Hair Breakage 101: Causes & Treatments


Is your hair shedding or breaking off at random leaving you with baby hairs and rough ends—not to mention keeping your hair from growing long? Welcome to hair breakage. Despite it being common (and relatively easy to identify), it’s hard to determine what’s causing it and how exactly to treat it. Here we will take a closer look at what hair breakage looks like, the factors that may contribute to it, and the hair repair products that can help treat it.

What Is Hair Breakage?

Your hair is made up of strands that consist of a cortex in the center and a cuticle layer wrapped around it. That cuticle layer 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 cuticle layer to lift up and even fall away completely, breaking that protective seal. Without this added defense, the hair can become prone to damage, making it weak, rough, and vulnerable to breakage. However, figuring out how to know if your hair is damaged doesn’t always require a microscope, as hair with a damaged or missing cuticle layer will appear dull and frizzy and feel dry and coarse.

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. Hair loss can also result from age. While hair breakage occurs along the length of your strands, hair loss occurs at the root. 

If you are experiencing hair loss, contact your doctor or dermatologist about potential causes and treatments.

What Causes Hair Breakage?

Ever wonder, “Why does my hair keep breaking?” Read on for the primary contributions and reasons for hair breakage.

1. A lack of moisture

When your hair lacks moisture, the cuticle lifts up to take in moisture from the air. That only exacerbates matters, as the more the cuticle lifts, the more moisture the hair loses and the more prone to hair damage it becomes. While moisture loss can occur for all sorts of reasons, over-washing can be a common culprit. Washing your hair too frequently strips hair of the natural oil it needs to maintain health and hydration, leading it to seek that moisture elsewhere.

If you have brittle or frizzy hair that feels rough or dry, consider cutting back on the number of times you shampoo in a week.

heat hair styling tools

2. Regular heat styling

Heat styling and blow-drying without a heat protectant spray can be incredibly damaging to your hair and cause it to break. Not only can a hot tool 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 tool and the more often you use it, the greater the likelihood of experiencing breakage—particularly on the parts of your hair that have been exposed to heat the most, typically the middle and ends. One example of such? Split ends.

3. Chemical treatments

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 may be formulated with harsh chemicals that purposely break the protective cuticle in order to alter hair at the cortex. To prevent hair breakage, avoid straightening treatments that contain formaldehyde, and instead opt for a keratin protein treatment, which coats each hair strand externally and therefore doesn’t affect the cortex.

4. Hard water.

The water you drench your hair in every time you shower could contribute to hair breakage. Hard water contains certain minerals, such as chlorine, as well as heavy metals that can create a film that builds up over time. That, in turn, may prevent nourishing ingredients from fully penetrating hair—which limits the amount of moisture it can absorb—and add weight that could eventually lead weakened strands to snap.


5. Hair ties

Pulling your hair up in a messy bun on a regular basis? It may be 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, as they create more friction. If you are experiencing breakage at the same point on the hair all around your head, it is likely at the point where you pull your hair back most often, so you may want to switch up your hairstyle and/or choice of hair tie.

6. Excess friction

Some causes of breakage are easily overlooked but, fortunately, just as easy to fix—like friction resulting from towels, pillowcases, and hats. The issue? When you rub your hair with a cotton towel, yank a brush through tangles, or toss and turn on a textured pillowcase, doing so can inadvertently cause cuticles to open. These open cuticles can snag on one 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.


How To Treat Hair Breakage

Understanding what causes hair breakage is a good start, but you shouldn’t stop there. Now, it’s time to treat your hair breakage. Follow these steps for how to prevent hair breakage to experience stronger, healthier-looking hair.


1. Use a reparative hair mask.

The first step to fix hair breakage is to infuse them with moisture and strength, and a great way to do that is with a conditioning hair mask for damaged hair. Our Restore Repair Mask 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.

For starters, it restores damaged hair cuticles and replenishes healthy hair’s protective layer. Not only that, but the Restore Repair Mask protects hair from future damage by repelling dirt and oil. You may see up to 70% reduction in hair breakage and split ends after one use.


2. Intensify your wash-and-care routine. 

In addition to using a hair mask once or twice a week, consider swapping your typical hair product such as shampoo and conditioner for more reparative options. Our Restore collection is designed for dry, damaged, and 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. Then, add Restore Repair Leave-In.

With just one use of the Restore Repair Leave-In, your hair can be up to 15 times stronger than untreated hair, transforming it to look, act, and feel like it was not damaged at all.

3. Get regular trims

While you can do everything in your power to fix damaged hair, sometimes the only answer is to cut them off. While you may be attached to your length, the fresh feeling and look you’ll achieve with a good trim is worth the maintenance. And, with the knowledge of what causes hair breakage, you can treat your freshly cut hair in a way that allows it to retain health and helps it grow long and strong.