Going to great lengths for beautiful hair? Here, a dermatologist shares hair care tips for damaged hair.

While the latest hairstyles and hair colors may look great, dermatologists warn that many women are subjecting their hair to harsh chemicals and heated styling devices that, in turn, can damage the hair.

Hair care tips for damaged hair

Over time, lustrous hair can look lackluster, become brittle and require a complete hair care overhaul to improve hair health and appearance.

Dermatologist Zoe D Draelos, MD, FAAD, consulting professor at Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina, discussed the most common sources of hair damage and tips to reverse damage and maintain healthy, lustrous hair.

“One of the most common misconceptions about hair is that it is alive, when, in fact, hair is nonliving, and does not heal itself once it is injured,” says Dr Draelos. “For this reason, once the hair is damaged it cannot heal itself except through new hair growth at the scalp. Women need to understand that the very things that they do to hair to make it appear beautiful, such as using hair dyes, perms and products that straighten the hair, will eventually end up damaging the hair’s structure and ultimately affect its appearance.”

Getting to the root of chemical hair damage

When hair is damaged, the protective lipid layer of fat on the outside of the cuticle – responsible for making the hair shiny – is removed. Chemical damage is one of the most common culprits of hair damage, as processed hair loses its natural moisturizers. The result is dried-out, frizzy hair that does not hold its style and accounts for the hair’s dull appearance.

“Many products have been developed to counter the effects of over-processed hair, and regular moisturizing is a must for women with visible signs of hair damage,” Dr Draelos says.

Dr Draelos offered this tips to combat chemical hair damage:
  • Use conditioning shampoos and conditioners regularly to improve the appearance of frizzy hair. 2-in-1 shampoos that remove oil from the scalp, clean the hair, then condition the hair in the rinse phase also are good choices.
  • Look for products containing dimethicone, which is available in shampoos, conditioners, sprays and creams. This ingredient has been shown to decrease static electricity, increase shine and improve manageability.
  • Try hair serums, which are applied by a few drops on the hands and rubbed through the length of the hair (but should not be applied directly to the scalp).
  • Stop dyeing your hair and opt for hair’s natural hair color instead.
  • If you must dye your hair, stay “on shade” – or dye the hair within three color shades of its natural color. Dyeing hair darker, rather than lighter, also is generally better.

Also see: When the heat is on: Protecting your hair from heat damage

Straightening hair comes at a price

While ceramic flat irons are quite popular with women seeking sleek, straight hair, another procedure that uses chemicals in combination with heat to straighten or rearrange the hair’s natural bonds is known as keratin hair straightening.

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Typically performed in salons, keratin hair straightening uses gluteraldehyde or formeldahyde rather than lye – a stronger bond breaker also used for hair straightening, but which is even more damaging – combed through the hair to make it straight.

After one of the chemical solutions is applied to the hair, a keratin protein conditioner is put on the hair to make it less brittle. With this procedure, hair must be kept dry and not bent or manipulated for several days after the process.

For women considering keratin hair straightening, Dr Draelos offers these suggestions:
  • Avoid this procedure if you have tightly kinked hair, as it will not work in rearranging the natural hair bonds.
  • To minimize hair damage and loss, extend the time between treatments.
  • When washing hair, use a generous amount of conditioner to make hair less brittle.
  • If hair becomes frizzy and brittle, stop the procedure, and let new hair growth replace damaged hair.

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