How to Know if Your Hair Is Damaged, According to the Experts

How to Tell if Hair Is Damaged

Getty/Design by Cristina Cianci

Damaged hair can display itself in various ways, including but not limited to split ends, brittle-like texture, and excessive tangling. The fact of the matter is that these undesirable signs are an inevitable part of our daily rhythms. Whether you color your hair, use hot tools, or tie it up every day, all of these behaviors take a toll on our strands.

These unwanted signs of damage are our strands cry for help; to take care of our hair and get it back on the track to wellness, we need to treat the root of the problem. Damaged hair requires small, consistent adjustments, not a band-aid fix. We tapped a professional hairstylist and a trichologist to point out the signs that tell us when our hair is damaged and the steps we can take to cure the root of the problem. Below, seven signs of hair damage and the remedies to get your hair back to a state of health.

Meet the Expert

  • Graham Nation is a celebrity hairstylist and ambassador for UNITE Haircare.
  • Gretchen Friese is a certified trichologist for BosleyMD.
01 of 07

Hair Loss or Thinning

hair loss

@robyngermyn

There is the natural amount of hair we lose each day that resides in our brushes or naturally sheds as we wash—and then there are signs of shedding that serve as a warning sign.

Thinning around the hairline and throughout the head has multiple contributing factors, as noted by celebrity stylist Graham Nation. "Thinning could be caused by stress, age, heavy medications, or having just had a baby," he says. To prevent this type of hair loss, Nation says the ticket is a clean scalp. "You never want the pores on your scalp to get too clogged." He suggests UNITE’s RE:UNITE Shampoo and Conditioner to start, saying a good shampoo and conditioner can help alleviate this issue by "removing daily buildup while delivering strength-building nutrients from roots to ends."

"Hair loss could also be caused by a lack of protein," says BosleyMD-certified trichologist Gretchen Friese, who agrees with Nation's remedy of using a good shampoo and conditioner to help cure this type of hair damage. "A strengthening shampoo and conditioner are important," she says. "You can also consider a professional keratin treatment once a month to help strengthen the hair."

"If you are on medications that may be affecting your hair loss," says Nation, "I would consult with your doctor."

02 of 07

Split Ends

split ends

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If your hair begins to fray, your ends are instantly dry when you get out of the shower, or there's a thinning effect going on toward the perimeter of your strands, you likely have split ends. Both our experts say that regular trims can help eliminate the damage. "Cutting the hair's length will remove the damage and allow the hair to continue growing in healthy," says Friese.

"Split ends may also be caused by the weather or dryness," says Nation. This leaves the hair in need of moisture. "A hydrating oil used one-to-three times throughout the day will give the hair moisture and shine by deeply sealing and protecting the hair from heat, frizz, and UV damage." With regular haircuts and frequently added moisture, you'll eliminate those split ends in no time.

03 of 07

Breakage

Breakage

@nutrafol

When you experience breakage, it's likely due to a lack of elasticity, meaning the hair is in a fragile state and cannot stretch much without breaking.

"If you're noticing breakage throughout your hair," says Nation, "you’re probably experiencing over processing from a color service or a chemical treatment. "Keeping your hair healthy and prepared for color service is important. I recommend using a hair mask regularly to help the integrity of your hair." Deep conditioners and leave-in conditioners provide layers of protection and hydration for hair that is over-processed, dry, or lacking strength and elasticity. These rich conditioning agents will not only detangle, says Nation, they "will protect your hair from UV rays, provide thermal protection from all your hot tools and seal the cuticle with the perfect balance of moisture and proteins."

To get your hair back to a state of health, "hair needs a balance of protein and moisture," says Friese. "So keeping up by using products that are balanced with both keratin (the protein in hair) and moisture will help with the elasticity of the hair."

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04 of 07

Dry, Dull Texture

dry texture

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"Dry, brittle hair is usually caused by a lack of moisture," says Friese. And a lack of moisture comes from what you expose your hair to—everything from the climate to your water quality to the frequency of your highlights.

"A good moisture routine," which can include infrequent shampoos and frequent conditioning, is a delicate balance of catering to your hair type and not stripping your hair of its natural oils. "Using a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner once a week can help with this issue," says Friese.

When it comes to your lifestyle, pay attention to exposure. If you need to wash more frequently, try working a conditioning masque into your weekly routine. If you're outside in harsh climates or traveling often, turn to a conditioning spray that offers UV protection. And no matter what your hair type or routine, a filtered shower head will ensure your water quality isn't exposing your hair to harsh, unwanted minerals that dry your hair out without notice.

05 of 07

Frizz and Flyaways

Frizz

@maneaddicts

Frizz is a frequent complaint about certain hair types, and it may be your hair's cry for help. Nation notes that if you're noticing flyaways throughout the day and your hair's frizz makes it hard to cooperate or difficult to manage, you might be dealing with some damage.

When damage shows up as frizz or flyaways, "this could be caused by dryness from weather, over-shampooing or shampooing the ends of your hair," says Nation. The remedy for this, he says, is in added hydration and proper haircare that preps the strands before any styling. Using a detangler spray, "like the 7SECONDS Detangler, will add moisture and protection from the dryer." He also recommends applying a styling cream to your ends for that added hydration to tame the frizz and flyaways in real-time.

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06 of 07

Patches of Short Hair

hair patches

@ROBYNGERMYN

If you've ever done an all-over bleach and tone, or any other severe, dramatic change in color to your hair, you may be familiar with this level of breakage. Experiencing excessive breakage that results in short hair patches is often caused by chemical damage, says Friese. "Chemical damage can usually be repaired by adding a protein regime," she says.

But chemicals aren't the only treatments at fault. Excessive heat styling and tight updos may also be to blame. If you're experiencing heat damage from the daily use of hot tools, rely on a heat protectant and nourishing oil to counteract the damage. "For damage caused by tight hairstyles," says Friese, "try loosening it up or moving the style around on the hair, so the tension is not always in the same spot."   We also suggest hair ties that won't pull or tug at the hair, like these spiral Teleties.

07 of 07

Excessive Tangling

tangles

@tangleteezer

If you're experiencing any of the signs listed above, chances are you're also experiencing excessive tangling. When the hair is already damaged and lacking moisture, the outer layer of your hair shaft is raised rather than smooth and flat; because of this, it is more prone to form knots with other strands.

Avoiding surfaces that cause excessive friction can only do favors for your hair, whether or not you're already experiencing damage with your locks. Sleep on a silk pillowcase and use a microfiber towel post-wash to protect your hair from rubbing up against abrasive fabrics.

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The hair is also in a most vulnerable state while it's wet, so rather than brushing your hair after the shower, try brushing and detangling the hair before you wash and condition. And when you are ready to wash, Friese notes, "a moisturizing leave-in treatment is a good option for hair that is tangling."

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