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Hair is highly prone to damage as it is constantly exposed to the environment. In addition, repetitive chemical treatments such as dyeing the hair, use of heat tools, avoiding haircuts, and ignoring split ends are some common reasons behind hair damage.
Also, some internal factors as well as daily hair-related beauty habits can make the hair fragile, leading to frizziness, dullness, roughness, breakage, and thinning. Therefore, it is essential to know what is good for your hair and what can damage it.
Improving your daily hair care habits can go a long way in revitalizing your hair health, giving your hair the strength and shine that enhance your appearance.
Habits That Are Damaging Your Hair and Scalp
There are a few hidden causes of hair damage that are often overlooked in your daily routines. Making changes to these habits can improve the health of your hair.
1. Improper brushing
It is common for people to brush their hair from the top and work their way to the bottom. However, starting at the roots and moving to the tips only pushes all the tangles to the end of the hair, which can eventually form one big and difficult knot. Pulling at this knot to detangle the hair eventually leads to excessive hair breakage.
Additionally, brushing the hair when they are wet results in increased hair breakage.
- Use a wide-toothed comb to detangle your hair, starting at the lower half and working your way up to the roots.
- Comb your hair before shampooing to prevent tangling. After washing your hair, towel-dry it, and comb and style it while it is still slightly damp.
- People with curly hair can use boar-bristle paddle brushes to manage frizziness and maintain the shape of their curls. People with straight hair should use brushes with boar and nylon bristles as these detangle the hair smoothly without pulling or irritating the scalp and hair follicles. You can also consult your hairstylist for the hairbrush best suited for your hair type.
- Avoid brushing your hair multiple times in the day to prevent excessive hair shedding. (1)
2. Tying your hair tightly
Wearing your hair in a tight hairstyle, such as a ponytail or a bun, that pulls on your hair can result in hair damage. Such tight ponytails create stress and tension in your hair, often leading to breakage, especially at the hairline.
In some cases, constant use of tight hairstyles can subsequently cause traction alopecia. (2)
- Instead of tying your hair in tight hairstyles, use low, loose braids.
- Use fabric-covered rubber bands to tie your hair, rather than a coiled hair tie.
- Try different hairstyles to see which are comfortable to you.
3. Use of chemical products
Using hair products that contain chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide, sodium peroxide, silicones, bleach, perms, parabens, and alcohols can often lead to hair damage. These chemicals are common reasons behind scalp irritation, infection, hair thinning, and hair fall. (3)
- Avoid hair products that contain damaging chemicals. When selecting hair products, look for ones that are free of alcohol, sulfates, and parabens. Choose organic or homemade products to help prevent chemical damage and improve your hair health.
- Use shampoos and conditioners in a limited amount. Excessive use of shampoo can cause scalp and hair dryness, while overconditioning can result in a greasy scalp.
4. Improper hair washing routine
The number of times you need to wash your hair in a week depends on your hair texture and type. Washing your hair every day can strip it of its natural oils, resulting in dry, dull hair.
On the other hand, not washing your hair for a long period can lead to the accumulation of dirt, dust, dead skin cells, and oil on your scalp, which clogs the hair follicles, resulting in hair loss and impaired hair growth.
- Wash your hair every 2–3 days, when it starts feeling oily or dirty. You can use dry shampoo if your scalp is excessively oily.
- Contact a hair specialist for the most suitable hair wash routine for your hair type. (4)
5. Wrong use of conditioners and shampoos
When washing your hair, you must make sure to apply the shampoo to your scalp. Shampoos are meant to clear the dirt and excessive oil off your scalp. When you lather your hair length with shampoo, it strips off the protective oil layer, making it prone to damage.
Conditioners, on the other hand, are meant to be used on the hair strands rather than the scalp. The hair length closer to your scalp is well hydrated and doesn’t require conditioning, as opposed to the dry hair shaft toward the ends.
Conditioning your scalp can lead to clogging of pores, which eventually leads to oiliness, follicular damage, and ingrown hair.
- Keep in mind that shampoos are meant to cleanse your scalp. Therefore, wash your scalp with shampoo, allowing it to fall out through the ends while rinsing.
- Apply conditioner to your hair length, avoiding the scalp. Do not leave it on for more than 2 minutes before washing it off.
6. Washing your hair with hot water
People tend to use hot water during bathing and taking a shower, especially in winters. While a hot water bath can be relaxing and refreshing, it does not bode well for your hair.
The heat from the hot water can dry out your scalp and hair, resulting in increased sebum production. Moreover, it damages the hair proteins, leading to dullness, dryness, and frizziness.
- Avoid using hot water to wash your hair. Instead, use lukewarm water to shower.
- Your shower time should not exceed 10–15 minutes.
- Refrain from wetting your hair more than 2–3 times a week.
- Rinse your hair with cold water at the end of your shower to help make it shiny and healthy.
7. Frequent use of blow-dryers and heat styling tools
The heat from hairstyling tools, similar to hot water, can affect the keratin proteins that make up your hair. Moreover, it strips the hair of its natural oils, leading to hair breakage, dryness, and damage. (5)
Hairstyling tools work by breaking the hydrogen bonds in the hair to achieve the style you want, be it straight, sleek, or curly. This can weaken the hair shafts and damage the hair follicles, resulting in hair brittleness.
- Avoid using heat styling tools. If you do have to style your hair, use the tools at the lowest heat setting and apply a heat protectant on your hair. You can also use steam rollers instead.
- Choose products that have high-quality plates and temperature controls.
- Avoid styling wet or damp hair. If you have curly hair, use the diffuser setting on the hair dryer to prevent breakage.
- When using a hair dryer, keep it at a distance of 15 cm from the hair and do not concentrate it on the same area to lower damage. (6)
8. Exposure to sunlight
The UVA and UVB rays of the sun can damage the hair cuticle, (7) resulting in hair discoloration, split ends, hair thinning, dryness, and frizziness. This causes dry and damaged hair, which is often difficult to manage.
The UV rays target the hair protein and increase free radical damage, making the hair weak and prone to hair loss. Your hair may be more prone to sun damage if it is colored, bleached, straightened, or permed.
- Cover your hair with a scarf, cap, or hat before stepping out in the sun.
- Avoid being in the sun for long periods to prevent sun damage.
9. Rubbing your hair to dry it
Using rough, coarse towels to dry your hair can cause increased friction that causes pulling and makes the hair frizzy, resulting in hair damage and breakage.
Since the hair is weaker when it is wet, using a rough towel can cause significant damage to your hair, leading to brittleness.
Use a microfiber towel to dry your hair. You can also use a cotton t-shirt to dry your hair, especially if you have curly hair. Cover your hair with a soft cotton t-shirt and tie it up like a bath towel until it dries.
10. Consuming a poor diet
It is important to provide nutrients to your hair for proper growth and health. Consuming a diet that lacks nutrients such as vitamins can be the reason behind hair loss and thinning.
Eating unhealthy junk foods or going on a restrictive crash or fad diet can cause nutritional deficiencies that, along with other health problems, can cause hair thinning, dullness, brittleness, and hair loss.
Consume a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients such as vitamin E, protein, zinc, iron, copper, and other minerals to maintain the health of your hair. (8)
Proteins help boost hair growth. It is recommended to consume a high-protein breakfast, such as eggs and mixed berries, to support hair growth and general health.
11. Sleeping on cotton pillowcases
Pillowcases made of cotton fabric can absorb the oils in your hair, leading to dryness and increasing the chances of hair breakage. Moreover, cotton fabric is not as soft as silk and can cause friction and pulling.
Switch to silk pillowcases for smooth hair in the morning. Silk fiber prevents any friction and pulling, helps preserve your curls, and isn’t absorbent like cotton fabrics.
12. Swimming in chlorinated water
Exposing your hair to chlorine in swimming pools for long periods or frequently can result in damaged hair. (9) The damage occurs as chlorine strips your hair of its natural oils, rendering the hair dry, rough, and damaged.
Moreover, chlorine can change the color of your hair, weaken the hair shaft, and often cause split ends.
- Avoid swimming in chlorinated pools frequently.
- Use a swim cap when swimming to help protect your hair from chlorine water.
- Make it a habit to rinse your hair with fresh, plain water as soon as you get out of the pool.
- You can also use a special swimmer’s shampoo after a swim to remove the excess chlorine from your hair and then condition it.
13. High-stress conditions
Just like stress has an adverse effect on your general health, stress can be harmful to your hair as well. The body releases cortisol under stress, a hormone that causes hair loss and thinning.
Moreover, stress interferes with proper nourishment and sleep, causing the hair cycle to shift to its resting phase. This often leads to telogen effluvium, a condition characterized by excessive hair shedding. (10)
- Practice stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga to manage stress levels.
- Work toward identifying the stressors in your life and removing them.
14. Teasing your hair
Teasing, or backcombing, is a common practice in hair styling. It involves combing your hair in a direction opposite to that of the cuticle cells, which can cause cuticle damage or remove the hair cuticles completely.
Moreover, teasing tangles your hair, which can result in hair breakage when combing out the knots. Teasing your hair is also associated with hair breakage and split ends in the long run.
- Avoid teasing your hair. Instead, you can use hairstyling products to create lift and volume. If you have to do it, use a fine-toothed comb and tease gently, avoiding excessive friction.
- In addition, comb out the hairstyle slowly, starting from the ends and working your way up, preferably using a wide-toothed comb.
Aside from addressing the above-mentioned problems, the following tips can also help prevent hair damage in the long run:
- Get your hair trimmed every 3 months to avoid split ends.
- Consume at least 8 glasses of water every day to stay hydrated.
- Oil your hair 2 hours before shampooing.
- Do not sleep with wet hair.
Many everyday factors can render your hair dry, rough, thin, and damaged, eventually affecting your hair quality and quantity. These factors include the way you style your hair, the hair products you use, and how often you wash your hair.
It is vital to be mindful of what and how you treat your hair to maintain good hair health. However, if your hair problems, such as hair fall, thinning, and dryness, do not improve despite doing proper care and using the right products, it is best to consult your dermatologist.