Hair Breakage 101: Causes & Treatments

woman-brushing-hair-and-looking-at-hair-breakage

Is your hair breaking off in odd places, leaving you with baby hairs and rough ends, or keeping your hair from growing long? If you are experiencing any of these issues and you’re unsure why and how to treat your hair so it doesn’t keep happening, we can help. Whether your hair seems to break off before it can reach long lengths, or you have short strands that stick straight up from the root, breakage is likely the culprit. Assessing hair breakage is one thing, but determining the cause of breakage is much more difficult. 

We like to share the science behind hair struggles like hair breakage, so you know exactly what you’re dealing with and the best way to fight it. Here, we’ll dive into what hair breakage is, what causes it, and what hair repair products can help treat it. With this information at your fingertips, you’ll be able to treat hair breakage and keep it from occurring in the future. 

What Is Hair Breakage?

First, a quick note on the science behind hair breakage.

Your hair is made up of strands that consist of a cortex in the center and a cuticle layer on the outside. The hair’s cuticle is broken up into scale-like layers that lie on top of one another to provide a seal that protects the cortex. When the cuticle is intact and the layers lie flat, the hair is healthy, strong, and smooth. However, environmental and lifestyle factors can cause the hair’s cuticle to lift, become damaged, and even fall away completely. When this happens, the hair is damaged: it is weak, rough, and vulnerable. Figuring out how to know if your hair is damaged doesn’t always require a microscope, though. Hair with a damaged or missing cuticle layer will appear dull and frizzy and feel dry and coarse.   

…And on the difference between hair breakage vs. hair loss.

Hair breakage is different from hair loss. Hair loss is often triggered by changes in diet, hormones, trauma, medical treatments, or in more serious cases, a symptom of an autoimmune condition called alopecia areata. 

While hair breakage occurs along the length of your strands, hair loss occurs at the root. For temporary hair loss, medically referred to as telogen effluvium, the actual number of hair follicles decreases, resulting in thinning hair, which is noticeable at the scalp. 

If you are experiencing hair loss, it is best to contact your doctor or dermatologist about potential causes and treatments. If you are experiencing hair breakage, read on to discover potential causes and treatments. 

What Causes Hair Breakage?

If you’re wondering “Why does my hair keep breaking?”, here are the many reasons for hair breakage that could be the cause of your hair woes.  

1. A lack of hydration. 

When your hair lacks moisture, it’s thirsty. The cuticle on a thirsty hair follicle lifts, exposing the hair shaft to damage. The more often the cuticle lifts, the more moisture the hair loses and the more prone to hair damage it becomes. Many things can cause your hair to lose moisture, but over-washing is a major culprit. Washing your hair too frequently can strip hair of the natural oil it needs to maintain health and hydration. 

If you have brittle hair that feels rough or dry, you may want to consider cutting back on the number of times you shampoo in a week. When you do wash, focus on the section of hair closest to the root, which is less prone to breaking than the lengths and ends of your hair.

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2. Too much heat.

Heat styling and blow drying can be incredibly damaging to your hair and cause it to break as well. Not only do heat styling tools pull moisture from the hair, making it more prone to damage, but the heat also directly damages the hair follicle. The higher the temperature of your hot tools and the more often you use them, the more breakage you will experience, particularly on the parts of your hair that have been exposed to heat the most, typically the middle and ends. Unsurprisingly, heat styling is a major cause of pesky split ends. If you’re wondering “what are split ends”, you can find out more on our blog. 

3. Chemical treatments can, too.

Getting a perm, highlights, or relaxing treatment on your hair can cause it to become weak and break. Why? The products used to perform these services contain harsh chemicals that are often incredibly drying to the hair. Steer clear of straightening treatments that contain formaldehyde and instead opt for a keratin protein treatment, which coats each hair strand and doesn’t affect the cortex. 

4. Same goes for hard water.

The water you drench your hair in every time you shower could be the cause of the breakage you are experiencing. Hard water contains harsh minerals, such as chlorine, as well as heavy metals that can strip your hair of moisture and cake it with sediment that builds up over time and can cause a myriad of issues. 

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5. Hair ties can twist up some hair breakage, too.

Tying your hair up in a messy bun more often than not? We get it — this style is easy to do in a pinch, but you may want to resist. Tight hairstyles or tightly wound hair ties can pull the hair and cause it to break. The type of hair tie you use can affect your hair just as much as your bun’s tightness. Plastic elastics are much rougher on your strands than silk scrunchies and fabric ties. If you are experiencing breakage at the same point on hair all around your head, it is likely at the point where you pull your hair back most often, and you may want to switch up your hairstyle and/or choice of hair tie. 

6. Lots of friction can be to blame.

Some causes of breakage are easily overlooked but also easy-to-fix, namely friction. Friction is more common than you think as the following can all be culprits:

  • Pillowcases
  • Towels
  • Rough brushes

What’s so bad about friction, though? When you rub your hair with a cotton towel, yank a brush through tangles, or toss and turn on a textured pillowcase, you are causing cuticles to open. Open cuticles can catch on each other and break off, resulting in hair breakage. Friction also causes tangles, and when your hair is tangled, it can more easily break. Decrease the friction by swapping to a microfiber towel, a wide-tooth comb, and a silk pillowcase. 

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7. An unhealthy diet can contribute as well.

Diet also plays a role in the health of your hair. The following nutrients are essential to ensure hair grows, and grows healthily: 

  • Biotin
  • Vitamin D
  • Protein
  • Zinc
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

 If you don’t think you’re getting enough of these nutrients from the foods you consume, consider adding supplements to your routine to encourage healthy hair.  

How To Treat Hair Breakage

Knowing what causes hair breakage is only half the battle. Now, it’s time to treat your hair breakage, and yes, you can treat hair breakage. Follow these steps for how to fix damaged hair to experience stronger, healthier-looking hair. 

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1. Use a reparative hair mask.

The first step to healing damaged strands is to infuse them with moisture and strength, and the best way to do that is with a powerful conditioning hair mask for damaged hair. Our Restore Mask Treatment is just that. It instantly heals and strengthens dry, damaged hair while adding softness and shine in a weightless way that is great for all hair types.

To start, it restores the moisture level of damaged hair to the level of healthier, undamaged hair and restores damaged hair cuticles to be like new. Additionally, the Restore Mask Treatment protects from future damage by repelling dirt and oil, so you can shampoo and style less often and strengthen hair to become 20 times more resistant to breakage. 

To use, apply the Restore Mask Treatment generously from roots to ends on clean, wet hair. Leave in for five minutes and rinse thoroughly. Use this hair mask 1-2 times per week in place of conditioner to experience relief from hair damage and maximize your hair’s strength. 

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2. Intensify your overall wash-and-care routine. 

In addition to using a hair mask once or twice a week, consider swapping your typical hair products such as shampoo and conditioner for more hydrating and strengthening options. Our Restore collection of hair repair products is built for dry, damaged, breakage-prone hair, so you can find everything you need to establish a healthy hair routine. 

Start with Restore Shampoo and Conditioner, both of which help restore damaged hair cuticles and strengthen and protect hair to prevent future breakage.

Another must-have in your beauty cabinet is Restore Repair Leave-In. With just one use, it leaves hair 15 times stronger than before. It transforms hair to look, act, and feel like it was not damaged at all. To use, apply 1-2 pumps to damp hair after getting out of the shower, focusing on the ends and broken areas of your hair. 

If you’re ready to amp up your hair care routine even more, explore our entire collection of hair products online that are ideal for strength and repair. 

3. Get regular trims. (Yes, even if you’re obsessed with length!) 

While you can do everything in your power to bring back damaged strands, sometimes the only answer is to chop them off and allow your hair to grow back healthy and strong. While you may be attached to your long locks, the fresh feeling and look you’ll achieve with a good trim should tempt you to take this tip seriously. Plus, now that you know what causes hair breakage, you can treat your freshly chopped locks in a way that allows them to retain health and grow long and strong. 

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/health/telogen-effluvium#causes

https://www.allure.com/story/8-reasons-your-hair-is-breaking-off 

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325026#causes

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325026#causes