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Dealing with damaged hair? Stylists share tips and products that'll help

Damage-free hair is within reach.
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Constantly dealing with split ends, breakage and other damage to your hair that doesn’t seem to stop? It can be frustrating (and expensive) trying product after product and nothing seems to work.

Fret no more! Shop TODAY spoke to a few hairstylists about what causes damaged hair, what you should (and shouldn’t) be doing or using and how to keep your hair as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

Signs of damaged hair | Tips for avoiding and managing it | Expert-approved products to help | FAQs | Meet the experts

What does damaged hair look like?

Hairstylists Rachel Lita and Lauren Clark share the following as common physical signs of damaged hair:

  • Split ends
  • Frizz
  • Texture changes (for example, hair going from soft-to-the-touch to more straw-like and tough)
  • Inconsistent curl patterns
  • Thinning hair
  • Losing length after continuous up-dos due to hair loss

Tips for avoiding and managing damaged hair

Both stylists offer a few tips to help you avoid (or manage) damaged hair.

Firstly, let your hair exist as is, Clark suggests. If you’re spending the day (or a few days) at home, don’t touch it. Don’t brush it or put it in a tight style — a tip that Lita echoes. If you have to go to work, she suggests washing it with a conditioning treatment and putting it up in a bun with a silk scrunchie for the week. If you want to flat iron it, only apply heat on the days you have work and keep your hot tools unplugged on the weekends.

“The less you brush, the less you touch, the less you fidget with your hair, the more it’s gonna grow,” she says.

If you do have to brush your hair, though, brush with purpose.

“If you’re brushing it out before you shampoo because you want to get the tangles out, that’s good,” Clark notes. “But just blindly, mindlessly brushing your hair throughout the day is one of the worst things you can do to your hair.”

She also says that if you hear snapping noises while brushing, it’s probably a good indication that you should either brush a little gentler (or not at all) or you might need a haircut. However, this also depends on the hair texture.

“With finer hair, it might be more of a cause for concern than it would typically be for thicker hair,” she adds.

No matter your hair type, Lita recommends getting regular trims every six to eight weeks and using a silk pillowcase to reduce damage.

"When you have cotton sheets, the way cotton is woven, your hair actually can get caught between the weaving and it pulls on it. When you’re sleeping, you’re tossing around, turning. Your hair can get caught [and] interwoven in the fibers," she says. "You’re turning, you pull too hard, you’re pulling out a couple of hairs at a time. Depending on the cotton, it can be a little more rough. Whereas silk, it just glides. There’s no holes in it. And if there are, they’re miniscule."

Finally, both stylists encourage you to invest in "good" products that will give you the best results. Clark is a self-proclaimed “big advocate of buying professional-grade products.” She acknowledges that everyone’s budget and lifestyle is different but, if you can afford it, it’s worth it to regularly invest in higher-end hair products and says it can be as simple as looking at the professional hair section at Ulta. If you can’t afford to shell out the big bucks consistently on higher-end products, she suggests investing in it at least once and using it on an alternating schedule with the products of your choice to get the most value.

Best products for damaged hair, according to stylists

Kitsch Satin Sleep Scrunchies

Lita likes these soft scrunchies from Kitsch. This set of five scrunchies is also offered in other colors and packs with different combinations.

Zimasilk Silk Pillowcase

Lita also emphasized the importance of using silk pillowcases for sleep. This option from Amazon comes in 30 colors and has over 33,000 verified five-star ratings. One reviewer said it's helped them lessen breakage and it holds up well over several washes.

dpHue Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp Scrub

Clark also likes this apple cider vinegar scalp scrub from dpHue that's made with pink Himalayan sea salt. She personally uses it for managing managing dandruff and says the scrub does a great job.

Amika The Kure Intense Repair Mask

Lita used this hair mask herself after experiencing damage and says it helped bring her hair back to life.

"With masks, it’s a temporary fix but what I really like about the Amika one is that I feel like even if I don’t use keeps your hair soft for weeks on end," she says. "I feel like it’s actually doing what it needs to do rather than just being a silicone covering over your hair for a temporary fix."

Leonor Greyl L'Huile de Leonor Greyl

Clark calls this pre-shampoo hair oil her number one top recommended product and even says it's one that she uses regularly on herself. When it arrives, the oil is hardened in the bottle so it must be run under warm water to liquefy the oil, she warns. She likes to leave it in her hair for a few days before washing it out and says the magnolia oil makes for a lovely scent.

Vegamour GRO Revitalizing Shampoo and Conditioner Kit

Clark likes Vegamour because it's "totally vegan, plant-based and organic," she says. Introduced to the brand by her grandmother, she likes their focus on rebuilding the strength and health of the hair and scalp.

Frequently asked questions

What causes damaged hair?

Clark notes that damage can occur at different levels for different hair textures. As someone with more coarse, textured hair, she says her threshold for things that can potentially cause damage is higher than someone else with fine hair.

“[Fine hair] can’t handle much wear and tear,” she adds. While she and Lita both say regular hair dye won't cause as much damage as people think, Clark specifically calls out over-highlighting finer tresses as a cause for breakage.

Lita similarly calls out bleaching your locks as a common cause of breakage, but adds overexposure to the sun onto her list of culprits.

“There are sprays that are like sunscreen for the hair because, just like how your skin can get burned, it’s the same thing for your hair,” she says.

Both Clark and Lita also call out damage due to using heat styling products. Temperature matters and Lita says damage can occur if the tools are too hot and/or you’re not using a proper heat protectant. If you have fine hair, Clark suggests avoiding blow drying or heat styling often, limiting it to about once per week.

Both stylists also say lifestyle choices can lead to damaged hair like brushing your hair too much, according to Clark. Lita, meanwhile, says damage can occur from wearing your hair tied too tightly or even wearing hats too often because it can inhibit your scalp’s ability to breathe.

Ingredients to avoid if you have damaged hair

Clark advises avoiding any products that have an ingredient with the suffix “-cone” because that indicates it’s a silicone-based ingredient. While she says you can find dimethicone in many products and it’s a good ingredient for taming frizz on the surface, it actually isn’t beneficial for hair health.

“It basically coats the hair cuticle and disallows water to penetrate so your hair becomes brittle. If you use those products over and over and over again, it kind of makes your hair drier,” she warns.

Lita recommends avoiding coconut oil, calling it “extremely drying.” If you want to use an oil in your hair, she suggests using olive or almond oil instead. She also says that shampoos with dye in them to maintain color can be “extremely drying and not color safe.” Instead, she suggests putting color dye in your conditioner and applying it that way.

Meet the experts

  • Lauren Clark is a Los Angeles-based celebrity hairstylist.
  • Rachel Lita is a Los Angeles-based celebrity hairstylist.