Is your hair dry and dull? Do you have split ends and frizz? Scalp acting weird? If so, you have damaged hair, but the good news is that it’s not too late to begin the healing process. There are techniques and treatments for damaged hair, as well as gentle shampoos, conditioners and styling products to help bring those wrecked tresses back to life. Start these healthy new habits now to help your damaged hair look better in the short run, while bringing it back to good health in the long run.
If your damaged hair has a straw-like texture and good hair days are a thing of the past, the first thing you can do to make it look better and restore body is to get a trim. To accomplish good results, you don’t have to get a super short cut; you can leave some length and treat the remaining damaged hair. If you are bold enough to chop it all off, a short bob or cute pixie can undo all the damage in one clean sweep.
If you don’t want to go this extreme, however, a healthy trim with layers may be the direction to go to help your damaged locks look their best. This should be followed by a health care regimen for damaged hair, including use of a restorative shampoo, conditioner and styling products. Hair tends to be most damaged toward the tips; it’s been around the longest and had more time to be affected by the elements, styling products and processing, and other damage-causing sources.
Blow dryers, curling irons or straightening irons damage hair. Whenever possible, air dry your hair and don’t use irons on it. After using a mild shampoo and conditioner, apply a restorative styling treatment and let damaged hair dry naturally. If you really need to blow dry your hair, keep it on the lowest heat setting.
If you must use heat, prepare the hair with a fortifying leave-in conditioner, and finish with a protective spray. And make sure that the hair is completely dry before using heated tools like flat irons and curling irons so it won’t cook from the inside out.
If your hair is extremely damaged, reconsider chemical processing for the moment. Certain types of hair color—like harsh bleaches--can damage hair or stress hair that is already damaged. Talk to your stylist about gentler approaches to hair color, such as ammonia-free and demi-permanent formulas. Likewise, discuss healthier alternatives to permanent waves or straighteners—which can also be damaging to hair. Temporary smoother formulas, for example, eliminate frizz, control curl and prolong the life of a blow-dry. A strong setting lotion or spray used with Velcro rollers can produce curl or body with minimal impact on hair health.
Carefully select a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner formulated for damaged hair. Sticking with shampoos and conditioners that contain natural oils and herbs will help repair your damaged hair. Avoid shampoos or conditioners that contain sodium laurel or laureth sulfates; these ingredients can strip your hair of its natural protective oils. And don’t shampoo more than twice a week if possible. Shampooing too frequently can strip damaged hair and create brittleness. If your hair needs a pick-me-up, use a dry shampoo in between washing's. Look for a gentle shampoo with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5.
Hot water can damage hair, so wash your hair with lukewarm or cool water, and finish the shampoo process with a shot of cool water. Cool or cold water can help damaged hair by closing the hair cuticle and causing the hair shafts to lie flat, resulting in shinier, smoother hair.
If your hair has damage due to build-up from product, hard water deposits and minerals, a good clarifying shampoo can help. How frequently you need to remove build-up depends on how hard the water is that comes from your tap, and the products you use on your hair. Build-up is a serious issue and can cause damaged hair to be limp and lifeless and cause the ends to split and feel brittle. Typically, a clarifying shampoo and treatment should be used just once or twice a month.
When selecting a conditioner for damaged hair, look for those with moisturizers such as aloe vera, glycerol, panthenol or proteins. Active components such as macadamia nut oil, argan oil or shea butter coat each strand of hair with a fine protective layer that helps repair the cuticle. This helps damaged hair look healthier and thicker.
When restoring damaged hair, keep hairstyles simple and stick to those that don’t require a lot of product to hold them in place. Applying a leave-in fortifying spray on wet hair is a good way to prepare the hair for styling or the stress of the day and protect it from environmental factors. A detangling spray can help protect damaged hair while brushing. Spritz it on before brushing wet hair to avoid further damage to tresses.
When you do use styling products, check the labels so that you know what they contain. Stay away from hair products that have high levels of alcohol or peroxide, and stick with products that are gentle.
Use a light oil, pomade, mousse or gel to control frizz, and look for styling products that will reinforce damaged hair by infusing protein, amino acids and other strengthening properties. If necessary, finish with a light hairspray.
When shopping for a hydrating treatment for damaged hair, look for products that have restorative, moisturizing ingredients, such as olive oil, keratin, protein or shea butter, and avoid products that contain silicone or parabens. Twice a week, apply the treatment or mask and leave it on for a full hour, using a plastic shower cap to help the product penetrate. Additionally, once a week you can apply the treatment in the shower after shampooing. Leave it on for three to five minutes for quick hydration and then rinse it out.
Oil treatments are another option to repair dry, damaged hair. They are simple to do at home and infuse damaged hair with moisture and shine. Apply the treatment oil of choice to clean, towel-dried hair. Cover your hair with a shower cap or plastic wrap, and apply heat by sitting in the sun, using a hot towel or using your blow dryer. After heating the oil, allow hair to cool at room temperature, and then rinse with cool water. Reparative oil treatments can be done one to three times per month on damaged hair depending upon need. Proper use of these treatments can increase elasticity to damaged hair and create sheen. But be careful--overuse might cause your hair to look greasy!
Are you a swimmer? Then always wear a swim cap in the pool. Chlorine causes hair damage that builds up over time. If you do go swimming without a cap, wash the chlorine out right away with a gentle shampoo.
Don’t sit in the sun after swimming without a cap or hat; the sun’s rays will compound the damage to your hair done by chlorine. Or, wash your hair before you sunbathe if you’ve been in the pool and use sunscreen on your part to avoid burning and peeling on your scalp line. Although the sun’s exposure is more intense during the summer months, it shines all year round. After a long day in the sun due to an athletic event, a hike or a day at the beach, consider giving your hair a hydrating treatment to avoid additional hair damage.
Signs of sun damage to your hair can include dry hair with brittle or broken ends, faded hair color, frizz and weakened or thinning hair.
Maintaining good overall health can help damaged hair get healthy along with the rest of your being. As with your entire body, your hair is affected by what you eat and drink. Make sure to consume lots of water, vitamins and essential nutrients. A diet rich in lean meats and other proteins, vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy help keeps hair happy.
Omega-3 fatty acids are good for hair and skin and can be found in salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds. Fruits and vegetables such as spinach, kale, carrots and avocados also target hair health.
Supplements can help fill in the gaps for a less-than-perfect diet and get your damaged hair onto the road to recovery. You can even try taking prenatal supplements to promote healthy hair growth.