Why is my hair so dry and brittle? 3 hair experts explain

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As a single mom of a preschooler, I don’t know what I was thinking when I dyed my hair platinum. Nothing is as high maintenance as platinum, and when you skimp on hair care, it shows. My texture has suffered: Dry, brittle hair? To verify. But what can I say? I like blonde. It’s my only indulgence in an otherwise understated beauty routine. But because damaged hair can bog down your look, and because hair care is the new self-care, I enlisted a trichologist and two celebrity hairstylists to explain the causes of dry, brittle hair. They share tips on everything from correct how to use heated styling tools for things you can do while you sleep for shinier hair. The key, notes celebrity hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons, is to “follow a step-by-step process to ensure your hair stays healthy.”

Ahead, find common causes of dry, brittle hair and tips on how to maintain healthy hair.

1. Excessive use of heat

It’s tempting to use the straightener to smooth a frizzy mane. But approach with caution: one of the most common causes of dry, brittle hair is styling with tools that require heat. Good news, though – you don’t have to turn your hair iron off all at once. The pros advise selective using heated tools, rather than giving them up altogether because, let’s face it, they are a necessity.

“For people using styling tools on their hair, I would recommend using them only three to four times a week,” says Linh Phan, celebrity hairstylist and founder of PhanHaus. “And keep the temperature below 400 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Dominic Burg, Ph.D., trichologist and chief scientist at Evolis Professional, also notes that you should never use heat directly on damp hair. “Always make sure your hair is dry before using any styling tools,” he says. “If your hair is still damp, you run the risk of the residual water inside your hair shaft instantly boiling off, which can cause significant damage to the hair structure and make it brittle.” And it’s not just for hair tools – it involves being more mindful of your blow-drying technique. “Blow dry on a cool setting to remove excess moisture first,” he says. “Don’t use too high a heat and use a good quality heat protectant before styling your hair.”

A heat protectant preps your hair, so the cuticle isn’t completely fried while blow-drying. Drybar’s Prep Rally Prime & Prep Detangler and Bumble and Bumble’s Invisible Oil Dresser Heat & UV Protective Primer are two great options that work on all hair types and won’t weigh your hair down in the process. .

Another tip is to alternate heat styling with heated styling to give your hair time to recover. “Go for a heat-free curl style that can be worn for a few days and only use the hot tool to refresh your style,” says Fitzsimons.

Hair Perfect Silk Beauty Set by LilySilk comes with a curling band, scrunchies, pillowcase and nightcap to help you achieve heat-free curl, while protecting your hair with silk while you sleep. If you already have a naturally curly or frizzy hair type, a protective style like cornrows or bantu knots will keep your hair healthy by limiting its exposure to heat and the elements.

2. Over-bleach your hair

Excessive bleaching of your hair causes significant damage (obviously). To mitigate, Burg suggests jumping on the scalp-care bandwagon, a buzzing hair-care ritual that can help reverse the damage caused by over-bleached hair. “You have to start with a solid foundation,” he says. “If your hair is growing optimally, it will hold up to repeated coloring. Invest in a good scalp and follicle care routine to ensure you grow the best hair possible so you can approach color and treatments with less fear of brittleness and dryness. Briogeo Scalp Revival contains charcoal and coconut oil to relieve dry scalp for healthier hair; Act + Acre Scalp Detox breaks down sebum and removes buildup on the scalp.

Of course, letting the bleach sit for a little while can’t hurt either. “If your hair is already dry and brittle, maybe you should consider stepping back from color and giving your hair a break,” suggests Burg. But if you just can’t get off the whitening train, he recommends using a deep conditioning treatment mask overnight. “Apply generously and let it deeply nourish your hair while you sleep,” says Burg. “Some, like the Evolis masks, form a protective shell that will not settle on your pillows overnight. Others will need to be wrapped in a towel or turban while you sleep.

3. Washing your hair too much

Over-washing your hair could damage your hair. Every time you wash your hair, you damage it,” says Burg. “Shampoos strip away natural oils and damage the hair’s protective wax layer, opening the cuticles and allowing water in.” You might think water adds hydration, but for your hair, it actually has the opposite effect. “When water enters the hair fiber, it weakens the internal structure, leading to brittleness and dryness over time,” he says.

4. Using the wrong products for your texture

Different hair textures require different types of products. According to Phan, using the wrong products for your hair texture can actually cause damage. Fitzsimons agrees, explaining that “curly or frizzy hair tends to be on the dry side, and therefore more prone to breakage. Due to its tight curl pattern, natural oils can’t easily work their way through. in the hair shaft.

Naturally Drenched Rebalance is a pH balancing hair treatment for textured hair with coils and curls. Other editor favorites for textured curls and coils include Imbue Curl Inspiring Conditioning Gel Cream and Bread Beauty Supply Hair Cream.

Phan goes on to say that if your hair feels drier than usual, you can restore moisture by deep conditioning weekly. For blondes, Phan recommends Schwarzkopf Blondme Detox Mask or K18 Molecular Repair Mask.

“Consider using a silk pillowcase or bonnet before bed to protect your hair,” he says. “You won’t be able to restore your dry hair overnight, but with time and patience, your hair will soften.” The Slip silk pillowcase and Good Side silk pillowcases are soft as a cloud and instantly make your bed experience a luxury.

5. Overdoing it with sulfates

Dryness can result from using a hair care product that contains synthetic ingredients such as sulfates, which Burg says “can overload the hair’s natural oils.”

According to Fitzsimons, products containing sulfates “can irritate your scalp and cause dryness. Switching to products that are sulfate-free and contain more naturally-derived ingredients as an alternative can help you achieve healthier hair and scalp.

Actsyl Growth Stimulating Shampoo is a sulfate-free formula that uses tea oil to gently clarify and sodium hyaluronate and biotin to strengthen hair. Or try Pantene’s Damage Repair Sulfate-Free Castor Oil Shampoo, which uses a coconut-derived ingredient to gently cleanse hair without stripping it too much.

6. Let your hair air dry

Did you know that hair is more fragile when wet? “The longer the hair stays wet, the more the internal structure is damaged,” says Burg. “Drying hair with a hair dryer on a cool setting is an important way to minimize damage.”

Aquis makes the Rapid Dry Lisse Hair Towel, a microfiber towel that gently dries wet hair to its most fragile state without causing chafing or frizz.

7. Not getting a haircut

Fact: Going to the hair salon to get a haircut can be a waste of time. Also a fact: taking the time to trim regularly can really improve the texture of your hair. “Trim your hair at least once every eight weeks to keep it healthy and free of split ends,” says Fitzsimons. “When you have split ends, the split cuticle can move up the hair shaft.”

At the salon, consider a professional treatment that can really speed up results. If your hair is straight and wavy, Phan recommends a Brazilian blowout or keratin treatment to smooth the cuticles and lock in moisture. If your hair is curly or frizzy, consider a salon shine or in-salon conditioning treatment, like Olaplex 4-in-1 Hydrating Mask.

I Should Know is a back-to-basics series where we ask top experts for the answers to all your burning beauty questions, without judgement.

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