Damaged hair? Here’s how to treat it!

Aug. 24, 2020
Damaged hair is often neglected for too long. If you’re not sure what to do about it, here’s your answer.
What are the causes of damaged hair?
Most of the time, damaged hair is caused by hair being subjected to excessively harsh conditions – common for people who over-style their hair. The damage results from the use of things like heated styling tools (think of blow dryers, flat irons, hot combs) and chemicals (used in perms, coloring and bleaching). In addition to that, being careless with your hair could also lead to accidental damage – overexposure to the sun, not conditioning, brushing too often or forgetting to condition are common culprits.
For some, damaged hair is a reflection of underlying health issues. Your hair is actually a reflection of your intake of vitamins A and B12, folate, selenium and iron. Not having a balanced diet could lead to damaged hair. Hormonal changes and imbalances, for example because of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and menopause can cause thinning. Hypothyroidism, which is when your thyroid is not able to produce thyroid hormones in sufficient quantity, can also lead to thinning. Lastly, autoimmune disease such as lupus and scleroderma can cause your hair to become fragile and thin. 
Why does hair get damaged?
To answer this question, it’s important to first of all understand the structure of your hair. Although each hair just looks like one long strand, it’s in fact a complex structure made up of three layers, from the outside in:
1. The cuticle is made up of overlapping dead cells, think of them as scales on a fish. The cuticle is there to protect the soft inner layers from damage. If your hair is healthy, the cuticle should not be raised and should be smooth and flat, locking in the moisture in your hair and giving it bounciness.
2. The cortex is the middle layer, consisting of long fibers of keratin, a structural protein that makes your hair strong, yet flexible and elastic at the same time. Your hair colour is determined by how much melanin, a naturally-occurring pigment produced by your body, in the cortex.
3. The medulla is the layer at the heart of each hair shaft. It is made up of a sot, thin core of cells and air spaces.
Damage to the hair usually happens because of various assaults that result in the cuticle no longer being able to protect the inside of your hair shaft anymore. For example, washing your hair too much or using the wrong type of hair products can strip your hair of the natural oils that it needs to stay moisturized and hydrated, resulting in the loss of the lipid layer that prevents your hair from being waterlogged. The result is hair that becomes extremely porous, which can therefore dry out easily, becoming brittle and easy to break. 
Heat, chemicals and sun exposure are a big attack on the cuticle, and can cause it to wear out and lift up. Because the overlapping cells that are meant to shield the inside of your hair shaft are no longer overlapping, the hair shaft becomes fragile, and can easily split or break. Similarly, when you brush your hair too much, you could end up overstretching your hair and causing damage. While hair has elasticity – you can stretch it up to 30% its original length and it’s still fine, stretching to 80% or more can cause fractures and bad damage. 
How to prevent and treat damaged hair
Good nutrition
Prevention is the best medicine, so it’s important to have a balanced diet that ensures you’re eating enough vitamin A, B12 and iron. If you lead a particularly busy lifestyle where eating and controlling your diet is a challenge, you might want to consider taking nutrient supplements. 
Trim regularly
If you have split ends, the split hair will continue to split up the hair shaft and cause more damage. So the best you can do is to trim your hair regularly to avoid more breakage.
Sun protection
You go to the beach without your sunscreen (hopefully!) so the same goes for your hair. Wear a hat if you’re going to be exposed to the sun a lot, as this can help reduce the likelihood of UV damage, which can render your hair brittle, weak and dry. 
Your regular, off-the-shelf conditioners work. But there are in fact many more nourishing things you can use to condition your hair. Consider pre-shampoo treatments, where you use nourishing blends (such as coconut oil, honey and essential oils like rosemary or tea tree oil) for 20-30 minutes before you shampoo it off. It can work wonders to re-moisturize your hair. Some people also swear by extra virgin olive oil as a leave-in treatment. Whatever it is, find your oil. 
Do you have stories about you rescued your damaged hair from death? I’d love to hear about everything you tried, what worked, what didn’t work and how you maintain your hair nowadays!
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