Long story short: The fall I moved to New York City after college, my hair took a massive hit due to stress. I had just started my first Big Girl Job, which turned out to be anxiety-inducing even on its good days—and on top of that, my skin condition was flaring up like none other from the change in seasons. As if that wasn’t enough, I was also going through my first-ever heartbreak, and it was a goddamn doozy.
For more than a few months, I felt like a shell of myself, and it showed. Over a scarily short period of time, my hair—which had always been prone to breakage but was fairly full and healthy—thinned out to the point where I could see through the strands and had to position my hair in a way that it was less noticeable. Wearing it up quickly became my safety blanket, and I started downing supplements like they were candy.
On a brighter note, It’s been a few years since that fateful fall and I can finally say that I’m in a much better spot with my mane. The hair I lost has grown back almost 100 percent, thanks to a ton of much-needed mental TLC, nutrition, and a solid routine that supports my fragile strands. Speaking of which: Thanks to the nature of my job as a beauty editor, I’ve managed to find some seriously amazing products and tools that not only work wonders when it comes to styling—but that also do an excellent job at protecting my hair, too.
If you’re concerned about the health of your hair—whether it be because of how much heat styling you do, how often you color it, or how much you’re shedding from stress—just keep on scrolling. Herein, I dish on the routine and products that have made all the difference in my mane.
The Scalp-Revitalizing Routine That Supports Healthy Growth
One of the major changes I’ve made in my hair-care regimen is making time for a thorough scalp exfoliation at least once a week. Ask any expert in the book and they’ll tell you the importance of sloughing off dead skin and buildup so that your scalp can breathe and hair can grow its best. As Angela Soto of Baja Studio explains: “With fragile hair, you want to keep your scalp exfoliated so that you’re generating new skin cells on the scalp and getting oxygen to the root, as well as hydrating the hair, so it isn’t as susceptible to breakage.”
There’s a slew of worthy options on the market, but my must-have as of late has been the Oribe Serene Scalp Exfoliating Scrub—a product that Soto recommended to me, along with the entire Serene Scalp range. This unique cleanser is so gentle and features such fine particles, that I never worry about it getting stuck in my weak strands. I simply apply it in sections using light circular motions and let it works its magic. Infused with soothing agents like flower and watermelon extracts, as well as scalp-stimulating peppermint oil and caffeine, it deep-cleans and nourishes at the same time. I never thought a scalp scrub would become such a crucial part of my routine, and yet here we are. I’m a complete convert, and my hair is thanking me.
Another thing my hair appreciates? The addition of more moisturizing products. For instance, I have at least five hair oils on rotation, all of which I adore. The main two I’ve been reaching for are Oribe’s Gold Lust Oil and Pantene’s Intense Hydrating Oil. I prefer to use them on wet hair, as well as a touch once my hair has fully dried to smooth down anyway lingering frizz or flyaways. Both of these work like a charm.
Wondering why you should invest in Oribe’s Gold Lust Oil? According to Soto, it helps nourish brittle, breakage-prone hair without the use of silicones. “The rich mix of argan, jasmine, and cassis oil penetrate the cuticle and absorb deep into the cortex, restoring hair over time with continued use by smoothing and strengthening from the inside out,” she explains. “The Shea butter helps give a luster that dry brittle hair naturally lacks,” she adds. Pro tip: One of Soto’s favorite ways to use this oil is to add it to a mask and wear it overnight as a deep leave-in moisture treatment. (Yes, I tried it. And yes, it’s a game-changer.)
As far as shampoo and conditioner are concerned, I’m not overly loyal—but I am strict about sticking to super-hydrating formulas, which can be really helpful at combating breakage. Case in point: Whenever I’m consistent about using hydrating treatments, I always notice in a significant difference in how much my hair sheds, as well as how shiny it looks. A few of my favorite formulas are Olaplex’s No. 5 Bond Maintenance, Bumble and bumble’s Super Rich, and Nexxus’s Keraphix Damage Repairing—trust me when I tell you you can’t go wrong with any of them.
I’ve also been using The Ordinary’s Multi-Peptide Serum for Density for a few months now, and I’ve noticed new growth in areas that had previously been stagnant. That being said, I think I need to continue using it to see if the growth progresses or not.
The Snag-Free Style Regimen My Strands Love
For at least two years after realizing how much babying my hair needed, I called it quits on hot tools. No hairdryers. No flat irons. No nothing. I would wash my hair and let it air dry and that was that. Then I saw that Dyson came out with their famed Airwrap, which claims to style hair sans using extreme heat, and just like that—okay, and seeing how lackluster it looked one day—I caved.
After using the innovative styler just a few times, I was sold. It left my hair shiny, smooth, and soft, and I barely noticed any breakage. According to Chicago-based hairstylist, Alex Brown, it’s ideal for fragile hair because, as I mentioned, it doesn’t use any extreme heat. “The Airwrap’s intelligent heat control will ensure less breakage to your strands,” she explains to matter-of-factly. “It’s as simple as that and a great option for people with damaged or weak hair.”
So fresh out the shower, here’s how my routine goes: After brushing through with my trusty Fine & Fragile Tangle Teezer, I apply a dime-sized dollop of Oribe’s Gold Lust Oil to damp hair and allow it to air dry approximately 60 percent of the way. Then I go in with the Airwrap and either use its soft smoothing brush, which was designed to be gentle on the scalp, or the round volumizing brush as it helps add oomph to my fine hair. Additionally, when I’m feeling more daring—or simply have an extra few minutes to spare—I’ll use the 1.6-inch barrels to create some fuss-free loose waves. It doesn’t take me longer than 10 minutes and that’s the way I like it.
The Notable Extras
While I’ve never been much of a believer in getting regular trims, a few recent ones have made me second guess myself. Soto snipped an inch or so off of my strands a few weeks back, and it still looks salon-fresh. And before that, I saw Chuck Bass and he dusted my dead ends to perfection. It might seem like such a small measure to take, but it refreshes your hair and makes it look instantly thicker and healthier. From here on out, I have a standing trim for every six weeks.
From a supplement standpoint, I’ve always been somewhat of a skeptic, but there are two I’ve tried and personally feel have had made a difference in the growth department: Moon Juice’s SuperHair and Nutrafol. The latter is a natural, drug-free option that doctors and editors alike both swear by, while its counterpart contains a concentrated complex of adaptogens, vitamins, and plant extracts that target thinning and promote healthier hair growth. While taking them, whether it be together or one at a time—I’ve noticed an improvement in the density of my strands, as well as a reduction in shedding.
My final fragile-hair must-have: silk scrunchies, obviously. Not only are they way gentler on the hair, but they result in less tugging and overall tension—both of which can lead to breakage.
All this to say: While the right routine won’t fix all of your hair woes, especially when it comes to heredity or hormonal thinning, it can certainly help improve its health and resilience. If you’re worried about breakage or thinning, I suggest visiting your stylist ASAP to devise a regimen that will work for you.