Dry hair is a tell-tale sign of unhealthy hair. It is easily broken, dull in appearance, and one of the leading causes of a bad hair day. In comparison, healthy hair is shiny, strong, and smooth to the touch. The key to avoiding dry hair and keeping it looking glossy is to ensure it stays well moisturized.
- Why Does Hair Get Dry?
- The Main Causes of Dry Hair and How to Overcome Them
- How to Moisturize Dry Hair
- How to Avoid Dry Hair
- Healthy, Happy Shine
Why Does Hair Get Dry?
Hair comes with its own natural moisturizer. Sebaceous oil glands in the scalp release sebum which travels down hair strands, lubricating and moisturizing on the way. Why then, with an inbuilt moisturizer, is dry hair such a common issue?
It’s actually all to do with the structure of the hair strand. A single strand of hair consists of three main parts. The center of the strand is called the medulla; it has a structural role and acts as the scaffold of the strand. Layered over the medulla is the cortex which provides the physical properties of the hair such as the shape, the extent of curl, and its elasticity.
The cuticle is the outside layer and wraps around the strand in overlapping segments that pack tightly together and lock in moisture, helping the hair retain a sleek appearance. However, if the cuticle is damaged, these segments can become loose, allowing moisture to escape and causing the hair to dry out.
The Main Causes of Dry Hair and How to Overcome Them
There can be many contributing factors to the structural disfiguration of our hair. Some of these can be self-inflicted, environmental, or even natural. What are the main things that cause dry hair, how can we protect our hair from harm and is there any way to repair the damage once it’s been done? Let’s find out.
Work With Your Genes
Hair’s sensitivity to dryness could simply be genetic. Underactive oil glands in the scalp may not be producing enough sebum to travel far enough down the strand and nourish the hair effectively. Luckily, for those of us not naturally blessed in this department, there are plenty of products on the market that can substitute natural sebum. Hair oils, serums, conditioners, hair masks and even shampoos have been specially designed to keep hair moisturized.
The porosity of the hair is also under genetic influence and describes how well the hair retains moisture. Understanding how porous your hair is can help with figuring out the best way to keep it moisturized.
The ‘float test’ will tell you the porosity of your hair in just a few minutes. Take a couple of loose strands from a hairbrush or comb and place them in a bowl of water for around 4 minutes. If the hair is still floating after 4 minutes, it has low porosity; if it rests around the middle it has medium porosity, and if the strands sink in the water, they have high porosity.
Low porosity hair struggles to absorb moisture, so deep conditioning treatments should be used around once a month. On the other hand, high porosity hair is great at absorbing moisture and oils which sounds amazing at first! The problem is that this hair type also struggles to retain this moisture, resulting in even drier hair. For this fussy hair type, frequent conditioning is recommended, followed by using oils to seal in that much-needed moisture.
Don’t Over Brush!
Problems with dryness may even be caused by how and when you’re brushing your hair! We’ve all been taught to brush our hair daily to look presentable for the outside world, but your trusted hairbrush could be the cause of dryness, split ends and unruly frizz.
Metal bristles, spiked points and rough edges are all fatal to the structure of your hair strands. When used, these harsh ends could cause strands to tear, creating an area of weakness that inevitably leads to the loss of moisture.
To prevent damage, choose the right material for your hairbrush. Natural materials such wood or boar bristles are least likely to snag hair as they brush. They also distribute natural oils throughout the hair while brushing. Alternatively, opt for a wide-tooth comb and start at the bottom of tangled hair, gently making your way up.
One easy way to protect your hair from damage and dryness is to always avoid brushing hair when wet. This is when your hair is most vulnerable and easily broken. Ideally, wait until hair is fully dry.
At around 20 years old, the body’s production of sebum begins to slow down. Hair gradually becomes drier, finer and more easily broken. To maintain healthy hair, simply treat it with more kindness. Limit the use of chemical treatments and excessive heat while updating moisturizing routines.
The best way to style aging hair is to embrace it! Instead of giving up on fine hair, use shampoos, conditioners, and oils to replace the sebum that is naturally lost to keep it moisturized and healthy. Additionally, find new hairstyles that suit your finer hair that can easily be achieved without chemicals or heat.
Avoid Harsh Weather
Exposure to the elements can be very harmful for hair. UVB radiation from the sun damages the cuticle layer leading to discoloration and dehydration of the hair strands, leaving them weak and brittle. Protecting your hair should be the same as protecting your skin. You can cover up the hair with a hat or scarf or use a UV protection formula designed for hair. UV sprays can be applied before heading outside.
Cold and windy weather is also guilty of drying out hair. Cold air can cause the segments of the cuticle layer to rise, which makes it easy for moisture to escape. To protect hair from damage, switch to a richer conditioner during colder months, and add weekly deep conditioning treatments. Also, make sure that hair is completely dry before heading outside, as wet hair is most vulnerable to damage.
Escape Excessive Heat
Excessive exposure to heat is one of the biggest causes of hair damage and dryness. Unfortunately, it’s also the most convenient method of styling hair. Flat irons, curling irons and hairdryers use extremely high temperatures to manipulate hair easily. However, when these temperatures are applied directly to hair, the strands are stripped of natural moisture.
To reduce heat damage, you should always be applying thermal protection before exposing hair to heat. The formula acts as a barrier that gives hair some protection. Additionally, why not try using hair styling tools at a much lower temperature? Even if it takes a little longer to get the right look, your hair will thank you for it!
The best solution for dry hair would be to take a break from heat altogether to give your hair a chance to recover some moisture and replenish itself. Instead, experiment with fun new hairstyles that don’t require heat!
Ditch Daily Shampooing
It may seem counterintuitive, but shampooing daily can also be damaging to hair. Sodium laureth sulfate is a strong detergent and a key ingredient in most shampoos. The chemical binds with sebum and other oils in the hair so that they are washed out when rinsing. The sulfates are almost too good at cleaning and can’t distinguish between good oils and bad oils in the hair which means they all get removed and hair is left vulnerable to drying out.
This doesn’t mean you have to stop cleaning your hair! Instead, browse the market for less harmful shampoos that either have added moisturizing ingredients or that don’t use sodium laureth sulfate.
Alternatively, take a day off between shampoos and give the natural oils time to moisturize dry hair. On your shampoo-free days, feel free to keep using a rinse-out conditioner as they are unlikely to contain any ingredients that will dry out the hair.
There are many hair styling options that involve the use of harsh chemicals. In a perm, for example, protein bonds in the hair strand are broken down by chemicals and reformed in the desired curly shape. Chemical relaxers and smoothers work in similar ways to straighten the hair.
This causes extensive damage to the structure of hair, leaving it dry, weak and brittle. However, if you are planning on choosing a chemical-based hair treatment, there are some formulas available that can be applied to the hair before chemical treatment that limit the amount of damage done to hair.
Hair coloring is extremely popular and can be a lot of fun, so it’s no surprise that most people dye their hair at least once in their lives. However, many hair dyes contain ammonia, which can cause damage to hair. Luckily, there are plenty of dyes created without ammonia that allow you to dye hair with less damage.
If chemical treatments have been used on hair, use warm oils or deep conditioning treatments on hair at least once a week. This will provide damaged hair with the moisture it needs to resist extreme dryness and begin recovering.
How to Moisturize Dry Hair
Of course, your hair is as unique as you are and there’s no single moisturizing solution that will fit everyone’s needs. However, there are a few ground rules that everyone should be following to keep their hair healthy and moisturized.
Firstly, only apply your choice of moisturizer on wet hair. This allows the strands to properly benefit from the enriching ingredients of the product. Applying moisturizer on dry hair limits how much the strands can absorb which wastes both product and money!
When applying moisture, start at the tips of the hair and gently massage the moisture into the strands. Gradually work your way up the strand and only move towards the roots if your hair is excessively dry – your natural oils should have the roots covered!
Leave your moisturizer in for as long as your hair requires and when it comes to rinsing your hair out, do it in cold or lukewarm water. Hair shouldn’t be washed in water that’s too hot as it can cause even further damage.
Which Moisturizer Should You Use?
Not all moisturizers are equal. Let’s run down the main types and which one you should use depending on your hair situation.
Warm Hair Oils
There’s no point drowning your hair in any random oil and expecting a moisturizing miracle to happen. Only oils that are rich in vitamin E and antioxidants will be able to seal the outer cuticle layer and strengthen dry, dull hair. Recommended hair oils include olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil and jojoba oil.
Hair oils are most effective when warmed up. Heat your oil before using but be careful not to let it boil. Then, massage gently into the hair and cover with a warm towel. You can leave oils on your hair for as long as you like! Some hair types respond to just 15 minutes with oil whereas others benefit from being left on overnight.
Deep conditioners are an essential part of a hair care routine for anyone that has dry or damaged hair. Those with finer hair would benefit from a deep conditioning treatment around once a month, whereas those with thick, curly hair would notice the best results with a deep conditioning treatment once a week.
These conditioners tend to be richer, with more intensely moisturizing ingredients such as emulsifiers, oils and waxes. Such ingredients are also much heavier, which is why daily, or even frequent use is not recommended as they can start to weigh the hair down and give an oily, lank appearance.
Deep conditioners can be moisturized into the whole head, but particularly the tips of the hair, and left for 30 minutes to an hour. Thanks to the highly moisturizing properties of deep conditioner, no longer than an hour is needed for hair to properly benefit from the treatment.
Rinse Out Conditioner
Rinse out conditioners are the most frequently used conditioners. They tend to be much lighter and thinner than deep conditioners and can be used daily if desired. They are designed to be applied in the shower after shampooing or instead of shampooing and left on the hair for just a couple of minutes before rinsing out in lukewarm or cool water.
There are many rinse out conditioners available on the market with a range of beneficial properties to choose from. Depending on what your hair needs, you can opt for volumizing, strengthening, or hydrating conditioners.
How to Avoid Dry Hair
Moisturizing hair is an effective way of both preventing and managing dry and damaged hair. However, it’s always useful to look at other ways we could prevent hair from becoming dry in the first place.
One way to prevent dry hair is to make small dietary changes or additions. Food choices are known to have a direct impact on the quality of hair and skin. For shinier, healthier skin, recommended food includes fatty fish, broccoli, blueberries, walnuts and tomatoes.
Additionally, there are a number of supplements that can be taken to improve the quality of hair such as omega 3, vitamin A, vitamin C and iron.
Finally, it should come as no surprise that water can combat dryness. We already knew how important water is for our physical and mental health. We now also know that increasing the amount you drink per day can be reflected in the appearance of our hair! Drink up!
Healthy, Happy Shine
Whether battling the elements, your genes or just need to give your hair a boost – moisturizing your hair either by using a product or making some lifestyle-changes will leave both it and you feeling happy, radiant, and confident. If you’re looking to help your skin as well as your hair, you can add to your moisturizing regime by checking out some face moisturizers too.