Originally Posted: https://www.realsimple.com/damaged-hair-7375963
by: Wendy Rose Gould
April 5, 2023
We tend to put our strands through the wringer. We’re not alway diligent about spritzing heat protector and then go ham with the blow dryer or curling iron. (Full power, high heat is never a good choice, friends). Those of us who like to switch up our look may indulge in one (or two) too many chemical processes, and it’s safe to say we all probably rely a little too much on dry shampoo.
All the above can take a toll on our strands over time, but how can you tell when hair is damaged and in need of some major TLC? Signs of damaged hair can be both obvious and subtle, so pay attention to these giveaways.
Hair Isn’t Shiny or Bouncy
When hair is lackluster, dull, and tends to absorb light versus reflect it, that’s a sign you’re dealing with some damage. At its best, healthy hair is shiny, bouncy, and soft to the touch. Tim Lehman, a stylist for Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger, says that chemical processing and heat styling are often the culprit. “Make sure you give your hair enough recovery time in between processes so you are not overlapping procedures,” he advises.
You’re Dealing with Breakage
Along with dull, flat hair, be on the lookout for hair breakage. “When hair goes through color processing, long-term exposure to the sun, or experiences dry conditions, this can lead to moisture-deprived hair,” explains Taylor Blades, hairstylist and educator for Covet & Mane. “You may notice that your hair is progressively breaking off from a few areas or all around the head.” Little pieces might show up in your brush, on your clothing, or in your fingers when you run your hands through your hair. This is a sign to add more moisture to your hair by using more protective and preventative products.
Ends are Thinned Out
Sometimes hair breakage isn’t apparent until you see the aftermath weeks or months later. The tips of your hair can be very telling, so pay attention to this area. “Often the hair that grows out from the scalp looks and feels smooth and luxurious, but the strand can be thinner towards the end,” says Lehman. “This can often be a result of blow drying or hot iron tools.” He stresses the importance of using heat tools on low settings and giving your hair a break from heat styling altogether whenever possible. A good trim can also help.
There’s Lots of Tangling
Tangling can occur for all sorts of reasons, and is a common issue for people with fine hair. However, if you notice tangling has become increasingly worse this could be a sign of damaged hair, says David von Cannon, celebrity stylist and ambassador for Better Natured. Tangling occurs in dry and damaged hair because the cuticle is roughed up instead of smooth, which creates extra friction. Nourishing, hydrating products and styling treatments that coat the cuticle can help.
It’s Not Growing
Ever wondered why your hair seems to stay the exact same length, or hardly grow even when tons of time has passed? Blades says this is a sign your hair’s not doing so hot. This indicates hair is breaking off at the ends, which can occur when hair isn’t getting enough moisture, is damaged, or isn’t being routinely trimmed. “No matter whether you cleanse your hair daily or weekly, your hair absolutely needs moisture on the mid part of your strands down to the ends,” Blades says. “Utilize a moisture cream or oil combination on your mid to ends every day. The drier your climate is, the more you should repeat this routine, up to twice a day.”
Hair is Crunchy or Stiff When Wet
Be on the lookout for a crunchy feeling when your hair is freshly washed. Lehman says this is a telltale sign your hair isn’t healthy. “Over-exposure to the elements such as sun, salt water and chlorine can make your hair almost feel crunchy when it’s wet and appear dry and brittle on the ends after it is styled,” he says. “The best remedy might be to get a good trim with your stylist, or try a treatment mask for your hair.”
Your Hair Feels Brittle
Brittle hair looks dull, dry, and seems to break off easily. This occurs when there’s chemical damage, sun damage, and heat damage. However, Blades says there’s another sneaky culprit to consider. “Products labeled with the terms ‘fortifying,’ ‘strengthening,’ or ‘repairing’ often contain excessive amounts of protein,” she says. This is great for repair, but when you overuse these products and your hair gets too much protein, things can backfire. “When hair has too much protein, it lacks the ability to hold and retain moisture, causing it to turn dry and brittle.” Always follow the label instructions.
It’s Hard to Manage
Bad hair days should be a one off—not the norm. If you’re consistently dealing with unruly strands then this could be a sign your hair is damaged. Healthy hair feels silky, soft, and strong. It catches the light, moves naturally, and has a nice bounce to it. Struggling to manage your hair—from tricky brushing to inability to hold curl—means that your strands could use some TLC. Give them a break from processing and heat styling and use high-quality, nourishing hair care treatments.