Damaged Hair: How To Repair, Restore, And Protect It

Medically reviewed by Robert Finney, MD, FAAD
Written by Annie Jangam

Frizzy, dull, dry hair that tangles easily.  Split ends and hair breakage. These are the signs of damaged hair. Hair grooming habits, exposure to heat styling, chemical procedures, environmental factors – anything can weather the hair shafts, causing extensive damage and breakage. You can repair damaged hair with proper care and better grooming habits. Scroll down to find out the types and causes of hair damage and how to treat it.

What Exactly Is Damaged Hair?

Damaged hair is when the outer hair cuticles are lifted to expose the hair cortex (the inner layer), affecting the hair’s structural integrity.

The hair shaft has three layers: medulla (the innermost part), cortex (the second layer that contains keratin fibers and melanin), and cuticle (the outer layer composed of dead, overlapping cells).

In healthy hair, the cuticles are flat, sealing moisture and protecting the inner layers to keep the hair shiny and smooth. Excessive chemical and color treatments, harsh products and grooming methods, exposure to UV rays, and pollution separate the cuticles, changing the hair texture. As a result, the hair looks frizzy, unmanageable, and damaged and becomes breakage-prone.

Before you start treating and repairing damaged hair, it is essential to identify the type of hair damage you have.

What Are The Types Of Hair Damage? 

Types Of Hair Damage How To Treat Damaged Hair
Split Ends

The hair ends are split into two or more heads, and the shaft feels rough to touch. It happens when the hair is stripped of its natural oils.

  • A temporary solution is to use nourishing and repairing serums to hydrate the damaged hair ends.
  • Get regular trims every four weeks to get rid of the split ends.
Color Damage

Hair colors may contain hydrogen peroxide (bleaching agent) and ammonia that open the hair cuticles and affect the hair structure.

  • Give regular breaks between color treatments.
  • Use color-safe shampoos and conditioners. They are gentle on the hair and prevent color fading.
  • Protect your hair from sun exposure.
Chemical Damage

Treatments like perming, hair rebonding, permanent hair straightening can alter the internal structure of the hair. Excessive processing can leave the hair dry, porous, brittle, and fragile.

  • Consult a hairstylist to ensure if your hair type can sustain the treatment.
  • Avoid multiple treatments in succession to prevent stressing the hair.
  • Use specific hair care products, such as leave-in conditioners, to maintain and protect the hair.
  • Deep conditioning is a must to keep the hair nourished and hydrated.
Heat Damage

Using heat styling tools (curling or flat irons, blow dryer) can fry your hair as heat opens the cuticles.

 

  • Use heat tools sparingly.
  • Always use a heat protectant or a thermal styler on your hair strands.
  • Avoid high temperatures to minimize damage.
  • Keep moving the styling tool. Do not hold on at one section for long.
Dull And Dry Hair

Hair that lacks moisture has a dry and dull appearance as the cuticles are raised. Nutrient deficiencies and medical conditions can also cause lackluster hair that tends to get tangled easily.

  • Using the right hair care products for your hair type can keep it hydrated.
  • Use nourishing hair masks, hydrating conditioners, detanglers, and serums to restore the moisture.
  • Go for regular scalp massages with nutrient-rich oils like coconut oil to moisturize dry hair.
  • Brush with a wide-toothed comb.
  • Avoid alcohol-based products as they can dry your hair.
Thinning or Hair Loss

Using harsh products, wrong hair care practices, malnutrition, and medical conditions, such as rapid weight loss or hormonal imbalance, may cause hair shedding and hair loss.

  • Consult a doctor to identify the underlying cause (if any). Do blood tests to diagnose any nutritional or hormonal deficiencies.
  • Follow a well-balanced diet with essential nutrients and vitamins.
  • Massage your hair with nourishing essential oils, such as rosemary and lavender, to restore the damage.
  • Avoid tying your hair in tight buns or ponytails to prevent hair thinning and hair breakage.
Environmental Damage

Extreme humidity and wind can cause flyaways and frizzy hair. Cold weather may cause static electricity and damage the cuticles and cause frizz.

  • Use a good anti-humidity spray or serum to tame the flyaways and fix frizzy hair. The silicones in anti-humidity hairsprays coat the hair strands and protect the hair cuticles, preventing frizz.

We all dream of having a healthy mane. However, wrong hair care practices and several other factors may damage our hair. Keep scrolling to find out what exactly is responsible for your damaged hair.

What Are The Common Causes Of Hair Damage?

  •  Heat Styling

We all are guilty of using blow dryers, hair straighteners, or curling irons at high temperatures to speed up drying and styling time. The excessive heat can raise the hair cuticles and damage their structure. Regular use of heat styling tools can make the hair dry and brittle.

However, this does not mean you have to avoid using heat styling tools altogether. All you need to do is proceed with caution. Follow these tips:

  1. Use a thermal styler or heat protectant spray before using hot tools.
  2. Use a deep conditioning repair mask once a week.
  3. Keep the blow dryer at least 6 inches from the hair.
  4. Ensure that the heat setting is low.
  5. Use a diffuser or concentrator when needed.
  • Stress

Physical and psychological stress may cause hair fall (1). Environmental stressors, such as UV rays, humidity, or pollution, can cause hair loss by releasing free radicals. To prevent hair damage:

  1. Cover your hair with a scarf or a hat to avoid prolonged UV exposure.
  2. Go for hair care products with sunscreen.
  3. Use anti-humidity products.
  4. Apply a serum to hydrate and protect your hair.

To avoid mental and emotional stress, take help from a therapist,  try yoga, meditation, and relaxation techniques. Also, maintain a good hair care routine.

  • Chemicals

Dry, rough, and brittle hair is often an aftermath of excessive chemical processing. Hair dyes, relaxers, and bleaching agents penetrate the cortex (inner part of the hair) and weaken the hair strands, causing damage from within. They make the hair more permeable to other chemicals, such as formaldehyde or ammonia, further damaging the hair shaft and the scalp. You can avoid this by doing the following:

  1. Use non-toxic and natural dyes.
  2. Avoid bleaching or coloring damaged hair.
  3. Take a break between your hair coloring sessions.
  4. Use the right concentrations and dilutions.
  5. Do not sleep overnight with a dye or bleach on your hair.
  6. Consult a professional for better results and safety.
  • pH Balance

Harsh shampoos, conditioners, and other hair care products disrupt the scalp’s natural pH balance and hair. Always use products that are pH-balanced or have a pH closer to your scalp’s pH level.

  • Wet Hair

Wet hair is porous and fragile and can be easily damaged. Brushing wet or damp hair can stretch the hair and fracture the shafts.

  • Tight Hairstyles

Styling your hair the wrong way can contribute to hair damage. Tight hairstyles like buns and ponytails can pull the hair at the roots, causing hair fall and hair breakage. This may also recede your hairline and cause bald spots.

  • Nutritional Deficiency

Nutritional deficiency may cause hair fall and affect hair quality. Consume foods rich in protein, iron, copper, zinc, essential fatty acids, folic acid, amino acids, and vitamins to maintain healthy hair (2).

  • Fungal Infections

Dandruff is a common fungal infection of the scalp caused by the microbe Malassezia. It feeds on sebum and natural scalp oils and causes irritation and inflammation that may affect hair and scalp health and cause hair loss in the long run. Use anti-dandruff shampoos and consult a doctor for treatment.

  • Hair Type And Texture

Thin and fine hair is susceptible to damage. Be gentle when grooming your hair and follow a proper hair care routine to keep it healthy.

  • Bad Hair Care Practices

 From taking hot showers to sleeping with damp hair, we put our hair through a lot of stress. These habits can damage your hair. Always avoid

  1. Taking hot showers
  2. Over-washing your hair
  3. Aggressively massaging or brushing
  4. Sleeping or tying damp hair
  5. Sleeping with the hair down

Damaged hair is fragile. Hence, it needs more care. A dedicated hair care routine will help you fix it. Here are a few ways you can repair or restore your hair health.

How Do You Treat Damaged Hair?

  • Wash your hair twice or thrice a week to keep it clean and free of dead skin cells, dirt, excess sebum, and dandruff.
  • Use glycerin-based shampoos and conditioners.
  • Go for deep conditioning treatments like a good hair mask once a week.
  • Apply detanglers, serums, and leave-in conditioners. These products offer multiple benefits like oil control, imparting shine, and smoothing the hair. They also protect your hair from damage and tame frizz.
  • Massage your scalp with moisturizing oils once a week. It boosts circulation, stimulates hair growth, and improves hair thickness.
  • Get regular haircuts. This removes split ends and protects your hair from further damage.
  • Avoid products that contain sulfates, parabens, alcohol, synthetic dyes, and fragrances.

You can also try home remedies to keep your hair healthy. Home-made hair masks with simple ingredients are widely used to nourish the hair and keep it hydrated. Check out some popular home remedies in the next section.

Home Remedies For Repairing Dry And Damaged Hair

1. Avocado And Egg Mask

Research shows that the peptides in the egg yolk promote hair growth (3). Avocado is widely used as a home remedy to soften the hair. 

You Will Need

  • 1 small and ripe avocado
  • 1-2 eggs (depending on your hair length and thickness)

Process

  1. Mash the ripe avocado and mix it with the egg(s).
  2. Apply this mixture to your hair and scalp.
  3. Leave it for 20 minutes.
  4. Wash with a gentle shampoo.

2. Banana And Yogurt Hair Mask

Olive extracts (including oil) can stimulate hair growth (4). Anecdotal evidence claims that bananas and yogurt are excellent hair moisturizers. 

You Will Need

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons of yogurt 

Process

  1. Mash the banana and mix it with olive oil and yogurt.
  2. Apply this mixture to your hair and scalp and leave it on for 20 minutes.
  3. Wash with a gentle shampoo.

3. Flaxseed Gel Serum

This is a popular DIY remedy and is said to keep the hair hydrated.

You Will Need

  • 2 teaspoons of flaxseed
  • 250 ml of water
  • Muslin cloth 

Process

  1. Boil the flaxseeds in water for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Remove it from the heat when the consistency of the mixture thickens.
  3. Filter the mixture using a muslin cloth.
  4. Apply it as a hair serum. 

Other than these, you can also use olive, argan, sweet almond, and coconut oils for prewash. Massage the hair and scalp well with any of the oils and wash it off after 2-3 hours.  These oils help restore and strengthen dry and damaged hair strands and tame frizz and flyaways.

Home remedies are a great option, but it is also a good idea to visit a salon for special hair treatments (keratin) or hair spas occasionally to pamper and treat your damaged hair professionally. However, if you do not see any progress, consult a doctor.

When To See A Doctor

It is advisable to consult a dermatologist if you notice:

  • Excessive hair fall
  • Dry, dull hair accompanied by fatigue and weight loss
  • Sudden thinning of hair or discoloration
  • Burning sensation on your scalp
  • Itchiness, redness, or scalp irritation

Conclusion

Once you start taking care of your hair and scalp, you will notice an improvement in a few weeks. Do not expect overnight results – you have to be patient and consistent with your hair care routine. Follow a healthy and balanced diet, take proper rest, and use products that suit your hair. If you do not see any visible results after 2-3 weeks, consult a doctor, and follow the prescribed treatment to keep your hair healthy.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Check out our editorial policy for further details.

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Annie Jangam is a Molecular Biologist with 7 years of research experience in Rice Functional Genomics and Nutrient Signalling with International Publications in Abiotic stress, Nitrogen, and G-protein signaling. She specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. She has been an avid reader since childhood and is passionate about stories that help decipher life and its meaning. She believes in Human Rights for all and that one should "love others like we love ourselves."