lifetime.
All this stress can weaken our locks to the point of splitting and breaking off, leaving us with a frizzy mess. Split ends and breakage will quickly undermine all the efforts we’ve put in to show off a marvelous mane. It also leads to more mental stress, which is the last thing we need!
Luckily, a solution is well within our control when it comes to hair breakage. We can often uncover the causes and remedy the problem with a few tweaks to our hair care routine. So let’s look further into hair breakage, and then we’ll give you all the tips you need to banish hair breakage from your life.
What Is Hair Breakage?
Hair breakage happens when the cuticle is disrupted and the shaft weakens in a specific spot. The hair fiber breaks off at this weak point, leaving the strand shorter than the others and frayed or split.
The hair’s cuticle (outer layer) is arranged like tiles on a roof or scales on a fish. This structure is what gives your hair its bendability and movement. When it’s healthy, the cuticle lies flat over the strand's cortex (inner fiber) and keeps moisture from escaping. But with repeated wear and tear, the cuticle lifts away from the strand. The cortex is then exposed to the outside world, which causes it to dry out and break off.
Can Hair Breakage Be Fixed?
Unfortunately, the strand can’t be fully repaired once the breakage happens. The right products can help smooth out and protect the damaged hair before or after it breaks, but it won’t be fixed entirely.
The best way to deal with hair breakage is to not let it break to begin with. Preventing hair from breaking is the only real solution, which comes down to treating your tresses with a little love and kindness.
9 Habits to Avoid That Can Cause Hair Breakage
Styling With Heat
This is a tough pill to swallow for some, but styling tools are a major culprit when it comes to hair breakage. But don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you can’t use them! You just need to use them more cautiously.
For one, you’d be better off with heat styling tools that allow you to adjust the temperature. The higher the heat, the more damage will occur. So if you can turn it down a few notches to low or medium heat to get the same effect, you can spare your hair some breakage.
If you use a hair dryer, one helpful adjustment is to let your hair dry naturally most of the way before blow drying it. This will reduce the time your hair is exposed to high heat and minimize damage.
You can also save your strands from some styling stress by using a leave-in conditioner or a heat protectant before styling it. Just be sure to read the ingredients and use an all-natural product to avoid causing more damage.
Unless your hair is very oily, you should wait 2 or 3 days between hair washes to minimize damage. The exact frequency of washing your hair can be found through trial and error. But washing too often can strip the natural oils your hair needs to be healthy. If you find your hair is breaking, try washing it less often.
Of course, it’s also a matter of what type of shampoo you use. (But more on that later…)
Pulling hair back too tightly
Bad hair days and athletic endeavors often call for hair that’s pulled off the face. And there’s nothing wrong with that unless you’re using elastic and/or pulling the hair too tightly. Look for more gentle materials for your hair ties, like satin, silk, nylon or other soft fabrics. And consider a less restrictive ‘do like a loose ponytail or bun.
Coloring (and other chemical treatments)
This is another challenging feat for many women since about 75% of us color our hair, and many men do too. But hair color is primarily made of damaging toxic chemicals that take their toll and lead to damaged hair that breaks easily.
If you’re attached to the idea of coloring your hair, you may be able to avoid some damage if you use one of the more natural and less permanent hair dye options out there. But if you’re willing to try going without dye, your hair stylist can help make the transition easier and less frustrating.
The good news for those who are going gray is that many people are ditching the dye and embracing the transitional look, and it looks great!
If you’ve ever been told that you should brush your hair 100 strokes per day, it’s actually a myth. In fact, one study shows that brushing more is associated with hair loss. While brushing can help distribute oils through your mane, brushing too much can cause unnecessary friction, stressing out your strands and causing them to break. Instead, try gently brushing once in the morning and once at night.
Be extra careful when your hair is wet. Wet hair is much more fragile and vulnerable to breaking. Pulling and tugging your way through tangles can easily lead to hair breaking off. Using a wide-tooth comb is best to gently untangle any knots without pulling on them.
The type of brush you use is also a factor in hair breakage. Which one you choose should be based on your specific hair type to get the best results with the least damage.
Getting your trimmed regularly might feel like a burden or even unnecessary, but it will be well worth it. Keeping your ends tidy will seriously improve the health and texture of your hair. If you’re growing your hair out, regular trims will reduce the amount of breakage and help your hair grow out healthier.
The general rule for getting trims is every 8 to 10 weeks. But this can vary based on the length and type of hair. Shorter hair tends to need more frequent cuts than longer hair. Thicker hair can go longer between trims, while thinner hair tends to break more easily and may need it more often. If you’re seeing a lot of breakage, that’s a sign you may have waited too long.
Using Hair Products That Dry Hair Out
What you put on your hair is one of the most important things to consider in preventing hair breakage. Most shampoos, conditioners and styling products on store shelves are loaded with sulfates and other harsh chemicals that strip your hair and leave it unprotected. This leaves hair dry and weak and much more prone to breakage.
Always avoid using hair products that contain sulfates, parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, triclosan, propylene glycol, and fragrance. Look for products with natural, organic ingredients that include mild cleansing agents and rich, moisturizing botanicals (like ours!).
Exposing Hair to the Sun
Just like our skin, our hair is vulnerable to the sun's UV rays, which can lead to breaking. Wear a hat to keep your hair covered as much as possible when you’re outside. You can also try products with coconut oil or use it alone since it has natural sun-protectant properties.
Not Eating a Balanced Diet
What we eat is undoubtedly linked to the condition of our hair. Strong hair needs a balanced combination of macro- and micro-nutrients to maintain a healthy structure. Essential fatty acids like omega-3, vitamins B6 and B12, folic acid, and complete proteins are crucial for luscious locks.
The best way to get everything you need for strong, healthy hair is to eat a varied diet high in fruits and vegetables, clean sources of protein (like chicken, fish and soybeans), nuts and seeds, and good grains.
Hair breakage is a common issue that can ruin the health and appearance of your hair. Fortunately, we have the power to keep it under control. Treating your hair with kindness in mind will go a long way in maintaining its luster. Use these nine tips to change your hair habits for a more damage-resilient mane.