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How to Rescue Dry, Damaged Hair

What to do if your hair is dry, damaged and all-around looking a bit crap.

Is every day a Bad Hair Day for you? (Kind of like the movie Groundhog Day, but with your hair?)

Maybe you were the victim of an overzealous colourist (it's happened to me); maybe you tried to DIY with home colour and failed (I've also been there); or maybe you just have too much love for your curling iron, flat iron and hairdryer.

From The Styling Edit Archives

Whatever happened—you need some help to nurse those fragile, damaged locks back to health. Yes?

This question was actually posed by not one but two readers lately. And since I've managed to recover my locks from a poorly advised 18-month period of trying virtually every hair colour under the sun, I am perfectly qualified to advise you. So here goes...

1. Shampoo and Condition

Invest in a shampoo and conditioner SPECIFICALLY FOR REPAIRING DAMAGE.

Don't mess around with plain old products for dry hair. They're okaaaaay, but what you REALLY want is all the magical ingredient goodness of a damage-repairing shampoo and conditioner duo. When your hair is damaged, it's lost protein, so that's what these kids do—they throw that protein right back atcha. I'm particularly fond of Redken's Extreme line. Anything from Kérastase is also a sure bet—their damaged hair line is called Résistance and I know it well.

At the drugstore, Dove makes a damaged hair line called Intense Damage Therapy... and there is a Pantene specifically for damaged hair too.

2. Deep Condition

You know how beauty people always talk about using a deep conditioning masque once or twice a week? LISTEN TO THEM.

No seriously. You really need to do this. Most damage repair lines include a deep conditioning/repairing masque as well as the shampoo and conditioner... but if you wanted to pull out all the stops (and have a spare $150 or so), Kérastase's Chronologiste all-in-one hair treatment is to die for.

Another line worth checking out is Philip Kingsley, now available at Holt Renfrew. He makes a treatment called the Elasticizer Extreme, which is specifically for traumatized hair, and I hear it's fantastic.

3. Avoid Heat

Easy on the heat styling, tiger.

But you know this. If you can get away with air drying as much as you can for a few months, until your hair is in better condition, it's a good idea. But if you must use anything with heat-please, PLEASE put in a heat-protective product first. (Not just any old serum—make sure the label says that it will protect against thermal damage.)

No need to spend big bucks either—TRESemmé makes an entire range of stylers with heat-protective benefits, and they're cheap as chips.

Also: throw out that little nozzle on the end of your hairdryer. It concentrates the heat in a smaller surface area, which means—you guessed it!—more damage potential.

4. Be Gentle

Treat your hair like a FINE, DELICATE, SPECIAL FLOWER.

That means easy on the post-shower towel drying. (All that rubbing can cause breakage.) Use a wide-toothed comb—not a brush—when your hair is wet. And as much as I love blow-drying with Ye Old Round Brush, it can cause breakage so try to abstain. The less pulling and tugging you do to your hair, the better.

5. Consider Colour

You might want to think about colouring your hair. Yes, really.

I know this sounds counter-intutive, but colour really can make your hair appear a bit healthier because it fills in the hair cuticle and adds shine. I wouldn't do this if your hair is severely damaged or breaking off though though—in some cases you just need to give it a rest and work on things with the prodz I mentioned above. However, as you'll see when I post the pics from the Clairol event we did on Monday, a bit of demi-permanent colour (like Clairol Natural Instincts, natch) can make a WORLD of difference.

Just make sure to get the advice of an expert if you're colouring over a previous colour job gone wrong... this is more of a solution for damaged hair due to heat styling.

A Word About Volume

Reader G. asked what she can do to get volume, even though she's using products to repair her damaged hair.

Unfortch... I've yet to see any products that both repair AND add volume. (Attention, beauty marketers! New category alert!) Until beauty companies can come out with a technology for this, you kind of have to choose your most important concern. I'd probably stick with the damage repair... all the volume in the world won't matter if your hair is dull, dried-out and damaged.

What you CAN do, however—after your reparative shampoo, conditioner and protective heat stylers—is use a root-lifting product like Kiehl's Super Thick Volumizer (probably my all-time favourite volumizer). TRESemmé also makes a thermal protective mousse that would be good too.

They're not going to be QUITE as effective as if you paired them with volumizing shampoo and conditioner, but if you blow-dry upside down or even just pull all your hair up into a bun while it's damp and let it air-dry that way, they should give you a bit of lift. (And curl, when you take it out.)

So tell me, guys—

Do you have damaged hair?

How did it happen? (Were you naughty or is a certain hairdresser now your Enemy Number One?)

What products have you used that have worked?