Let's start with the not-so-great news: There is no shortage of things that can damage and weaken our hair. They range from environmental factors such as sun and pollution to chemical processes such as bleaching and straightening treatments to seemingly innocuous daily habits, such as how often we shampoo or blow-dry. The point being, our hair is constantly exposed to an onslaught of potentially damaging culprits.
The good news? While it is admittedly hard to avoid many of these things, there are plenty of (fairly simple) ways that you can help bolster weak hair. Here, board-certified dermatologist Dhaval G. Bhanusali, MD, stylist Reyna Zaragoza, and trichologist William Gaunitz, WTS, share their top tips, tricks, and product picks for strengthening your strands.
Meet the Expert
- Dhaval G. Bhanusali, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Hudson Dermatology & Laser Surgery in New York City.
- Reyna Zaragoza is a stylist at 3rd Coast Salon in Chicago.
- William Gaunitz, WTS, is a certified trichologist and the founder of Advanced Trichology.
Seems like Marcia Brady may have been onto something. "A great way to strengthen hair is to brush it on a daily basis, at least 100 strokes throughout the head," says Gaunitz. "This moves the sebaceous oil gently across the surface of the scalp to enhance moisture at the root of the hair follicle." In other words, it's a way to utilize your scalp's natural oils to moisturize the hair—and hair that's well moisturized has better manageability and shine, both things that can decrease when it's damaged.
Daily, deliberate brushing sessions can also discourage the microbial overgrowth that may also result in weakened hair, Gaunitz adds. Excessive amounts of bacteria and fungus can cause inflammation within the hair follicle that can lead to a malformation of the cuticle, the outermost layer of the hair. This can change the moisture content and elasticity of the hair, he explains. FYI, Gaunitz recommends using a natural, boar bristle brush; this type of bristle is best for evenly distributing the oils.
... But Wash Less Often
Increase how often you're brushing, but decrease your shampooing frequency. "Whatever your rate of washing is now, trying pushing it by just one extra day," suggests Zaragoza. Why? It goes back to maintaining those natural oils, which are essential for nourishing the hair. Whenever you do wash, be sure to give yourself a proper scalp massage. "This revives blood circulation, helping improve the health of your scalp. And a healthy scalp means healthy hair," she explains.
Opt for Strengthening Shampoos
To be fair, rinse-off shampoos and conditioners can only do so much. However, Bhanusali says that sulfate-free products that contain biotin and copper peptides can help both strengthen weak hair and stimulate the scalp. He likes the Foligain Triple Action Hair Care System, which comes with shampoo, conditioner, and a leave-on treatment.
Consider a Bond Builder
At the root (pun intended) of weak hair is breakage in the disulfide bonds that hold the structural elements of the hair together, explains Bhanusali. A multitude of things can cause this breakage–including heat and chemical treatments, just to name a few. Recently, the haircare category has seen an onslaught of new reparative and strengthening products that aim to improve the quality of the hair by rebuilding and fortifying these bonds. The Olaplex No.3 Hair Perfector is an OG of the bunch, a treatment touting patented bond-building technology that rebuilds both broken and weakened bonds.
Try a Supplement
"Proper intake of minerals in the bloodstream is necessary to grow healthy, resilient hair," explains Gaunitz, who cites iron, vitamin D3, and zinc as three of the major players. A deficiency in these nutrients can result in weaker, more fragile hair, as well as hair that's dryer and less shiny, he adds. While Bhanusali feels less strongly about the impact of supplements, "we do tend to recommend a multivitamin and vitamin D," he says. All of that being said, always check with your doctor before starting any kind of new supplement.
Turn Down the Heat
Excessive heat can cause everything from dryness to split ends to breakage, damaging the hair overall, says Zaragoza. It dries out the cuticle and damages the internal keratin structure of the hair, Gaunitz adds, resulting in hair that looks dull and lifeless (not to mention is weaker). Ideally, not using your hot tools daily is your best bet. But, if that isn't a realistic option, try both turning down the heat settings as well as prepping your hair with a heat protectant before using your blow-dryer, straightener, or curling iron, Zaragoza advises. She likes the multi-tasking Unite Hair 7Seconds Detangler. It not only shields strands from heat and UV rays, but it also acts as a detangler and leave-in conditioner and increases both moisture and shine.