Reversing Hair Damage Isn’t Impossible – Here’s How

Road to recovery.

Originally Published: 
repairing damaged hair

Beauty routines are often built on two main principles: protection and prevention. In terms of skin care, you rotate through products and treatments aimed to preserve and boost the health of cells in order to avoid damage. The same holds true for hair care, where you make use of protective hairstyles, sprays, and creams to shield your strands when styling. Of course, safeguarding is essential, but the reality is that, much like skin, it’s almost impossible not to harm your hair. From brittleness and dryness to split ends and breakage, repairing damaged hair can be a challenge but it’s not impossible.

“The first step to recovery is determining exactly what kind of damage you have by consulting with a hair professional,” says Ray Christopher, celebrity hairstylist and founder of the Ray Christopher Collection. While you may be familiar with the signs and symptoms of damaged hair, you may not be aware of the factors that cause it.

Regardless of your hair type or texture, professional guidance is crucial to reviving compromised hair. For this reason, TZR turned to the experts. Ahead, three stylists break down the basics of hair damage, including the causes, how to adjust your routine, and the products that will bring your hair back to life.

Chemical Hair Damage

How To Identify It

It’s no secret that chemical treatments, such as hair dye, can have a negative impact on your strands. “Bleach and other coloring ingredients are major causes of hair damage, especially when used too frequently or too aggressively,” says celebrity hairstylist, Bradley Leake. Luckily, the symptoms are easy to spot. Leake tells TZR that if you begin to experience extreme dryness or notice any breakage after you’ve treated your hair, it’s almost a no-brainer that it has impaired your strands.

On the other hand, perms are designed to change the texture pattern of your hair by wrapping it in a coating of strong chemicals, whether you’re looking to add waves or relax natural curls for a sleeker look. “Severe chemical damage from these kinds of treatments will often change the elasticity of the hair,” says Guy Tang, hairstylist, and Olaplex Ambassador. He notes that this may be most evident when it’s wet, as the hair will feel “spaghetti-like and be extremely stretchy.”

How To Reverse It

Since the issues run deep with chemicals, Tang tells TZR that completely reversing the damage is difficult without opting for a haircut. “Permanent results are best achieved by cutting the affected strands, but there are many products on the market that improve the visibility and feel of damaged hair,” says Tang. He suggests your stylist first administer an in-salon treatment to restore health and deeply condition dry hair before turning to over-the-counter products to maintain your elasticity when styling at home. Similarly, Leake recommends trying a Keratin treatment to aid with repair. “This is a good option because it will seal your cuticle and help your hair retain moisture to prevent further dryness.

Heat Damage

How To Identify It

As Christopher tells TZR, heat damage is typically caused by hair tools, like blow dryers, straighteners, and curling irons. While light use of these tools is manageable, overuse can lead to severe problems as it can quickly burn your hair and cause permanent damage. Leake also notes that the materials they’re made of could also be the blame. “Titanium tools are best for extremely coarse hair, whereas ceramic is better suited for finer hair, so finding the right one for your hair type can be helpful to avoid further problems,” he says.

Similar to chemicals, the major signs of heat damage start with dry and brittle hair that may also begin to break at the ends. “With heat damage, you’ll notice various spots that have become brittle or where the texture changes the farther you go down the strand,” says Leake. This can cause the hair to tangle easily and make it harder to brush or comb out.

How To Reverse It

Completely avoiding hot tools is a good idea, but if that’s not an option, adjusting how you use them will help. “Like ironing your clothes, you must be aware of how long you are keeping the iron in one spot,” says Tang. “Determining how much heat your hair can take for a certain period of time is necessary for health,” he says.

Along with decreasing use and time, Leake suggests adding bonding treatments to your wash day routine. “Not only will this penetrate deeply to provide hydration, but it can help return it to its normal state,” he says. As for styling, all three stylists adamantly recommend adding a heat-protectant product with any hot tool you use.

Mechanical Damage

How To Identify It

You may not be familiar with the term mechanical damage, but you’ve definitely encountered it before. “This kind of damage is pretty common and is caused by improper handling of your hair, such as brushing or combing it in a rough manner,” says Christopher. Other major culprits include hair bands, pillowcases, and towels made from harsh materials.

“Mechanical damage deals with the everyday items your hair interacts with and can be the cause of damage over time,” says Leake. He continues, saying that the most notable sign will be breakage near the area where you routinely use hair ties or in areas where you’re commonly brushing aggressively, often towards the nape of the head.

How To Reverse It

Determining which items are causing the damage is the first step to rectifying mechanical damage. “Start to notice what your hair is interacting with daily. If you wear ponytails, consider a coil or scrunchie instead of elastics when tying your hair up,” says Leake. Similarly, switching to a silk pillowcase and microfiber towel can also be beneficial since they create less friction than other fabrics.

As Christopher notes, this type of damage can be reversed when caught in time. He recommends using a nourishing hair mask treatment at least every three weeks to help ensure the integrity of the hair is still intact. Trims are also very effective to avoid split ends from moving up the hair shaft. “I always suggest removing dead ends, which are often the cause of knotting, which leads to aggressive brushing, and then the cycle repeats. A trip to the salon for regular trims will be the best way to give your hair a fresh start,” says Leake

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