The fundamental element to understanding hair care is that hair is dead. Hair does not meet the seven characteristics of life that qualify it as living. The focus of the hair care industry is to provide consumers with various maintenance and styling options that ultimately maintain the integrity of the hair because it does not restore itself and cannot be permanently restored once it is damaged. Once you understand that hair can only be preserved and not permanently improved then you accept the limitations and risks in your hair care or styling choices. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with chemically treating or heat styling your hair, but knowing how your hair could potentially respond makes you an informed consumer. Here are three forms of damage that require scissors as a means to prevent further damage along the length of your hair.

1. Split Ends

Split ends form due to excessive dryness, breakage, friction with clothes, over manipulation, heat styling, and natural weathering. When people say, “my hair is not growing” what they mean to say is that their hair is not retaining length. Hair growth sprouts from the hair follicle through the scalp; it is not produced at the ends of the hair. What can appear to be a lack of growth is really your hair breaking at the same rate that it grows.  

The only way to rid your hair of split ends is a trim. Split ends are damaged ends and there is no way to permanently restore them. There are products with polyelectrolyte complex that can temporarily restore the hair shaft and prolong the need to trim, but a trim undeniably necessary. Delaying your trims can lead to further damage, as the split can travel up the hair shaft, so be mindful when deferring this necessity. Here are the best ways to prevent split ends:

  • Moisturize and deep conditioner regularly.
  • Seal your ends with an oil or butter.
  • Wear protective styles to hide your ends from creating friction with your clothes, being fondled by your hands, and enduring the gruesome weather elements. Marley twists and Senegalese twists are great protective styles.
  • Wear low manipulation styles to reduce the amount of handling. Buns and a crown braid make great low manipulation styles.
  • Trim regularly.
  • Reduce or cease the use of heat styling.

2. Heat Damage

Heat damage is when structural damage has been done to the hair due to high temperature or frequent heat use, which causes the hair to become weaker and lose its original curl pattern. If damage has indeed manifested, then there is no way to revert it. Sometimes a deep conditioner or protein treatment can encourage the hair to retake its original shape but if the damage is done, there is nothing more to do but cut it.

Regularly using a flat iron or blow-dryer on high heat (above 375) will inevitably take a toll on the strands of most people. There are the anomalies who glide Chi irons through their strands weekly but I do not advise trying to discover if you are a part of those outliers. Heat styling withdraws the moisture from your strands and causes excessive dryness and damage, which then lead to breakage. If you enjoy straightening always remember these tips:

  • Use a heat protectant
  • Clarify regularly.
  • Deep conditioner before straightening.
  • Incorporate a light protein treatment to maintain your hair’s strength.

3. Color Damage

Color damage is chemical damage that happens as a result of 1) using chemicals that are too harsh for your hair type or the condition of your hair; 2) chemicals that were applied improperly; 3) or chemicals that were kept on for a prolong period of time. The best way to avoid color damage is to schedule a consultation and have the service rendered by a skilled, licensed cosmetologist. A stylist, especially colorist, can assess your hair type (i.e. porosity and width), evaluate the current health of your hair, and advise you on the best approach to receive the results that you want.

It is also important to be open minded to the potential of a stylist discouraging you from proceeding with a permanent color due to the poor health of your hair or the vulnerability of your strands. For example, coarse hair will respond better to blonde in comparison with fine strands, as coarse hair is stronger in nature. If already have color damage, schedule a visit with a beautician that you trust and let her counsel you on the next steps to maintain the health of the hair that is growing.

Have you ever avoided a trim or a much needed haircut? What happened?