It is estimated that the average person sheds anywhere from 50 to 100 strands of hair per day, but when your hair is breaking on top of that, it can seem like you’re losing a lot more.
It’s not difficult to draw a connection between hair breakage and dry, brittle hair, but there are other factors that we’ve come to accept as universal truths that contribute to hair that snaps, splits or breaks easily.
We turned to Justin German, Pantene consulting stylist and co-owner of Toronto’s Bang Salon, to find out what some of the most common causes of hair breakage are and how to fix them.
You’re always pulling your hair up in the same style
Part of that could be due to the type of fastener you’re using. Never secure hair with a basic rubber band because it will get caught on the strands and pull them aggressively, leading to certain breakage. Opt instead for a soft covered elastic hair tie or a spiral hair pin.
“Try to move your hairstyle around, instead of always pulling it up in the same way, this way you’ll minimize damage from taking place in the same spot every time.”
You’re overusing heat-styling tools
Many women swear by their styling tools and vow they’ll never give them up, but they could be a major factor contributing to breakage. Hair driers, flat irons and curling irons can go up to 450 degrees these days, but that’s far too high for your hair. German says to keep your tool no hotter than 350 degrees to prevent damage.
Even better, think of ways to minimize using your heat tools.
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“If you wrap some hair in a loose bun at the back of your head and the remainder in a loose bun just below the crown, and let it dry, when you take it down you’ll have loose waves,” he says. “Similarly, some women pile their hair on top of their head and wrap it loosely to create volume.”
He says the key is to twist hair loosely and gently because it’s at its most fragile when it’s wet. You don’t want to pull it back tightly because it won’t have room to contract as it dries.
You’re not using conditioner
How’s this for a shocking fact: more than 50 per cent of Canadian households don’t use conditioner.
“It’s a staggering number. But the reason is most people don’t use the right conditioner for their hair and it turns them off from using it altogether.”
Just as you should customize your moisturizer to your skin type, your conditioner should be formulated for your hair.
“If your concern is volume, you want something that will be lightweight, if your problem is that your hair won’t stay smooth, you want something hydrating and nourishing,” German says. “People often pick the wrong conditioner and that’s why they won’t use it.”
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There are a couple of reasons why conditioner is key to hair health. For one, it will slow down your drying time, thus allowing you to cut down the amount of time you expose your hair to styling tools.
“Hair is very porous, so the minute you add any moisture to it, whether that’s water or a product, it wants to hold on to it and takes a lot longer to dry. The more regularly you condition your hair, the less dehydrated it’ll be every time you wash it and the quicker it will dry.”
In addition, conditioning your hair will give it better elasticity. Just as your skin is more plump after your moisturize it, conditioner will make your hair more resilient and less prone to breakage when you comb it.
You’re colouring it but not treating it
No matter how gentle the hair dye, when you’re transitioning your hair from its natural state to one that’s processed, you’re contributing some damage. For this reason, German says, you need to take a proactive approach.
This will help restore your hair and undo some of the damage created by the colouring process.
A treatment or mask is also more flexible than its name might suggest. While some are labelled three-minute treatments, for example, there’s no harm in leaving it on longer or using it regularly and rinsing it out sooner.
You’re not cutting it frequently enough
Chances are, many women have shaved their haircutting frequency down to twice a year — who could blame them considering how expensive haircuts can be. But this could be contributing to breakage.
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“When hair starts to split, it does so from the bottom up,” German points out. “Even if you’re looking to grow out your hair, regular trims will help stop that breakage.”
In addition, you might be thwarting your efforts to grow your hair because the more damage you have, the more your stylist will have to cut off.