If you went to your favorite search engine and put “how not to damage your hair” in the search field, you’d find a countless amount of articles. But something I bet you won’t see is what the word damage means as it directly relates to the health and condition of your hair.

Dry and brittle. Split ends. Lack of moisture. Chemical weakness. Too much dye. What all of the things do to your hair is create the kind of injury and harm that makes your hair less useful than its actually supposed to be. Gee. When you look at it that way, that makes you want to do all that you can to take better care of your curls, doesn’t it? One way to do that is to be aware of what you could be doing to damage your hair, whether you realize it or not.

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I’m pretty sure that some of the things I’m about to share with you, you’ve heard of before; take those as simple reminders. But the red flags that you’re not familiar with, why not be intentional about avoiding them for the next couple of weeks or so? If you start to notice that your hair strands have a smoother texture, that there’s less shedding, minimal breakage and your curls are shinier with more elasticity, you can be sure that you are well on your way to avoiding hair damage and keeping your hair in really great condition in the process.

Brushing too often. Back in the day, your probably heard that you should stroke your hair with a brush, 100 times a day in order to evenly distribute your scalp and hair’s natural oils so that your tresses can stay nice and strong. For the most part, that’s a myth; especially if you have naturally curly or even naturally dry hair. Brushing too much can actually damage your hair’s cuticles over time. That’s why it’s best to use a detangling comb (or even your fingers) as much as possible. If you want to achieve a sleek ponytail or some baby hairs, plastic bristles are oftentimes “kinder” to your hair than natural ones. But whatever you do, avoid brushes that have metal prongs, absolutely do not brush your hair while it’s wet and make sure to wash your brushes no less than once a month (the gunk that collects in them can damage your hair too).

Using a shampoo with sulfates in it. What exactly are sulfates? They are the ingredient in our shampoo that gives that fun-n-super-fluffy lather effect. While sulfates play a role in cleaning your hair, what they also do is totally strip your locks of their natural oils. Plus, they tend to be particularly harsh on sensitive scalps and color-treated hair, not the mention the fact that they’re typically what cause your eyes to sting too. The remedy is to look for a sulfate-free shampoo. Although this used to be somewhat difficult to find, now it’s fairly easy to track down shampoos that say “sulfate-free” right on their packaging. Trust me, you’ll feel the difference after your very first wash.

Failing to “freeze” your conditioner. You might’ve heard somewhere that it’s a good idea to rinse your hair in cold water after shampooing and (deep) conditioning it. If you’ve ever wondered why, it’s because while warm water opens up your cuticles (more on that in just a sec), cold water seals them back together. If the mere thought of putting your head in cold water totally turns you off, the happy medium is to keep your conditioner in your fridge. That will keep it cold and ready for when you’re ready to moisturize and seal those locks of yours (you can do this with your regular conditioner or your leave-in one).

Forgetting to “steam” your hair. Everything needs water, our hair included. One way to make sure that your curls get the moisture that they need is to steam them. You can easily do this, with or without a plastic cap, every time you take a shower. Just stand in hot one for about 15 minutes. That will give your cuticles enough time to open up, moisturize and prepare for the next thing that not nearly enough of us are doing.

Not using a light oil. Just because it’s not a good idea to put grease or petroleum on your hair (and it really isn’t; it’s too heavy on your curls and can ultimately clog up your hair follicles), a little bit of light oil can go along way in the moisture, sheen and growth departments. Some great oils that will get this particular job done include jojoba, sweet almond, argan, lemongrass and pomegranate seed oil.

Also, not checking the tips of your barrettes, bobby pins and hair clips. Perhaps one of the most underestimated ways that we can damage our hair is by not making sure that our hair décor is “safe”. Before putting anything in your hair, look to see if some of the prongs are missing, if it lacks a safety coating or if it makes you think that it is going to snag your hair in any way. No matter how cute a barrette or even headband may be, it’s not worth yanking out some of your hair as you try to put it in or take it out.

Trying too many products too often. Most of us have fallen prey to being a product junkie at least once in our lifetime. Not only does that put financial pressure on your wallet, but it can also weigh your hair down, damage it, irritate your scalp or all of the above. You’re not really gonna know if a particular product is working or not unless you give it a month (give or take a week), so try and be patient before rushing out to get something else. Also, as a word of caution—don’t assume that just because your favorite hair blogger or vlogger is in love with a product that it’s gonna work for you. In my experience, less is definitely more. Oftentimes, DIY combos are even better.

Avoiding a nighttime braid. If your hair is long enough to get into a braid, it’s long enough to get tangled up while you toss and turn all throughout the night. Moral to the story? Take a moment to put your curls into 1-6 plaits before going to bed. It’s a great way to reduce tangles and frizz while protecting your ends in the process. Truly, one of the easiest proactive ways to avoid hair damage that there is!

Are you guilty of one or more of these, or do you have some other ideas of common ways curlies damage their hair? Share with us in the comments!