Heads Up: These Hairstyles Are Secretly Harming Your Hair

a woman putting her hair up

Viktor Solomin/Stocksy

Haircare is a serious undertaking, especially since there are plenty of us who love to experiment with different hairstyles. We all love our slick ponies and tight braids, but did you know that your adorably chic hairstyle could be hurting your hair? Yes, damaging hairstyles most definitely exist, and you could be causing some serious damage without even knowing it.

But don’t freak out quite yet, because it looks like the key to preserving our gorgeous hair is just to not go overboard with these hairstyles and to allow hair days to recover and rest. Everything in moderation—that's the rule, right?

Keep scrolling to find out if your go-to hairstyle is damaging your hair.

The Exact Same Ponytail Every Day

woman with long blonde hair in tight ponytail
A Lover’s Anthology

The Damage: Fraying, breakage

We get it—ponytails are a quick and easy way to hide dirty hair and give you a polished look in seconds, but (and yes, there is a but) they can be one of the most damaging hairstyles out there. Elastic hair ties can grip hair too tightly and cut into the hair shaft, causing fraying when they are repeatedly used in the same spot.

So, throwing your hair up in a quick pony for the gym every once in a while is okay, but when you’re using the ponytail as your go-to hairstyle every day, it can become a problem. And yes, this policy applies to buns, too. However, if you absolutely cannot go a day without your beloved pony or bun, don’t worry—your hair isn’t totally doomed. Try ditching your rubbery elastic bands for thick, fabric-coated hair ties, like Emi-Jay’s Hair Ties ($11 for five), for a secure hold that’s gentler on your hair.


Brkati Krokodil/Stocksy

The Damage: Splitting, follicle damage, hair weakness, tensile stress

Braids of varying degrees of difficulty have been worn throughout history since 3500 BC. We’re not expecting anyone to banish braids from the hairstyle archives completely (nor would we want to!), but rather to ease up on them (literally).

If the hair is pulled back too tightly, it can break away from its roots, which can result in splitting, hair weakness, and follicle damage. Make sure you keep the start of the braid loose.

Braids that are too tight can also cause tensile stress, which occurs when there is constant tugging on hair follicles. "These type of braids can be damaging depending on how tight or heavy the braids are. The stress on the follicle can weaken it and sometimes cause hair loss," says Jessica O'Brien, artistic educator and stylist at Ouidad

Regular tensile stress can lead to serious hair loss conditions, such as traction alopecia, which can be caused by wearing tight hairstyles for a long period of time.

However, all hope is not lost. You can still wear braids without taking such costly risks. "The best way to wear braids with minimal damage is not braiding too tight at the scalp, taking breaks between wearing braids, and moisturizing your scalp before, during, and after wearing braids with essential oils," O'Brien says. 

Like we said, everything in moderation: We're not saying you should never wear tightly styled braids, just be sure they're not too tight and causing unnecessary stress on your scalp. (Check out our big, badass braid guide for tons of inspiration for every occasion.)

Wet Updos

wet updo
Harper's Bazaar

The Damage: Breakage, splitting, acute hair loss

This goes right up there with the tight ponytails and buns. If ponytails and buns with dry hair can do damage, can you even imagine what can happen when you form an updo with wet hair? Wet hair is much more fragile than dry hair and is more prone to breakage and splitting. You should never tie up your hair when it is wet. Don’t believe us? Look at your elastic hair tie next time you remove it after a wet-updo day. See that hair wrapped around your hair tie? We rest our case. Hair expands and lengthens when it's wet, then contracts back shorter once it dries. So if your hair is tied up or braided tightly when it's wet, the tension increases as hair dries.

While a glistening wet updo may look cute, it’s so not worth the potential hair loss. If you really want a glossy shine to complement your updo, try a shine spray, like Kenra Professional’s Shine Spray ($18), instead. Your hair will thank you.

Watch: How to Get Heat-Free Waves

Your Blowout-Preserving Bun

Your Blowout-Preserving Bun

The Damage: Friction and tugging at hairline

While sleeping with your hair in a bun may help to preserve your salon-professional blowout, it can also have some serious repercussions for your overall haircare. It is important to always wear hair down when sleeping, to avoid pulling at your roots. Rolling around while you sleep can cause friction and tugging at the hairline.

If you love sleeping with your hair up and don’t want to change, try opting out of your cotton pillowcases in favor of satin or silk ones. The slippery material will allow your hair to glide with you over your pillow and help avoid any unnecessary friction that can lead to breakage.

We recommend SpaSilk’s 100-Percent Silky Satin Hair Beauty Pillowcase ($10) to keep your hair from being pulled on all night. Now, that's what we call beauty rest.

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