My hair is worth its weight in gold. Not because it's particularly perfect — it's not Blake Lively's, after all. But, with the thousands of dollars I've spent dyeing my strands for nearly a decade, they just might be the most expensive part of me. But all those double processes have taken their toll. My hair, formerly soft and manageable, has transformed into a thoroughly sad state. It might look good on the outside, but it sure doesn't feel that way; damaged hair never does. If you have dry, brittle hair you don’t know how to fix, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
Plus, it’s not just dryness that’s a sign of trouble. As it turns out, breakage and shedding is another major problem that comes with damaged hair, so if you're experiencing that along with dryness, it’s all the more reason to turn to the pros for some help. Luckily, there are a number of solutions out there that can help you give your hair the serious R&R it deserves — no matter how fed up you are with it. So, if you're over dealing with damaged hair or shedding everywhere, give these expert-recommended tips a try.
My hair is split-end central. Does that mean I have to cut it all off?
In short: yes. Mia Emilio, senior stylist at Devachan NYC, says split ends are, just like they sound: They’re broken. The only way to get rid of them is to cut them out of your life.
“A split end will continue to split,” Emilio explains. “That split end will just continue rising and damaging healthy hair."
Don't think your yearly trims are enough, either. According to Emilio, hair should be cut every three to six months. People with fine, more straight textures might even want to spring for one every two months.
Is my hair frizzy because it's dry, or because it hates me?
Dryness and frizz go hand-in-hand, since hair becomes frizzy when it's dehydrated. By infusing moisture back in your hair, you can combat frizz, too.
Also, be sure to check the labels on your shampoo. “Stay away from alcohol, sulfates, silicon,” Emilio says. “They continue to dry out your hair and make you frizzy."
Along with Devacurl's bullsh*t-free No Poo line, I also love the L'Oreal Paris EverPure line and the Verb hydrating shampoo. If you've got dough to spend, try the Kérastase Resistance Thérapiste line.
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There's more hair in my shower drain than on my head. How do I make my hair stronger, so it's not falling out all the time?
Since a lot of hair damage comes from heat, the simplest trick is to just throw all your hot styling tools out the window. But if you’re not ready to give up your flatiron, there are still options.
“If you're into heat styling, it continues to damage your hair,” warns Emilio. “Keep up with trims, moisturize, deep condition. It helps with the elasticity."
There are plenty of products to combat heat damage — namely, masks for overnight use — that should leave your hair feeling restored.
Or, you know, just invest in a really great shower drain protector so your roommate doesn't get mad at you for clogging up the drain all the time.
We all know our pillowcases are out to GET us. Do the satin kind really make a difference?
Research says silk and satin pillowcases are better for your skin than those made out of plain cotton or a man-made fiber.
“I love silk pillowcases,” New York hair colorist Stephanie Brown says. “They help keep natural oils and don’t pull hair, so your hair will be more hydrated, smoother, and [with] less tangles.”
Bonnets are also great for helping with tangled strands. Hair gets caught under our heads and shoulders when we sleep, which leads to tangling and makes it prone to breaking.
What if my roots are super-oily and my ends are extra-dry?
For me, hair is like that one friend who can't make up her mind on what to order on Seamless. Noodles! No, pizza! Maybe sushi!
The trick to dealing with hair that can't make up its mind is to treat each part differently. Emilio suggests cleansing the scalp with shampoo and putting conditioner just on your ends, so the part of the shaft that needs hydration gets it. The conditioner also acts as a layer of protection for the part of your hair that isn't necessarily dirty and needs the extra dose of moisture.
But be sure to stay away from ingredients like sulfates. “They can make your oil glands produce more oil,” Emilio says. “They're so much more stripping and your oil glands are like, 'Oh my God, we need to make more oil!'"
Oil can build up on your scalp and not your ends, which can create these textural differences. Basically, treat your roots and your ends like two finicky children.
What do masks do? Do they help?
Brown is a big proponent of hair masks. “These help add moisture and some are bond builders,” she explains.
While Emilio is also a fan, she offers some warnings about them: “Always check for ingredients,” Emilio says. “And stay away from silicon and alcohol."
If you're the type who would much rather DIY than buy, making a hair mask is easier than making a salad — and actually requires similar ingredients.
Emilio suggests mixing things like avocado and coconut oil together before adding them into your conditioner.
"Bananas, eggs — these are things you can mash up and get in your hair," she offers. "A ripe avocado, mixed with egg and coconut oil is great, too."
Not a fan of waiting in the shower until the mask sets? No problem. Just sleep with it overnight and rinse it out in the morning. Just don't forget to wear a shower cap to bed, or you’ll mess up your lovely satin pillowcases.
Is my hair dry because I wash it too much, or not enough?
All those scary articles you might've read about the pitfalls of washing your hair too much are true; that extra 'poo is doing more harm than good.
“If you shampoo every day, you can run the risk of damaging hair,” Brown says. “[Shampooing] can strip your hair of natural oils, so that will dry out your hair, which will cause damage. At the same time, when you shampoo too often, your scalp will then over-produce oil … which leaves hair looking greasy with dry, damaged-looking ends.”
Emilio says you should be shampooing two to three times a week, tops. Those with dry hair types could even go down to once a week. However, she adds that you should still condition your hair daily or every other day.
What's the deal with protein?
Protein has become a big buzzword in the beauty world. The word on the street is that your hair needs a bit of extra meaty love from protein-infused styling products, but neither Brown nor Emilio are huge fans.
“The reason I don’t like [protein-infused hair products] is because most people don’t know how to use them, and then [they] ruin and break their hair,” Brown says. “Protein is good for your hair, but too much will make your hair brittle and then it will basically start snapping off.”
If you do want to try out protein on your hair, though, Brown recommends only using protein-infused products one or twice a month, tops.
In short, there is no hair that's not worth saving. I thought my dry, ultra-damaged hair was beyond the point of no return, but with a bit of R&R, it might one day resemble what it looked like before I started coloring it all those years ago.
And if not, I can always get a Beyoncé-worthy wig, like Channing Tatum.
Additional reporting by Lexi Williams.
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