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Hairstylists share tips to revive damaged hair — plus 7 products to shop

Damage-free, summer-ready 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.

What causes damaged hair?

Los Angeles-based hairstylist Lauren Clark started off by noting 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 added. While she and Lita both say regular hair dye won't cause as much damage as people think, Clark specifically called out over-highlighting finer tresses as a cause for breakage.

Traveling hairstylist Rachel Lita similarly called out bleaching your locks as a common cause of breakage, but added 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 said.

Both Clark and Lita also called 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 called out lifestyle choices that can lead to damaged hair. Clark mentioned brushing your hair too much can be a source of damage. Lita, meanwhile, said 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.

What does damaged hair look like?

Lita and Clark shared 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

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 said.

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.

Tips for avoiding and managing damaged hair

Lita and Clark offered 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 echoed). 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. Or, 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 said.

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 said. “But just blindly, mindlessly brushing your hair throughout the day is one of the worst things you can do to your hair.”

She also said 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. This, as she mentioned, 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 added.

No matter your hair type, Lita recommends getting regular trims every six to eight 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 said. "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 acknowledged 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 40 colors and has over 28,000 verified five-star ratings. One reviewer said it's helped them lessen breakage and it holds up well over several washes.

Amika The Kure Intense Repair Mask

Lita used this hair mask herself after experiencing damage and said 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 it...it keeps your hair soft for weeks on end," she said. "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 called this pre-shampoo hair oil her number one top recommended product and said 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 warned. 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.

dpHue Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse

Clark likes this apple cider vinegar hair rinse from dpHue that can be used in lieu of shampoo.

"[The owner, Justin Anderson's] whole thing is you don’t need to be shampooing all the time. You need to be using something gentler," she said.

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.

Vegamour GRO Revitalizing Shampoo and Conditioner Kit

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

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