Today I’m gonna be talking all about hair damage and hair breakage as well as split ends and at the end I’m gonna give you some excellent product recommendations if you’re coping with breakage and variety of issues related to damaged hair.
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What Causes Hair Damage?
One of the major factors in damaging the hair is ultraviolet radiation from the sun. It oxidizes the proteins and the lipids, particularly in the outer layers of your hair shaft, and that causes them to be dry, brittle and reduces the luster of your hair.
Both the amino acids and the hydrocarbons in the outer cuticle of the hair are most susceptible to oxidative damage from ultraviolet radiation because they receive the highest amount of ultraviolet radiation because they are on the outer surface of your hair.
However if your hair is chemically treated in any way, meaning colored, bleached, straightened or permed, you’ve already damaged that keratin structure as part of that chemical processing so your hair is even more vulnerable to oxidative damage from ultraviolet radiation.
When the outer cuticle of the hair becomes damaged it actually lifts up and this is what results in split ends and praying and the split ends ultimately lead to hair breakage and an overall decreased density and thickness of your hair.
Hair breakage is not necessarily the same thing as hair loss. Hair loss comes from the scalp, whereas hair breakage is due to damage to the hair shaft. Damage to the hair shaft can present with an overall decreased thickness of your ponytail for example.
The other thing that oxidative damage from ultraviolet radiation does to your hair is it decreases something called hydrophobicity, which ultimately makes your hair less manageable and more prone to tangling and then ultimately breakage as you have those tangles that you’re trying to work out.
The hair itself, ike skin, contains something called melanin, which is a pigment. Melanin absorbs ultraviolet radiation and the amount of melanin in your hair shaft can help protect you from ultraviolet radiation induced oxidative damage to your hair.
But people with blonde hair have less of that or people who have gray hair have no melanin in the gray hairs, so they’re more vulnerable to ultraviolet radiation induced oxidative damage.
Dyeing the hair does not protect you from ultraviolet radiation because it’s not as though it’s adding melanin to the hair, it’s just painting it a darker color in a sense. If you have gray hair that you dye dark brown or black, your hair is not protected from ultraviolet radiation because it’s not as though you’re adding melanin into the hair with that hair dyeing.
You’re actually more at increased risk for even more damage because the chemical processing of the gray hair affects the outer structure of that hair cuticle.
Another thing that can damage your hair much like ultraviolet radiation is when you swim in a pool with the chlorine. Swimming in a pool definitely puts you at risk for hair breakage and fragility much like being exposed to UV.
A lot of people swim outdoors, so they’re getting a double dose, so to speak, ultraviolet radiation plus the chlorine. That’s really hard on the hair.
Copper is another culprit. It can be present in pool water or it can be present in your tap water that you actually use to rinse out your hair in the shower. This can come from copper containing algaecides that are used to treat the pool water or copper containing pipes.
The copper can leech into your tap water and this can accelerate oxidative damage to the hair shaft. Even at very low concentrations, as low as 30 parts per million, will cause oxidative damage to the hair.
Going along with that issue with a copper, something that can happen to swimmers with blonde hair is that the copper can actually result in a green discoloration of your hair and that typically occurs when the copper is present at greater than 500 parts per million.
The best way to avoid that is to use a shampoo that has chelating agent in it, like EDTA that will help in removing some of that copper.
Heat and Chemical Processing
Other factors that go into damage and fragility of the hair, more so in day to day life, are heat styling as well as any chemical processing on the hair, whether it be bleaching, straightening, perming or coloring the hair.
Part of those treatments involves a treatment that damages the structural integrity of the keratins in your hair. That makes your hair very vulnerable to more oxidative damage.
The application of heat, whether it be through blow-drying or irons, both flat irons and curling irons. All three can cause issues but flat irons and curling irons are the worst offenders because you have that direct application of heat to the hair shaft that messes up the keratin structure and put you more at risk.
Physical factors on the hair shaft include how you are brushing the hair, aggressively or aggressive combing. Brushing your hair with a thousand strokes is very damaging to the hair shaft.
Also if you scrub your scalp and hair shafts really intensely with shampooing and lathering. There’s no need to do that and that can damage the the integrity of the of the hair shafts and lead to breakage and frizz.
Also towel drying. Aggressive towel drying the hair certainly can lead to a lot of frizz and hair damage.
Tips to Minimize Hair Damage
What are some tips to minimize damage to your hair?
Using a conditioner will help in keeping the hair soft and manageable. Using a deep conditioning product twice a week can also help if you’ve got a lot of hair damage, breakage and fragility. It can just help in strengthening the hair shafts a little bit and imparting some increased softness and manageability.
Make sure that you comb your hair ideally when it’s dry, although people with more textured hair cannot get away with this. They have to comb their hair when it’s damp. So if you comb your hair when it’s damp, make sure you use a very wide toothed comb.
When the hair shaft is wet it is more susceptible to damage from physical forces, namely combing or brushing.
That is one reason why I don’t ever comb or brush my hair when it’s wet, but my hair doesn’t tangle and by the time it dries, it naturally untangles. It’s not an issue for me, but that’s not gonna be the case for everyone.
Avoid the flat irons and curling irons if you can and also use a product that is a heat protective. This definitely can help.
Never ever use an iron whether it be a curling iron or a flatiron on wet hair. We’re essentially steaming and boiling the the proteins in your in your hair. Very damaging.
If you do any sort of chemical processing to your hair, straightening, bleaching, coloring, perming, try and keep it to just two to three times per year.
In terms of UV protection of the hair, wear a hat. That’s the best bet. Wear a hat while you’re outside that is a broad brim to cover your hair. If you have longer hair, you might want to pull it up into the hat.
Using a product that has actual sunscreen in it can help in reducing some of that weathering from ultraviolet radiation. I think it can be really helpful for people who have color treated hair, who are already super vulnerable and it also will help in prolonging the lifespan of your hair treatment.
And when it comes to swimming, as soon as you get out of the pool, rinse your hair immediately. That will help to rinse off that chlorine and copper containing water and then use a shampoo or conditioner that has a chelating agent like EDTA.
Lastly, try to trim your hair frequently. If you have a lot of split ends and damage that will help in reducing breakage. That way your new healthy hair can grow out.
Products For Damaged Hair
I encourage you to do your best to avoid products that contain fragrance because fragrance can cause irritation, allergies and in hair care products, particularly those that are left on, you can transfer it to your face and cause issues.
One product that I do recommend is the Bumble and Bumble Invisible Oil Heat/UV Protective Primer.
The reason I like it is it’s one product that has multiple useful functions. I find for people who have really processed, chemically treated hair that this is very good.
It has chemical filters in it that will protect against ultraviolet radiation. It’s also a heat protector and a leave-in conditioning product.
In terms of conditioning products, leave on masks are great. I do like to use a conditioning mask two nights a week and I’ve really been happy with the Function of Beauty conditioning mask. You only need a little bit and I only use it to 2/3 of my hair and leave it in for 10 minutes and then rinse it out.
Cleure leave in conditioning mist is also free of added fragrance. This is great as a detangling product. If you are dealing with a lot of breakage, frizz and hair damage and you need something to help with manageability, a detangling spray that you can leave on, this is a good option.
These products do have silicones in them. Silicones are really helpful ingredients in conditioning products. They deposit on some of those damaged areas of the hair shaft and help in strengthening it. They also reduce static and impart shine to the hair.
No nothing heat protection spray is a great heat protectant. That is one that I recommend a lot for people who heat style their hair.
Samantha is a hairstylist with over 12 years of color and stylist experience. She enjoys using her knowledge to create what her clients really want when they sit down in her chair. Her passion is creating unique looks that her clients feel great in.