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Hair SOS: 11 Ways To Fix Your Damaged Hair

Put down the hot tools and reach for a hair mask instead.
  • Naydeline Mejia
March 01, 2024

Great hair days can be harder to come by if you have damaged hair, but they’re not totally out of reach: Damaged hair just requires some extra TLC to restore it to a healthier-looking state. If you find yourself battling dry strands, brittle hair, and split ends due to excessive heat styling, hair dyeing, or bleaching, a proper haircare routine is a must.

Below, we’re sharing tips on how to address damaged hair and naming some products that will help you in the process, including our best shampoo for damaged hair and more.

How Can You Tell if Hair is Damaged?

You can often tell your hair is damaged because you’ll see split ends and flyaways, or your hair will have a dry and brittle texture. In addition, hair breakage may cause your strands to look dull and frizzy. Plus, hair will tangle and shed more easily—making brushing through it difficult. In extreme cases, you might even notice thinning hair or bald spots, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

A more subtle way damage can manifest is in a shift in your hair texture or pattern. If you have straight hair, you might notice your locks become coarse, while those with curly or coily hair may see a change in their curl pattern, such as looser, less defined ringlets. It’s important to take stock of the condition of your hair from time to time to see if there are any signs of damage, which may call for a change in your haircare routine.

Can Damaged Hair Be Repaired?

When it comes to hair damage, there are three main types you might experience: heat damage, chemical damage, and mechanical damage. Heat damage to the hair is often a result of frequent use of heat styling tools. Chemical damage, on the other hand, is due to chemical treatments such as hair dye, relaxers, and bleaching. Mechanical damage is caused by rough handling of the hair (i.e., excessive brushing and tension caused by braids and other tight hairstyles).

Generally, with all of these types of damage, you can improve the quality of the hair in terms of how it looks and feels. However, you can’t repair the damage. This means you can’t undo split ends or mend broken hair. What you can do is reduce the appearance of the damage and follow a good haircare routine to make your hair feel healthier. Alternatively, you can cut the damaged hair off.

How to Care for Damaged Hair?

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If you’re looking to revive your damaged hair, bond-repairing products, like those in the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Bond Repair system, are your friend. This fortifying line is specifically designed for damaged hair and can help strengthen hair from the inside out by reinforcing weakened hair bonds (more on those in a bit).

When used as a in conjunction, the system (which includes the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Bond Strengthening Pre-Shampoo Treatment, L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Bond Repair Shampoo with Citric Acid, and L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Bond Repair Conditioner with Citric Acid) penetrates deep into the hair cortex to reinforce hair’s natural structure. The line also helps smooth the hair and aids in detangling, which may help to prevent future damage.

To reap the benefits of this powerful collection, start by applying the pre-shampoo treatment to damp hair. Let it sit for five to ten minutes before lathering up and conditioning with the collection’s shampoo and conditioner. You’ll enjoy smoother, stronger-feeling hair in a single use*—and you can use it as often as needed to help reinvigorate your frazzled mane.

*When used as a complete system.

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11 Tips to Help Manage and Protect Damaged Hair

Contrary to popular belief, there are several ways to manage current damage and prevent future breakage without chopping off your locks. Here are 11 tips for caring for damaged hair—only one of which involves losing any length.

1. Use shampoo and conditioner for damaged hair

The first step in your journey to healthy hair is to opt for a haircare system specially formulated for damaged hair. As mentioned above, bond-repairing products are the gold standard here. You can use the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Bond-Repairing System daily or as needed to help strengthen and revive damaged, brittle strands. To learn more about the line and its benefits, check out our article What Does a Hair Bonding Treatment Do?

2. Wash your hair with lukewarm water

Hot, steamy showers feel great on your skin, but all that heat can do a number on your hair, especially when you have damaged strands. Super-hot water can strip your hair of essential oils, making it feel drier and prematurely fading your hair color.

So, turn down the dial and rinse your hair in lukewarm water the next time you wash it. It may not feel as indulgent in the moment, but your hair will thank you.

3. Use a deep conditioning treatment

If you’re not already using a deep conditioner in your weekly haircare routine, it’s time to start. Deep conditioning treatments target common signs of hair damage like dryness, split ends, and breakage. Plus, many deep conditioning treatments contain nourishing haircare ingredients, like proteins and collagen peptides, to strengthen hair while protecting it against future damage.

4. Apply leave-in conditioner

Applying a hydrating leave-in conditioner after washing your hair can help reduce frizz, minimize the appearance of split ends, and prevent damage. Not to mention, a great leave-in can make the hair look and feel softer and more manageable.

The L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Protein Recharge Leave-In Conditioner Treatment is a great choice because the lightweight, creamy formula smooths the appearance of damaged hair while also acting as a heat protectant. If you have curls, consider reaching for the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls Leave-In Conditioner, which helps you achieve hydrated and bouncy curls without weighing them down.

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5. Dry your hair with a T-shirt

Instead of tossing your old, faded T-shirts, use them to plop your hair after hopping out of the shower. Aggressively rubbing your hair dry with a terry cloth towel can lead to breakage regardless of how healthy your hair is.

Cotton tees work well because they’re absorbent but gentle on the hairs. Remember, gentle is the name of the game when caring for damaged hair. Another great alternative is a microfiber towel that helps quickly absorb water and dry your hair without pulling on it.

6. Avoid over-brushing your hair

That old saying about brushing your hair for 100 strokes before bed to keep it smooth and soft? It’s not true. According to the AAD, it can actually cause more damage in the long run. The friction created by frequent brushing can weaken the outer layer of your hair and make it more likely to break off.

While you should definitely comb or brush your hair to remove tangles, hair doesn’t need that much brushing. Some gentle strokes with a wide-tooth comb will do the job. This brings us to our next point…

7. Switch your hairbrush for a wide-tooth comb

Aggressively tugging at tangles with a hairbrush can lead to serious hair breakage. This is true for dry hair but especially true for wet hair, which is more fragile.

It’s best to opt for a wide-tooth comb to detangle wet hair. The larger spaces between the teeth can smooth your hair with less tugging and friction.

If your hair is susceptible to tangling, using a detangler can make it easier to work through. The L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free 21-in-1 Color Caring Spray, Leave In is a nourishing leave-in with many benefits, including smoothing and detangling. Spray it on dry or wet hair to remove knots before combing.

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8. Always use a heat protectant

Before creating voluminous curls or a sleek blowout, you should apply heat protectant. This should be the first step anytime you heat style your hair but is especially important if you already have signs of hair damage.

Try the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Weightless Blow Dry Primer, Heat Protectant to smooth and protect wet hair before heat styling or the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Frizz Killer Serum Leave-In to tame frizz and static.

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9. Give heatless hairstyles a try

Heat protectant can be a game-changer, but if your hair is significantly damaged, we recommend avoiding applying heat to your mane altogether. Embracing your natural hair texture and opting for heatless hairstyles are two great ways to give your strands a break from hot tools, which are a major cause of damage.

If you have curly hair, apply a curl-defining leave-in treatment, then try scrunching your strands to enhance your curl pattern and add volume. For those with naturally straight hair, try experimenting with heatless styles like overnight beach waves, low ponytails, and messy buns.

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10. Sleep on a silk or satin pillowcase

As mentioned, friction and tugging from regularly brushing your hair can lead to breakage. But there’s another sneaky culprit of hair breakage: your cotton pillowcase. Your hair can snag on the fabric as you move about during the night, leading to damage.

A silk or satin pillowcase can be a gentler option. Because these fabrics are soft and silky to the touch, your hair is less likely to snag, resulting in fewer tangles and less frizz when you wake up.

11. Get a haircut

Let’s address the elephant in the room: While there’s a lot you can do to preserve damaged hair, sometimes your hair does need a fresh start. If you’re dealing with severe hair breakage, a haircut is the only way to avoid breakage creeping further up your hair.

Long strands are gorgeous, but short styles like the messy lob and the box bob are totally having a moment. Use this as an opportunity to switch up your look and experiment with a new hairstyle. Who knows, you may end up loving your cropped ‘do so much that it becomes your new signature look.

If your ultimate goal is to grow your hair, add regular hair dustings to your routine rather than trims. A hair dusting targets only dry, split ends. This technique will help remove the damaged bits of your hair without sacrificing length.

How Do I Fix Extremely Damaged Hair?

When you have extremely damaged hair, you must be very careful with how you handle it. Avoid heat, hair coloring, and bleaching if you’re trying to get back to healthy-looking hair. Additionally, limit how often you wash your mane—it’s best to wash your damaged hair no more than two times a week because overwashing can sometimes lead to dryness.

Incorporating a protein treatment into your routine for damaged hair is important because it helps strengthen hair while leaving it feeling silky. We recommend L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Power Restore Multi-Use Treatment, which is formulated with caring ingredients and leaves you with silky, healthy-looking hair. The formula is versatile, too: You can use it as a co-wash to boost hair’s resistance or as a leave-in treatment to fuel hair strength for the day.

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What Causes Damaged Hair?

Damaged strands are oftentimes the result of a combination of factors, some of which we’ve already touched on. Keep reading to learn more about three of the most common causes of hair damage.

1. Bleach

Before we dive into how bleach can inevitably damage the hair, it’s important to understand the structure of your hair. Three types of bonds exist within your hair (hydrogen, salt, and disulfide), which are responsible for your hair’s structure. Certain chemical services, such as routine bleaching or perming, can permanently break disulfide bonds in your hair, altering how it looks and feels. Breakage, split ends, and dryness can all result from these broken bonds.

Keep in mind that broken disulfide bonds are much harder to repair than hydrogen and salt bonds.

2. Hair color

Permanent hair color can also dry out your strands, leading to damage like brittle hair and dehydration. Because of this, it’s best to give your hair a break in between coloring sessions—usually around six to eight weeks.

Additionally, the AAD recommends going for a darker shade than your current color in order to avoid bleach when possible. Besides the fact that darker shades are stunning, they’re notably less damaging to your hair. (Psst: Our round-up of 26 Dark Hair Colors That Are Seriously Stunning can give you all the inspo you need.)

3. Heat styling

Hot tools—we love them for achieving trendy styles like the voluminous blowout, but they aren’t the best for your hair, especially when used frequently.

Most times, hot tools can reach temperatures that are much higher than needed (even higher than you need to cook food), and that can seriously fry your strands. Using heat styling tools in moderation is fine but should always be done with healthy hair practices. It’s a good idea to invest in a quality heat protectant and to put your hot tools on the lowest temperature setting that allows you to style your hair without having to go over the same sections repeatedly.

Next Up: Are Bond Strengthening Products Right For You?

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