Our ever-growing love of heat styling tools and colour treatments has meant dry mid-lengths and split ends are more common than ever. Here’s your SOS guide to nurturing brittle hair back to health
Is your hair dry and damaged with a tendency to tangle and break easily? If so, it could be suffering from the negative side-effects of too much colour and too much heat. Brittleness is becoming an increasingly common concern, yet finding an effective solution can be tricky to find. While its causes can be far-reaching and can be hair care, health or medication-related, a case of breakage-prone ends is most commonly linked with an overload of overprocessing. “There are many causes for brittleness in hair, the main ones being damaged hair from chemical services such as colouring and relaxing keratin straightening, as well as the use of dry heat hot tools such as straightening irons, curling tongs and hairdryers,” says hair stylist and Windle & Moodie co-founder, Neil Moodie . Additionally, he highlights poor nutrition, thyroid problems and imbalanced hormonal levels as other reasons, as well as certain medications prescribed for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, eczema, hepatitis, high cholesterol, and psoriasis that list brittle dry hair as a side-effect.
The encouraging news though is that with some patience, the road back to a strong head of hair is achievable. “All of these problems are fixable although some can take longer to fix than others,” says Neil. “The first two I mentioned above are easier to fix as that’s down to managing and treating your hair better and when it comes to nutrition, a healthy diet full of fruit, protein, vegetables, vitamins and plenty of water will help to encourage healthier, stronger hair growth.” A few easy hair care switch-ups can also make a world of difference. Here are the expert tips to bear in mind and the products that both they and I have found most effective in battling brittleness caused by an excess of heat and processing.
1. Upgrade your shampoo and conditioner
Using a shampoo and conditioner designed with more specific damage control in mind is a valuable starting point. “Feed your hair with good shampoos, conditioners, and treatments to help give hair some strength back,” says Neil. “ Windle and Moodie Fortifying Shampoo , £19, and Conditioner , £21, contain rooibos tea which is rich in antioxidants, known to promote healthy hair growth and wheat protein which reinforces hair from within to help reduce breakage.”
When my thicker hair’s particularly parched, Aussie Repair Miracle Shampoo , £5.99, and Conditioner , £5.99, are also go-tos of mine. Containing Australian macadamia nut oil, jojoba seed oil and avocado oil and coming in at under £12, they provide great value for money. Post payday though, I’d invest in Kerastase’s Resistance range. It’s amazing. The shampoo , £14, and Anti-Breakage Cream , £16.40, in the collection work well for both fine and thick hair types alike and add welcome resilience to weakened lengths.
2. Take a break from your hot tools
A daily swipe of our straighteners or wave of our curling wand has become as commonplace in our morning beauty regime as brushing our teeth, but the frequency with which we’re using them is among one of the biggest causes of overly dry and damaged hair. While going cold turkey with our hot tools is the ultimate solution, for many it’s unrealistic - especially if you’ve gotten used to your hair behaving in a certain way during the working week. However, there are some useful modifications that can help keep your hair health intact. “Keep the heat setting to as low as possible (130-140) degrees and use them as few times in a month as possible,” says consultant trichologist, Sally-Ann Tarver . “Don’t use them on damp hair and preferably not immediately after drying. Pockets of moisture remain inside the hair’s cortex which instantly vaporise to steam causing tiny holes to be made in the cuticle as it escapes. This causes dry feeling porous hair and eventually disintegration (splitting/breaking) at the ends.”
3. Don’t overdry your hair
Revising the way that I dry my hair has also been incredibly beneficial when it comes to preventing brittleness. When it comes to towel drying, patting rather than vigorously rubbing my head to avoid unnecessary breakage has been particularly effective, as well as using my hairdryer on a lower heat setting - especially when set at a higher speed. Frequent hairdryer MOTs are also valuable. “Check the air intake vent is clean regularly,” advises Sally. “Hairdryers become hotter if the motor has to work harder to suck in air. They also become hotter with age so replace it at least every five years if not before.”
I also abide by the advice of the late, great trichologist Philip Kingsley too when it comes to taking extra care at the tail end of my hair drying endeavours. When hair is almost dry, he recommends turning down the heat and reducing the speed as it’s at this point that the hair is most prone to damage. For him, drying hair from wet to damp doesn’t pose nearly as much risk of burnout as does drying it from damp to dry. “That extra few seconds can dry out the moisture content in the hair cells and lead to brittleness, dullness, breakage and split ends,” he says in his book, The Hair Bible . So it’s well worth taking your time and putting the brakes on your blowdry at the right time.
4. Make time for a pre-shampoo treatment
Talking of Philip Kingsley, his Elasticizer treatment, £14, (for fine and thick hair types) and Elasticizer Extreme treatment, £15.30, (for curly and coily hair types) are still the frontrunners in my opinion when it comes to pre-shampoo products. The difference to the shine, bounce, manageability and condition of my hair after using it once a week makes the extra step worth it. I especially love the scent of its Coconut Breeze , £15.60, variation for a sweeter smelling alternative.
5. Use fortifying hair serums and oils
For an additional dose of daily hydration, oils and serums help provide a useful extra line of defence against the elements when my hair’s feeling particularly vulnerable. Kerastase’s Serum Therapiste , £16.40, an oil/cream hybrid that offers both heat protection and smoothing benefits works brilliantly for fine to thick hair types while Charlotte Mensah’s Manketti Hair Oil , £42, and Aveda’s Dry Remedy Daily Oil , £21.50, provide a more intensive deep conditioning or pre-shampoo treatment for coily hair types.
If you’re off on holiday sometime soon, it’s worth warding off post-sun brittleness by investing in sufficient hair protection too. Too much sun exposure is highlighted by Neil as being another key cause of brittleness and so a product with a UV filter such as Windle & Moodie’s Invisible Day & Night Cream , £21, fits the bill very nicely as an effective extra shield against the elements.
6. Avoid drying styling products
While some products can make brittleness better, others can make it worse. These usually lie in the form of texturising or setting sprays. If its label has sugar or salt on it, steer clear. “I suggest to avoid any styling products that make hair more matte looking - salt sprays, texture sprays, and strong hold hairsprays,” says Neil.
7. Use a weekly intensive treatment
A weekly treatment has made a huge difference to the condition of my hair and ones that deliver include Boucleme Intensive Moisture Treatment , £26, for curly hair types, Aveda Damage Remedy Restructuring Conditioner , £7.20, for thicker hair types, and a new arrival from Kerastase that my hair has been particularly appreciative of as of late. Inspired by the salon treatment of the same name, Fusio-Dose Homelab , £44, comprises of a hairdresser recommended combination of ‘concentrates’ and active ingredient ‘boosters,’ to suit your particular needs and hair care concerns. With 20 different combos available, chosen following an in-salon diagnosis, each kit provides four at-home applications (to be used once a week). Simply spray, massage in and rinse out. It’s surprisingly quick and the results are impressive.
If you do want to go down the in-salon route though, Fusio-Dose , £20, is a great option, as is Olaplex for helping offset some of the bond-breaking damage caused by bleach and one too many colour switch-ups. It shouldn’t be viewed as a quick fix though. “It’s a remarkable product that can help build the broken bonds of the hair that bleaching destroys,” says trichologist Iain Sallis . “However, it is not a magic wand (nothing is) and should not be used to as an ‘excuse’ to damage your hair further.”