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How to repair damaged hair: Tips for restoring healthy locks

Published: September 8, 2023

Written by: Kristin Limoges

Mature woman blow drying her graying hair in the mirror.

Got a case of the splits and frizzies? Here are a few ways that may help fix damaged hair, with tips for a lifetime of lovely locks.

Split ends, lackluster locks and brittle strands. According to one global study, 70 percent of people consider their hair damaged in some way.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) warns that damaged hair can lead to breakage, which can result in frizzy, unhealthy looking hair. And if the damage continues, it could eventually lead to thinning or even bald spots.

Fret not. Curbing damage can be as simple as using nourishing hair masks and brushing wet strands correctly. Read on for ways that may help repair damaged hair and some of the best hair products available at the drugstore.

En este artículo:

What are the most common causes of damaged hair?

First, some good news: The most common ways hair gets damaged are within your control. With simple changes now, you can help stop further damage.

  • Mishandling wet hair. When hair is wet, it breaks more easily. Aggressively rubbing hair with a towel can cause damage, according to the AAD. Intensively brushing, pulling and tugging on wet hair can also stretch and break the delicate strands.

  • Heat damaged hair. Sure, using a blow-dryer, flat iron or curling iron is part of the fun of styling hair. But a lot of damage can occur during these processes, especially without the use of a heat protectant — or if you’re using tools at their most extreme heat settings.

  • Styling. The act of styling your hair can cause stress. Think of constantly pulling it back into a tight ponytail, bun or cornrows. This can cause damage and can lead to hair loss.

  • In-salon treatments. Over time, coloring, perming or relaxing hair can cause damage, too. The more you can extend the time between treatments, the better off your strands will be, explains New York based celebrity stylist and colorist Reece Walker. For highlights, for example, that's ideally about 10 weeks between treatments. And for treatments that are lower maintenance, like balayage, you can go up to six months, he adds.

  • Environmental stressors. Daily environmental stressors, like air pollution (including dust and smoke particles), extreme temperature variations and ultraviolet (UV) radiation, can also wreak havoc on strands. And research shows these factors can also affect the scalp, which means affecting your hair's overall health.

How to help fix damaged hair

There are several easy ways to help tackle damaged hair, including using over-the-counter products and making styling changes to your routine.

Over-the-counter approaches

Once you stop the processes that damage hair, the next step is to baby those locks. A number of product types, including moisturizers and oils, are designed to support damaged strands.

You can also try a hair mask that's meant to hydrate and support hair in the same way that a face mask supports the face. A few to try include:

Eva NYC Therapy Session Hair Mask. "Smells divine and is a great vegan, cruelty-free, clean option," says New York City celebrity hairstylist and bridal expert Olivia Halpin. Another advantage? "This deep conditioner is light enough for use on fine hair," she says.

L’Oréal Elvive Total Repair 5 Damage-Erasing BalmThis rinse-out mask deeply conditions and reinforces hair. It's also one of Halpin's favorites:It's "great for dry and damaged hair, as it targets split ends, dullness and dryness."

Styling approaches

There are a handful of methods that can help make your hair look healthier that only a stylist can execute. Here are a few things to consider and discuss with a professional:

  • Getting consistent haircuts. "A haircut is the best way to get rid of damage, and regular trims (every six to eight weeks) are the best way to maintain the health of your hair," says Halpin. "If your hair becomes damaged, whether from chemical processes, heat styling or environmental factors, a haircut is the best move."

  • Bonding treatments. Consult with a professional stylist about bond-building treatments, suggests Halpin. These can rebuild the bonds that make up the keratin of hair -basically repairing damaged hair from the inside out.

Home remedies for damaged hair

The internet is packed with at-home tactics to "repair hair," some of which might seem a little outlandish, like slathering strands with butter or mayonnaise (spoiler: this hasn't been proven to work). But there is one approach even stylists recommend: avocado masks.

Mash up one ripe avocado and apply the mask to damp hair. Leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes and then wash and condition hair as usual. Doing this once per month may help give hair a silky, healthier-looking shine.

How to stop damaging hair

Your first step to healthier-looking locks is to avoid the causes of damaged hair listed at the beginning of this article. Once that's in the bag, here are a few other hair-healthy ways to cleanse and style without fraying and frizzling.

Styling and combing hair

Here are some ways to make your hair look fabulous without breaking strands or exposing them to damaging heat:

  • Brushing and combing. Brushing hair should be done with care, according to the AAD. It advises against pulling or tugging on hair when you brush it, carefully guiding a wide-tooth comb or detangling brush through it instead. When hair is wet, comb even more cautiously and only use a wide-tooth comb or a wet-specific brush.

Wet Brush can fit the bill. Or consider the Wet Brush Charcoal-Infused Anti-Frizz Speed Dry Brush, which not only makes combing through hair easier, but also faster with the wide, paddle-brush shape.

  • Styling. Both Halpin and Walker are huge fans of heatless styling. For instance, consider overnight braids as a way to introduce a natural wave. Let hair air-dry 80 to 90 percent, then separate the strands into two large sections, braid and let hair completely dry before removing. Voila! Just one of the ways to achieve heatless curls, notes Walker.

El Kitsch Satin Heatless Curling Set also allows you to achieve voluminous curls without a single heating tool.

  • Responsible heat styling. When using a blow dryer or straightener, use the lowest heat setting and don't go above 380 degrees, advises Halpin. Additionally, always (seriously, always!) use a heat protectant before any heat exposure. Halpin is a fan of Eva NYC Mane Magic 10-in-1 Primer, which not only helps protect from heat damage, but can also help fight frizz, strengthen hair and shield from UV damage.

Ways to cleanse hair: Benefits of a healthy scalp

How you care for your scalp can lead to healthier looking hair. When shampooing, focus on the scalp - no need to wash the length of your hair, which the AAD notes can cause the hair to get tangled, leading to damage. It suggests allowing the ends to be "washed" when you rinse out the shampoo.

The best shampoo for damaged hair? A formula focused on hydrating, strengthening and not irritating sensitive scalps. The award-winning Nexxus Keraphix Shampoo for Damaged Hair, for example, is formulated to help strengthen hair while also healing signs of severe damage.

Ways to protect hair from sun and other environmental damage

Excessive sun exposure to the hair can cause discoloration, dry and brittle strands, split ends, thinning and frizziness. This damage occurs when dangerous UVA and UVB rays attack your hair's keratin.

You can help prevent this from occurring by grabbing a hair sunscreen, which is specifically designed to protect hair cuticles. Consider Sun Bum SPF 30 Scalp & Hair Mist, a lightweight mist that helps shield the scalp from sun exposure. Additionally, you can throw on a chic hat, like the Gaiam Wander Breathable Geo Hat, which can shield the hair and head (and ideally the face, too) from the sun altogether.

Este contenido es solo para fines informativos y no constituye un asesoramiento médico. Consult with your health care provider before taking any vitamins or supplements and prior to beginning or changing any health care practices.