- How to Fix Damaged Hair
How to Fix Damaged Hair: The Ultimate Repair Routine
We've all been there - you've been getting too zealous with DIY hair bleaching, or can't quit your curling tongs or Ariana Grande-level ponytails - even when your strands start to look a little frazzled and parched. Sometimes hair damage feels pretty unavoidable too, when it's caused by, for example, living in a city with a lot of pollution.
But just because you've put your hair under some serious stress doesn't mean you have to shave it all off to get healthy, shiny tresses again. With a few changes to your styling habits and collection of products, you can bring hair back from the brink and prevent it from getting worse.
What causes damaged hair?
Knowing the source of your hair's problems is key to fixing them, so here are the main reasons for hair looking less than its best:
- Thermal styling tools (blow dryers, straighteners, curling tongs, wavers)
- Environmental stressors (dry cold wind, sun exposure, city pollution, indoor heating systems)
- Chemical processing (bleaching, dyeing, permanent styling treatments)
- Mechanical damage (friction from certain hairstyles and pillowcases, over brushing)
How do I repair damaged hair?
First of all, cut down on exposure to all of the above! There's no point getting into how to treat hair damage if you're still frying it every day, brushing it too often and too harshly, or using harsh box dyes. We certainly aren't saying never do any of these things ever again; even if you could avoid drying climates completely, life wouldn't be fun without getting to try new hair colours and styles.
But reducing your use of heat tools and chemical treatments, plus following the advice below, will go a long way to repairing any damage you've already caused your hair and preventing damage in the future. Hair experts also recommend eating healthy and staying hydrated to get all necessary nutrients for optimum scalp and hair health, so if you aren't already getting your fruit, veg and water intake for the day, here's yet another reason to do so!
Now, for the part you've all been waiting for, here are our seven steps to repairing damaged hair.
1. Wash with bond-strengthening products
When your hair is in tip-top shape, you might be able to get away with washing it every day and using whatever products you like, but for those of us that have put our hair through the wringer, we need to be a lot more careful.
Wash your hair less often to avoid drying it out, and use sulphate free products that won’t strip your hair. Even better - use products designed to strengthen weak hair bonds. There are some industry leaders like Olaplex and K18 that solely focus on repairing damaged bonds, but plenty of other brands are starting to carry repairing products for those of you on a budget.
This mini kit helps you try out the whole range of Olaplex products for a complete repairing routine. They're all loaded with the patented Bond Building Technology that repairs and strengthens your hair on a molecular level.
Check out our Beginner's Guide to Using Olaplex for some pointers.
With a reasonable price point and professional quality, we love this shampoo from Wella. The Fusion Shampoo and its matching conditioner are a balm for dull and frizzy hair. It uses Silksteel Technology and silk amino acids to strengthen your hair against breakage by repairing the hair's inner cell structure and binding moisture to it.
Moroccanoil's repairing conditioner is so effective at detangling and reviving damaged hair that it's won three different awards! Argan oil, keratin and fatty acids work to restore the hair's health, moisture and elasticity for silky smooth results.
2. Try a wide tooth comb instead of a hairbrush
Tugging on hair with a brush when it's in a weakened state from water is as big no-no. If you don't want additional breakage, we definitely recommend switching to a wide tooth comb when you're detangling in the shower or when you get out. You may also want to brush before showering to reduce the need for combing once your hair is wet.
3. Use leave-in conditioner and conditioning masks
After washing your hair with a bond-repairing shampoo and conditioner, remember to use a leave-in conditioner for extra nourishment and hydration.
And just like you'd use a face mask when your skin is looking lacklustre, a conditioning hair mask will help combat damage from any heat styling or chemical processes you're still doing (plus the effects of environmental pollution, because you still have to go outside of course!). Use conditioning masks regularly - but not too often, as you can get product build-up and greasiness that might look even worse than the dryness and split ends of the damage you're trying to fix. No one wants that!
Shop our recommendations below, and check out the Best Masks for Your Hair Type.
This leave-in conditioner from Redken smooths and strengthens hair that's been damaged from heat, brushing, bleaching and dyeing, and more. Citric acid and the brand's Strength Complex, made up of amino acids and arginine, combine to treat hair, add shine and prevent further split ends.
K18's powerfully restorative hair mask is going to be a saviour for your damaged hair. Thanks to the patented K18Peptide, the mask goes deep into the inner layers of the hair and fixes broken keratin chains in as little as four minutes.
This treatment is ideal for weekly use after shampooing, and mixes well with your favourite hair mask for the ultimate nourishing experience. It'll fortify your hair fibres to protect them from future and damage, and smooth down raised cuticles to make your hair softer and shinier. Plus, Bumble and bumble's Honey Bond-Building Complex helps build new hair bonds for super strong hair.
4. Use a protein treatment
Keratin treatments smooth your hair, reduce frizz, prevent breakage and add shine - you don't have to have damaged hair to get one, but it makes total sense if you do have damaged hair since dullness, frizziness and breakage are key symptoms of damaged strands. If you've got the cash to splash, you can certainly go to a salon, but we love a DIY, and there are so many at-home treatments out there that make it easy to treat your hair with keratin by yourself.
Check out our favourites below, plus some other top picks in our Best Home Keratin Treatments roundup.
Designed for colour-treated, weak hair, this intensive deep conditioner adds hydration and gloss in under five minutes. Awapuhi, or wild ginger, gives the hair plenty of moisture and softness whilst the KeraTriplex blend rebuilds damaged fibres.
This booster contains a hydrating blend of oils, including argan oil, almond oil and jojoba to give the hair tonnes of moisture. Then, the brand's EnergyCode complex adds shine and strength. The keratin in each individual hair strand is restores, resulting in strong, healthy hair less prone to breakage.
5. Use heat protectants
Like we said, cutting down on heat styling as much as possible is great for your hair, as heat dries out the strands and makes them more prone to breakage. Try air drying your hair and doing heatless curls, but if you absolutely have to heat style your hair or you're in a hurry, always remember to use a heat protectant(and use the lower temperature setting if you can still get good results!)
This Hair Shield doesn't just protect your hair from heat and humidity - it also conditions it with natural ingredients to keep it looking and feeling its best. Plus, the antioxidant rosemary extract in this eco-friendly formula gives your hair a shiny, smooth finish.
6. Nourish with a serum or oil
Always follow heat styling with a nice serum or oil to put moisture and nutrients back into your hair. It's a super quick step that will make a world of difference.
This leave-in oil from L'Oréal contains wheat germ for deep hydration, shine and a reduction in split ends and flyaways. It also reduces knots and breakage for easier styling.
This lovely serum has the lightness of a milk, absorbing quickly into the hair to lock in moisture, tame frizz and add shine. Plus, the tropical scent is absolutely delicious.
7. Sleep on a silk/satin pillowcase
Lastly (and a tip you've probably heard before but bears repeating!), sleep on a silk or satin pillowcase. This will reduce friction, therefore reducing breakage and the stripping of natural oils from your hair. You can also use a silk turban, but we definitely love pillowcases so your skin can get the same benefits as your hair. Bye-bye dry skin and wrinkles!
Written by Gabriella Buckner
Gabriella is a junior content writer with a background in creative writing, content marketing and journalism. She’s passionate about all things makeup and skincare, but especially vegan and cruelty-free beauty that is effective and inexpensive.