Hair Damage 101: Signs, Causes & Repair Tips

Are you having more bad hair days than usual? Are they getting worse despite your best efforts?

It may be time to check if your hair is suffering from long-term damage. 

First things first: Understanding your hair

Human hair has three layers. The inner fibre is called medulla. It is surrounded by the cortex, which has the major part of the fibre mass. This consists of structural lipids and keratin proteins. The third layer is the cuticle. These are dead, overlapping cells that form a protective layer around the hair.

There are two main types of hair: vellus and terminal. Vellus hairs are short and fine hairs we find all over our body. Terminal hairs are the ones on our scalp, brows, and lashes. They are thicker, longer, and more pigmented. This is the type of hair that we are most concerned about when we talk about hair damage. 

So what happens when hair gets damaged?

When our hair loses moisture, the lipid layer, which keeps the hair from getting waterlogged, is lost in the process. When this happens, the hair becomes extremely porous. Highly porous hair is unable to retain moisture for a long time. 

When hair is overstretched, which can happen when we brush wet hair, it can become fractured beyond repair. 

When our hair is overly exposed to chemicals and harmful UV rays, the cuticle can get worn out, and the hair shaft can become prone to breakage. 

What are some of the signs that you should look out for?

  • Frizzy texture
  • Dull and lifeless look
  • Excessive hair fall and unusual volume of hair loss
  • Brittleness that leads to breakage
  • Split ends

What causes hair damage? And more importantly, how can you reverse it?

Overuse of heated hair devices like blow dryers, curling irons, or hair straighteners, and excessive use of hair styling products are the usual suspects. Regular exposure to harsh chemicals, like chlorine in the pool, can also contribute to hair damage.

Your dietary choices and overall health also affect hair health. A balanced diet that includes protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and zinc, among essential nutrients, will help ensure that follicles are constantly growing new and healthy hair. 

But did you know that your own hair care routine can sometimes unintentionally contribute to long-term damage?

These reminders will help your hair and scalp regain a strong foundation, and reverse the adverse effects of bad hair care habits (intentional or otherwise).

  • Avoid rubbing the shampoo onto your hair when washing. It can strip your hair of moisture and cause it to look and feel dull. It can be inevitable sometimes, but the trick is to rinse it off right away. Focus on massaging the scalp area instead. 
  • Use lukewarm water to wash your hair. A nice steamy shower always does the trick to relax the body, but your hair may not appreciate it as much. It can strip the hair of natural oils, which can lead to dryness and frizz. 
  • Don’t skip the hair mask. It should always be a three-step process - shampoo, conditioner, and hair mask. A good mask with natural ingredients will give your hair the extra nutrients it needs to grow healthier. Hair masks also keep your hair hydrated and moisturised, even after you’ve rinsed them off, so it provides longer-term protection. 

When applying a hair mask, pay extra attention to the tips of your hair because they tend to be weaker and thinner. 

  • Air dry your hair, whenever possible. It’s absolutely fine to wrap your hair in a towel to absorb excess water. You can also use a soft cotton shirt as an alternative. Once that’s done, let nature take its course and leave your hair to air dry. If you must blow dry, choose the lowest heat setting. 
  • Do not brush your hair more than necessary. You’ve probably heard of the 100-brush strokes-a-day tip to keep your hair shiny and smooth. Alas, it is a myth. Brush and comb only when you need to. Use a wide-tooth comb to untangle your hair. And always be gentle. Avoid pulling or tugging when styling your hair.
  • Ease up on the tight hairstyles. Avoid using elastic bands (use covered ones instead or better yet, rock a cute hair clip) to tie your hair, and if possible, keep it loose. The pressure on your hair can cause the strands to break away from the roots.
  • Avoid chemicals. Opt for organic and natural versions of hair care and styling products. Sulphates and silicones strip moisture from your hair and this can lead to dryness and breakage. 
  • Reapplying dye? Keep it to the roots. This is to minimise chemical exposure on the rest of your hair. Space out the process, ideally at least 10 to 12 weeks apart. If you are unsure about DIY-ing your dye, go to the salon. A DIY dye gone wrong can cause major hair damage.
  • Protect your hair from the sun. Just as it is important to wear that swim cap to protect your hair from chlorine when swimming in the pool, it is equally vital to protect your hair from harmful UV rays. Wear a hat, use an umbrella, and add a leave-on hair spray with SPF to your hair care routine. 
  • Trim, trim, trim. Some people skip the regular trip to the salon because they’re growing their hair out. Makes sense, right? Not really. A regular trim will help prevent split ends, which, if ignored, can split all the way up and irreversibly damage the rest of the hair strand. If you don’t trim your hair regularly, you might notice that your hair will grow out thinner and looking unhealthy. 

You can check out our other hair care tips here.

It is important to remember that despite best care efforts, underlying health conditions can adversely affect hair growth. Consult a medical professional if you feel this is the case.

Will damaged hair grow out and reverse the damage on its own?

Unless you’re addressing the root cause of the issue, it will only get worse and when that happens, it may be harder, and consequently take longer, to reverse the negative impact.

If the split ends are triggering the frizz and breakage, trim them out. If your hair is dehydrated because of chemical damage, let it breathe and give it extra love (aka invest in a good hair mask, for starters). 

Get into these good hair care habits and over time, you will see and feel the difference. 

Which hair care tips helped you reverse hair damage? 

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