Hair is cherished as the most essential part of the human body. However, to achieve beautiful hair, people often do things that damage the hair.
Damaged hair is fragile, leading to hair breakage, frizziness, and unhealthy-looking hair, and if you continue doing damaging hair practices, you may end up with bald spots and thin hair. (1)
There are several reasons for hair damage, such as environmental issues, underlying health issues, grooming habits, and daily hair care practices that make the hair weak, fragile, and damaged. (2)
Extensive hair damage can lead to hair problems such as hair loss (16%–96%) and breakage, and these can worsen if proper care is not taken. (3)
Therefore, to give your hair the proper care and to avoid such problems, you must first know the types of hair damage. Read on to find out more.
Different Types of Hair Damage and How to Avoid It
The following are the types of hair damage.
1. Heat styling damage
For hair styling, hair is treated at high temperatures (up to 200°C) with external stress (human hand), such as permanent hair curling, straightening, and waving. (5)
Straight styling at high temperatures has become a part of the everyday routine of many people and leads to significant damage to hair keratin fiber. (6)
How to avoid heat styling hair damage:
- Apply a heat protectant before using styling rods.
- Don’t subject your hair to heat for long periods.
- Try a no-heat hairstyle instead.
- Set your heat styling tools to the right temperature when in use.
2. Chemical damage
Peroxide chemical treatments can easily reach the hair cortex and cause intended melanin reduction but also unintended oxidative damage to the hair fibers. When peroxide enters hair fibers, it significantly damages the protective layer of the hair’s outer surface. (8)
Exposure to chemical cosmetics (such as hair bleaching, perming, hair straightening, and dyeing) and unhealthy grooming habits can weaken the hair fibers and are the primary causes of hair damage. (9)(10)(11)
How to avoid chemical hair damage:
- Steer clear of hair bleaching, and use sulfate-free, low-pH shampoo. (11)
- Go for deep-conditioning hair treatments, such as hot oil treatments, to condition your hair deeply and avoid dryness and dullness.
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep your hair hydrated.
3. Mechanical damage
Handling your hair improperly and roughly, such as excessive brushing, wearing tight ponytails and braids, aggressive detangling, and using weaves, leads to mechanical hair damage. Other factors include hair bleaching and straightening.
How to avoid mechanical hair damage:
- Practice hair oiling (especially using coconut oil), which is a hair massage common among Indian women, to prevent hair damage. (13)
- Use a wide-toothed comb with rounded tips and slowly comb through your hair to avoid unwanted tension and breakage. (14)
- Avoid towel rubbing as it causes friction; doing it excessively can damage and break your hair. (11)
- Apply a hair mask to repair, nourish, and hydrate your hair and make it soft, healthy, and strong.
4. Hard water damage
Hard water increases hair breakage by decreasing strength. The magnesium sulfate and calcium carbonate in water result in temporary and permanent hardness.
Hard water is considered bad for the hair, as per a recent research study, when hair was washed with hard water and deionized water, it decreased hair strength. (3)
Hard water is the primary cause of hair weakening (not hair loss) and breakage. (15)
How to avoid hard water hair damage:
- Wash your hair with vinegar to remove mineral buildup. It also smoothens the hair cuticles and balances hair pH, leaving the hair soft and fresh.
- For the final hair wash, use bottled water.
5. Sun damage
Excessive sun exposure leads to structural damage to the hair shaft. Photochemical impairment results in protein loss and hair pigment degradation. Hair protein degradation is instigated by 254–400 nm wavelengths.
UVA radiation changes the hair color and damages hair, and UVB radiation causes hair protein loss. (16)
How to avoid sun hair damage:
- Minimize sun exposure as much as possible.
- Shield your hair with a scarf, hat, or an umbrella.
- If sun exposure has altered the hair proteins, damaged hair can be cut so it can be replaced with new hair growth. (17)
6. Overstressed hair damage
Continuous stress periods can affect your body and hair, changing your hair texture and color.
How to avoid overstressed hair damage:
- Gently wash, dry, and brush your hair.
- Don’t skip meals when stressed, as it affects your hair.
- A healthy diet provides healthy nutrients to hair when going through stressful periods.
Signs of Hair Damage
The following signs indicate hair damage:
- Rough texture: Hair damage can easily be identified through hair texture. Observe your hair closely by holding it up and running your fingers through it. If it feels rough and sticks out, you have damaged hair.
- Dull hair: If your hair is dull with missing shine and luster, damage has occurred in the hair shaft cuticles. If your hair doesn’t shine even after deep conditioning treatment, it also means it is damaged.
- Split ends: Split ends are the most common type of hair damage where your hair ends split into two or more. They occur when the protective cuticle at the distal hair shaft is lost and the exposed cortex splits. (20)
- Dry hair: Dry hair may not always be damaged, but damaged hair is always dry. Damaged hair remains dry even after moisturizing and conditioning. Dry hair is associated with temporary segment breaks. (21)
- High porosity: Damage to the hair shaft cuticles leads to swollen and frizzy hair due to moisture exposure. Hair is porous, but damaged hair is intensely porous. (21) The porous structure of the cortex and medulla in hair fiber can cause light scattering and affect hair luster and color. The important factors for hair appearance are the alignment of multiple hair fibers, appropriate cross-sectional shape, ordered scaly structure, and pore-less internal structure. (22)
- Excessive hair breakage: If the slightest hair tugs are causing breakage, such as when combing or running your fingers through hair, your hair has been damaged for quite some time. (23)
- Lack of elasticity: The hair has a specific degree of elasticity. But if your hair snaps while stretching, your hair’s elasticity is lost, indicating hair damage.
What Are the Causes of Hair Damage?
Chemical causes of hair damage are hair dyeing, bleaching, and perming. Frequent chemical usage is a primary cause of damaged hair shafts.
Regular or incorrect usage of cosmetic products may change the hair texture, which could change the hair surface morphologically.
Physical causes are induced by friction (due to washing, hair accessories, and towel drying) on the hair surface, particularly wet hair. Other factors include daily grooming and photodamage.
UV exposure damages the hair fibers, causing rough surface texture, increased brittleness, and stiffness, decreased luster and color, and dryness. (24)
Nutritional causes include deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, zinc, selenium, and iron, leading to hair damage, dryness, dullness, and loss. (25)
How often should I cut my hair to avoid damage?
According to experts, you should cut your hair every 2–4 months based on your hair length for overall hair health. In the UK, males visit barber shops every 2.5 weeks on average. (26)
How often should I wash damaged hair?
Wash your hair every 3 days with a sulfate-free, gentle shampoo if your hair is damaged due to heat or chemical treatments.
Keeping your hair healthy can be challenging as several factors can it. But knowing what damages your hair can give you a way to prevent and repair damaged hair.
So, establish a proper hair care routine so you can wear your hair like a crown!
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