Unless you’ve been divinely blessed by the hair gods, there’s a major chance you’ve dealt with hair breakage at some point in your life. This can be low key breakage that’s hardly noticeable but still a PIA, or the kind that sends you into wide-eyed emoji hysteria when you notice a decent chunk of hair has completely broken off. Whatever the case, broken, damaged hair is not an ideal scenario.
With some celeb hairstylist expertise, we’re filling you in on the primary causes of hair breakage and then teaching you how to stop hair breakage in its tracks. Bad, broken hair days are officially canceled.
How to Tell if You’ve Got Broken Hair
Situations, where massive chunks of hair are literally breaking off sporadically, are pretty obvious, but sometimes the signs aren’t quite so obvious.
“One subtle sign of hair breakage is if your hairbrush or shower drain has more hair than usual. Another sign is fly-away hair standing straight up after a blowout,” says Angela Cosmai, a celebrity colorist at NYC’s Pierre Michel Salon.
What is Hair Breakage?
Ted Gibson, a celebrity stylist who’s worked with Anne Hathaway and Zoe Saldana, says that we shouldn’t confused breakage with split ends, which occur when we’re overdue for a haircut. He notes, “Split ends are when the hair at the end splits, and breakage is when the hair actually breaks off,” he says. “Hair breakage looks shorter than the rest of your hair, even if you didn’t get a haircut. Up close, it looks damaged and really well, unruly. Also, you may notice your hair looks thinner and won’t grow any longer.”
It’s not that your hair isn’t growing, but simply that it’s breaking off at the same (or faster) pace as it’s growing. All this hair breakage can occur anywhere, but it’s especially common to see it around the mid-shaft and face-framing bits of hair. Let’s talk about why that’s the case, and also call out some of the most egregious sins against our hair that lead to all that gnarly damage.
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This is Exactly Why Your Hair is Breaking
Shortcuts are grand, but in order to fix the problem, we’ve got to address it first. As you might have guessed, the absolute biggest culprit for hair breakage is over-treating it without showing it any love along the way.
Think of it like this: You can’t spend forever playing games and thumbing through Insta feeds on your phone without re-charging it every once in a while, and you can’t run around playing in this big world without nourishing your body and giving it some occasional TLC. The same rule applies to your hair.
And let’s be real for a sec. We tend to do a lot to our hair — like, to the point of abuse. Ironically, we do this in the name of creating good hair, but sometimes that backfires. Cosmai says, “If you see the signs of hair breakage I mentioned, it means your hair is snapping off due to over-processed coloring, perming or straightening, and over-use of heat styling tools [such as flat irons, curling irons, and blow dryers].”
It also probably means that you’re not protecting your hair with the right products when using heat styling tools, and you may also not be feeding your hair enough protein or nourishing ingredients when shampooing, conditioning, and treating. In addition, Gibson says that hair extensions of all types, ponytails, and lace-front wigs are other common causes of hair breakage.
What’s essentially happening is that proteins in your hair are getting repeatedly hammered until they can’t withstand the pressure. With enough hammering, a snap is inevitable. We mentioned above that you’re most likely to deal with breakage around the hair that frames your face, as well as the mid-shaft to ends. “This is because it’s the hair that has the most history,” says Gibson. “It’s dealt with the most styling, heat, and other environmental things that have happened to it and so it’s most susceptible.
How to Stop Hair Breakage RN
Now that you know the primary reasons why your hair is essentially revolting and peacing out, you’re a million steps closer to fixing the problem. Ultimately, you’ve got to reduce the abuse, nourish, and protect.
“Give your hair a break and stop the madness,” says Gibson. “Do not over process — [which includes processing and coloring] — and do not excess heat style. Also, stop putting it in really tight ponytails or putting it in a ponytail when its wet and make sure you’re using the right products to strengthen it.”
He says to seek out a conditioning product that specifically strengthens and hydrates hair, such as R+Co’s Palm Springs Treatment Mask, $32, which contains a hyper-nourishing blend of butters and oils and is basically like a tall glass of water for your locks. Another good one is Neutrogena Triple Moisture Deep Recovery Hair Mask, $13, which is specifically formulated for over-processed hair.
You can also find loads of shampoos, conditioners, and leave-in conditioners that are made to rebolster sad hair and help prevent further hair breakage. Anything with the words “recovery,” “repair,” and “mending” are a great place to start.
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DIY Hair Mask
An at-home DIY mask is another option. Try mixing one half of a ripe avocado with a tablespoon of honey and ½ tablespoon of coconut oil. Mash and mix until you have a goopy, relatively consistent texture, then apply it from the mid-shaft to the ends. Let it set for about 15 minutes, then rinse completely and style your hair as normal. The avocado is full of essential fatty acids that nourish while honey and coconut oil seriously hydrate.
How to Fix Hair Breakage:
Eat The Rainbow
Another way to help strengthen your hair is by eating a well-balanced, rainbow-colored diet (we’re not talking about Skittles here) and taking a supplement that specifically helps with hair growth and strengthening. Nutrafol is an awesome option that takes a 360-degree approach to feeding your body what it wants so that your hair grows stronger and longer. There’s even a personalized quiz to help you figure out what is the best mix of vitamins for you, specifically. Moon Juice SuperHair™ Daily Hair Nutrition is another bomb option that’s packed with hair-loving ingredients.
Cut Back on Styling
Of course, it’s not exactly convenient to quit all processing, coloring, and styling. Cut back where you can, such as only washing once every few days, allowing hair to air-dry halfway before blow drying (or leave to dry completely naturally), or embracing your natural texture occasionally instead of always flattening or curling.
When you’re coloring or styling, though, it’s important to never use a heat-styling tool without first applying a protecting product. For example, Drybar’s Hot Toddy Heat Protecting Mist, $26, smells amazing and it’ll leave your hair shiny and nourished even after a blowout. Chi 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection Spray, $16, is also bomb and your hair will thank you for spritzing pre-heat sesh.
Prevent Hair Breakage
Additionally, if you’re having your hair color-treated or processed at a salon, always upgrade your service to include a nourishing protein bonder, such as Olaplex. (There are numerous brands that create their own version of this, and any that a top-notch salon uses will do the trick). A protein bonder will help prevent and fix damage and hair breakage caused by the treatment you’re getting at the salon, leaving your hair way shinier and healthier than it would be otherwise. Trust us on this one.
The Quick Fix
Finally, if you’re trying to conceal existing hair breakage or dry and damaged locks, oils and serums are key. These are generally applied as the last step in any hair regimen, and they help to seal the cuticle and turn up the shine. It’s A 10 Miracle Styling Serum, $13, is a cult-fave and even protects your hair from environmental damage, and OGX Renewing Argan Oil Of Morocco Weightless Healing Dry Oil, $9, makes thirsty hair look super glossy while also nourishing and protecting.
TL;DR? Primary signs that your hair is breaking off include fly-aways that stick straight up, lots of hair in your brush or shower drain, and hair that won’t grow or looks thinner than usual. You can prob blame heat processing, coloring, and general hair torture for all the above. The fix is relatively simple: stop the madness! Give your hair a break, nourish it like you do your body, and protect it from potential damage with the right products.