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Hair Damage 101

Hair Damage 101

Damaged Hair

If you are just starting out on your hair journey – returning to natural hair or embracing your curls – it is important to assess whether your hair needs any special treatment due to damage.  It is also important to identify factors that can damage your hair. 

So what can cause damage to your hair?  There are four main causes: 

  1. Environmental 
  2. Physical 
  3. Chemical
  4. Nutritional/Dietary Deficiencies

Environmental Damage


If you live in a busy city, your scalp is exposed to pollutants day in and day out.  These pollutants can cause buildup on the scalp.  This can lead to clogged hair follicles, which can lead to inflamed hair follicles and eventual hair loss.  It is therefore important to avoid this by using a clarifying shampoo on a regular basis.  

Humidity and Sun 

Everyone familiar with hot humid weather knows of the dreaded frizz, “hair like cotton candy” Rose Nylund would say.  This is caused by the moisture in the air, which raises the cuticles on the hair shaft and causes the loss of moisture.  Extra moisturizers are necessary, as well as oils and/or gels to seal in that moisture to neutralize frizz.  In addition, allowing the sun to bake your hair for extended periods of time also leads to damage. 

Physical Damage

Brushing Dry Hair

Unless you are a fairy princess, do not even try to brush your hair with 100 strokes each night.  Curly hair should never be combed or brushed while dry.  Brushing hair while dry will result in tangles, damage, and frizz due to the hair snagging and breaking.  NEVER brush curly hair while dry – unless you are going to a Halloween party and want that electrified look. 

Tight Hairstyles

Wearing braids or ponytails that are too tight, or using rough hairpins, can all cause physical hair damage. Rubber or elastic hair bands, clips, and tight pins also cause physical damage. These products often tangle and snag hair, break the hair, cause frizz, bend, rip or crimp delicate strands.  Such tight hairstyles can put undue pressure on the roots, affecting hair growth and/or can cause hair loss.  Alternating hairstyles frequently and using hair-friendly products (without metal fasteners and with silicone padding) can prevent this type of damage.

Vigorous Shampooing and Conditioning

Be gentle while washing your hair to avoid tangling up the hair, further leading to hair damage.  Instead, gently massage your scalp.  This will promote blood flow to the hair follicles, promoting hair growth.  Bonus! It is also a stress reliever.  

Not Detangling Properly

Hair must be detangled to remove shedded hair strands.  During the week, a lot of shedded hair remains stuck in our curls and coils. However, how you detangle is key. To avoid hair damage, avoid tugging and pulling, or snagging knots and tangles. Instead, one option is to do a pre-poo treatment while using your fingers to detangle. Start from the bottom ends and work your way up to the roots. Once most of the tangles have been gently removed, you can use a wide-tooth comb or special detangling brush to finish detangling your hair. Be sure to use highly moisturizing products to smooth the hair while detangling. Wet hair is extremely fragile so if you detangle in the shower, use a lot of slippery conditioners (we love that slip!) to detangle and start with your fingers first. 

Heat Styling Tools

Heat styling tools often come with such high temperatures that you could cook food with them – no wonder they often end up frying your hair.  Use heat styling sparingly and always use heat protectant products.  Give your hair a rest period of at least 2 heat-free days.  And do not use the highest setting. Start at the lowest and experiment to find the perfect setting that won’t damage or fry your hair.  

Chemical Damage

Chemical Processing 

Relaxers, texturizers, curly perms, and permanent hair colors are a no-no. Any chemical applied to the hair will change the internal structure forever – it is the purpose of these products.  The chemicals also force changes to the hair cuticle and hair cortex to affect straightness or hair color.  This inevitably causes lasting damage.  If you must, try to only have knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced professionals apply chemical products to your hair.  Use protecting products as much as possible before and after chemical treatments.

Hair Products

There are plenty of products on the market that actually contain harmful chemicals, ones that will strip your hair of its natural oils.  The top amongst these products are sulfated shampoos. Using the correct “shampoo” for your hair will do wonders. To that point, only wash your hair 1-3 times a week, max. It is important to note that extended periods of time between wash days (even weeks) also damages hair!


Swimmers often experience changes in texture and color of hair due to prolonged exposure to chlorine in swimming pools.  Try to protect your hair with a good leave-in conditioner before swimming and by wearing a swim cap.  Fun Fact: soaking your hair in pure water before jumping in the pool will also help avoid damage from chlorine. 

Nutritional or Dietary Deficiencies


It is true, what you eat reflects in both your hair and skin.  Healthy hair requires a diet with the appropriate amount of fats, oils, proteins, antioxidants, and other essential nutrients. Yo-Yo dieting (a frequent cyclical gaining and losing of a significant amount of weight – enough to drop several clothing sizes) and certain vitamin deficiencies can affect the health of your scalp and hair.

Other Health Issues

Thyroid disease, smoking, anemia, not drinking enough fluids every day, and lack of exercise and stress can all affect the health of your scalp and hair.

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