Taking care of (and preventing) damaged hair

We've all dealt with damaged hair, and it can have a big impact on how our hair looks overall. Click through for tips on how to prevent & take care of damaged hair!

"I blow dry my hair and use a straightener every day. I know that heat isn't good for my hair, but it's wavy (and not a pretty wave) and I just can't go without it. Is there anything I can do to keep my hair from getting extra damaged?" - Carly

Ah, the damaged hair. I don't think anybody doesn't deal with damaged hair and some point in their lives. With coloring, heat styling, harsh shampoos, and too much time between cuts, hair has a multitude of ways to get damaged! And when your hair is damaged, it's frizzy, it's dry, and it can get so damaged that it breaks off. This will a) obviously stunt hair growth because it's breaking off, and b) ruin any haircut you may have gotten because now it's uneven.

So I see this as a two-part subject.

First, how do you prevent damaging your hair? 

Well, keeping the heat tools to a minimum is an obvious one, but also one that's very difficult to do. That's okay, that's what heat protectant is for. My favorite is UNITE 7Seconds Leave-in Conditioner, and I will never use anything else. It detangles, protects your hair from heat, protects your hair from the sun, repairs damage, moisturizes... it's basically a miracle worker. Spray this on after you get out of the shower and it will protect your hair from the damaging heat of the blowdryer and flat iron or curling iron. So, Carly, this would be my recommendation to you: grab yourself a heat protectant and spray it on liberally before you dry and style your hair. Also, don't turn the temp up too high ;)

But there are other things that can damage your hair, too. Do you get your hair highlighted? That's major. Highlights don't always mean bleach, but if you already have color in your hair and then you highlight it, it has to be highlighted with bleach (because color can't lift artificial color out of hair). So there's a good chance your highlights are bleach highlights, which severely damage and dry out your hair. Consider going darker for a little while -- adding pigment to your hair is much less damaging than removing it.

The last major thing that can damage your hair is going too long between cuts. Even if you're growing your hair out, you need to get it cut regularly! Like I said before, when hair gets damaged, it breaks off. If you don't get your hair cut, it will break off anyway -- and probably at a shorter length than you want. If you're growing your hair out, get it cut every 10-12 weeks. If you're not growing your hair out, get it cut every 6-8 weeks.

So how do you take care of hair that's been damaged? 

This can be difficult, because there's no way to undamage damaged hair. The short answer: get it cut. Like, a lot. Cut off all of the damage. But unfortunately, most people don't see this as an option.

So instead, here's my recommendation: keep the heat styling to a minimum, keep the washing to a minimum, and use deep conditioning treatments once a week. Obviously, heat styling is going to advance the damage to your hair, so don't heat style it if you can manage not to. Washing too often also dries your hair out, so try to wash your hair less (here's how).

Grab a deep conditioning treatment from your local salon and use it once a week according to the directions or whatever your stylist tells you. Conditioning treatments can vary, which is why I can't really tell you exactly how to use it, but chances are you can put it on in the shower, let it sit for five minutes, and then rinse it out.

One thing I will caution you against is treatments with protein in them. Well, maybe not against, but use them sparingly. Your hair is made of protein, so naturally it would make sense to replace the protein in your damaged hair with a protein treatment. The problem is that there is such a thing as too much protein for your hair, and it will make your hair brittle and break off. So if you use a protein treatment, stick to twice a month, no more.

Damaged hair is annoying to deal with, but it's not impossible. Just keep in mind that there is such a thing as damage beyond repair, and if you keep heat styling and highlighting damaged hair, you will not be happy. Don't take your hair to the point of no return! Take care of it, and it will treat you well :)

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