While there are many causes of hair loss – including disease and genetic predisposition – the most common reason men and women lose their hair is due to poor cosmetic grooming practices. Coloring, styling, brushing and even scratching can all add up to damaged hair. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to get your hair back on track.
“Hair damage is a result of trauma to the physical structure of the hair that occurs every day,” explained Dr. Draelos. “The first step is to recognize the factors responsible for lack luster hair in order to learn how you can change your hair care regimen to improve it.”
1. Don’t give into the itch.
Seborrheic dermatitis is a condition marked by itchy, red, scaly skin that can occur on the scalp. While it does not cause hair loss, the itching associated with seborrheic dermatitis can weaken and permanently damage hair over time.
2. Don’t come up short with long hair.
Long hair is much more likely to be cosmetically damaged than short hair. People with extensive hair damage should consider a shorter hair style to improve the overall appearance of the hair. “In this case, it is extremely important to identify the cause of the hair damage so that the newly grown hair remains healthy and attractive,”
3. Grow old gracefully.
Since hair growth slows down with age, this also means that cosmetically damaged hair will be present longer on older individuals. The hair’s diameter decreases with age, predisposing thinner hair to damage from chemical processing. Dr. Draelos recommended that for this reason, all chemicals used on mature hair should be weaker than those used on younger hair.
4. Choose styling tools wisely.
Knowing when to comb or brush hair is important to proper grooming. If possible, hair should only be combed when dry. The reason is that wet hair is more elastic than dry hair, which means that vigorous combing of the moist fibers can stretch hair to the point of fracture. When choosing a comb, look for one made of a flexible plastic with smooth, rounded, coarse teeth that easily slips through the hair.
Extensive hair brushing also should be avoided while hair is wet. In general, brushing the hair should be kept to a minimum in order limit breakage. “The myth that the hair should be brushed 100 strokes a day and the scalp vigorously massaged with the brush is simply untrue,” said Dr. Draelos. When selecting a brush, look for bristles that are smooth, ball-tipped, coarse and bendable. Brushes used while blow drying should have widely spaced bristles to prevent increased heat along the brush, which could damage the hair.
5. Get a grip on using too many accessories.
While hair pins and clips are popular fashion accessories, the fact is that they all break some hair since they must hold the hair tightly to stay in place. Look for hair pins with a smooth, ball-tipped surface and hair clips with spongy rubber padding where they make contact with the hair. Looser-fitting clips also minimize breakage and should be worn in different parts of the scalp so that hair breakage is not localized in one specific area. “This problem is particularly apparent in women who wear a ponytail, and that is why I recommend that rubber bands should never used,” said Dr. Draelos. patients who wear ponytails report that their hair is no longer growing, when in fact it is repeatedly broken at the same distance from the scalp due to the trauma caused by the tight rubber band.” Rather than using rubber bands for ponytails use fabric scrunchies, which loosely hold the hair together, be used.
6. Get to know your hair.
Curlier hair tends to fracture more easily than straight hair. For this reason, the make-up of the hair can determine how aggressively hair can be groomed. African-Americans, for example, typically have kinky hair that should be gently groomed with a wide-toothed comb or hair pick. Dr. Draelos also noted that due to minimal friction, Asian hair is least likely to be damaged by combing.
7. Be sure your stylist makes the cut.
The hair should always be cut with sharp scissors, as any defect in the scissor blade will crush and damage the hair shaft. Crushing the end of the hair predisposes it to split ends.
8. Style your hair with care.
“Even though many salon owners would disagree, there is no hair style or procedure that can reverse hair damage,” explained Dr. Draelos. “Hair is basically a textile – it looks the best when new and degrades with age and use.” In general, the less that is done to the hair, the healthier it will be. Hair styling products can help improve the cosmetic appearance of the hair, but should always leave hair flexible. Stiff styling products that promise a long-lasting hold can actually precipitate hair breakage when trying to restyle the hair with combing.
9. Avoid excessive hair color and bleaching.
Hair coloring and bleaching are universally damaging to hair. It is sometimes said that chemical processing adds body to the hair. This means that the dyeing procedure allows the hair to stand away from the scalp with greater ease. This is not due to healthier hair, but rather to hair damage that makes the hair frizzy and more susceptible to static electricity. “The basic rules of hair dyeing are always staying within your color group, preferably dyeing the hair no more than three shades from the natural color,” said Dr. Draelos.
10. Don’t make waves with hair texture.
Hair relaxing and permanent waving are two procedures that can be damaging to hair and should only be used on a limited basis. While hair relaxing can weaken hair, it also can actually facilitate hair length in patients with kinky hair since the hair is less likely to break when combed. The relaxing procedure straightens the hair and makes it easier to groom,
When using permanent waving, the curls should be as loose as possible with the interval between procedures being as long as possible. For patients with damaged hair, the perming solution should be weak and left in contact with the hair for as short a period as possible.
“If you notice that your hair is becoming brittle or looking dull or damaged, you should consult your dermatologist immediately to determine the cause and how to treat it,” explained Dr. Draelos. “Repairing damaged hair takes time, so the sooner you address it, the sooner you’ll notice results.”