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How to stop damaging your hair

Woman with frizzy hair
Hair breakage can leave a person with frizzy, unhealthy looking hair.
In our quest for beautiful hair, we often do things that damage our hair. Damaged hair is fragile, so it tends to break. Hair breakage can leave us with frizzy, unhealthy-looking hair. If we continue to damage our hair, we may eventually see thinning hair or even bald spots.

The good news is that simple changes can prevent further hair damage. On this page, you’ll find 10 common hair-care practices that can damage hair and dermatologists’ tips that can help you to stop damaging your hair.

10 hair-care habits that can damage your hair 

1. Washing your hair by rubbing shampoo into the length of your hair

Changes that can help prevent hair damage:

  • Gently massage shampoo into your scalp.

  • When you rinse the shampoo from your scalp, let it flow through the length of your hair and resist the temptation to rub it into your hair.

2. Skipping the conditioner

Changes that can help prevent hair damage:

  • Use conditioner after every shampoo.

Dermatologists’ recommendations for swimmers

Pool chemicals can be hard on your hair. The following can help protect your hair:

Family swimming
Promptly drying your hair and using shampoo and conditioner after swimming can protect hair from damage.

  • Wear a swim cap

  • Rinse hair immediately after swimming

  • After rinsing your hair, wash your hair with a specially formulated swimmers’ shampoo and follow with a deep conditioner

3. Drying your hair by rubbing it with a towel

Changes that can help prevent hair damage:

  • Wrap your hair in a towel to absorb the water.

  • Let your hair air dry.

4. Brushing your hair while it is wet

Changes that can help prevent hair damage:

  • Do you have straight hair? Let your hair dry a bit before you gently comb it with a wide-tooth comb.

  • Do you have textured hair or tight curls? Always comb your hair while it is damp, using a wide-tooth comb.

5. Using a blow dryer, hot comb, or curling iron

Changes that can help prevent hair damage:

Woman with darker skin tone caring for her hair
Using a blow dryer can help contribute to hair damage.

  • Let your hair air dry when possible.

  • Use the lowest heat setting.

  • Limit the time a hot comb or curling iron touches your hair.

  • Use these tools less frequently, aiming for once a week or even less often.

6. Applying styling products that offer long-lasting hold

Change that can help prevent hair damage:

  • Try a hairstyle that does not require this product.

7. Pulling your hair back tightly, such as in a ponytail, bun, or cornrows

Changes that can help prevent hair damage:

  • Wear hair loosely pulled back.

  • Use covered rubber bands made especially for styling hair.

  • Try a different hairstyle that does not pull on your hair.

8. Wearing a weave or hair extensions

Changes that can help prevent hair damage:

  • Wear weaves and extensions that are light, so they do not pull.

  • Get weaves and hair extensions at a salon that specializes in these services.

  • Wear a professional weave or hair extension for two or three months at most.

  • Keep up your scalp hygiene when wearing a weave or hair extension.

  • Switch hairstyles, so you don’t always wear a weave or hair extensions.

9. Coloring, perming, or relaxing your hair

Changes that can help prevent hair damage:

Woman with dyed hair
Dying your hair can cause hair damage.

  • Try to add more time between touch-ups, especially when the air is dry. In the winter, try to stretch the time between touch-ups to every 8 to 10 weeks or longer.

  • Have only one service—a coloring, relaxer, or perm. If you want more than one service, perm or relax your hair first, and do it two weeks before you color your hair.

  • Use conditioner after each shampoo.

  • When in the sun, protect your hair by using a leave-in conditioner that contains zinc oxide or by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.

10. Brushing your hair 100 strokes a day or tugging on your hair to style it

Changes that can help prevent hair damage:

  • Brush and comb your hair only to style it. Hair never needs 100 brush strokes a day. That’s a myth.

  • Use a wide-tooth comb, and use it gently to comb your hair. 

  • Avoid pulling and tugging on your hair as you brush, comb, or style it.

  • Remove tangles gently, using a moisturizing conditioner if necessary.

When to see a dermatologist

If changing how you care for your hair does not help you see healthier hair, you may want to see a dermatologist. Your hair care may not be the root cause of your problem. Seeing a dermatologist is especially important if you are concerned about thinning hair or hair loss. Most causes can be stopped or treated. The sooner the problem is addressed, the better your results.

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