The bad news: Damage happens to all hair, regardless of color or texture. The good news: It can be remedied.

By Melanie Rud
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No matter your hair type or texture, no matter its length or color, everyone (we repeat, everyone) is susceptible to hair damage. Consider it one of those universal evils, like death or taxes. And while some damage is just ultimately unavoidable, the good news is that a lot of it is easily avoided. Not to mention that no matter the cause, there are plenty of easy fixes. Top stylists share the main causes of damage, how to tell if your hair is damaged and, most important, what to do about it in order to whip your strands back into tip-top shape.

Image courtesy of Getty.

What are the most common causes of hair damage?

Buckle up because this list is a pretty long. The primary causes are often split into various categories. On one hand, there’s chemical damage. This is caused by, you guessed it, chemical processes such as coloring, bleaching, perms, or chemical straightening, all of which alter the actual structure of the hair. Then, there’s mechanical damage caused by things you’re physically doing to the hair—improper and/or overzealous brushing and heat styling are two of the big ones. And then finally there are environmental factors—things like sun exposure and weather.

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How do you know if your hair is damaged?

Perhaps the most telltale sign is split ends. We’ve all seen them (and probably all have some)—the very tip of the hair starts to split and look like a V. In general, your ends are the most prone to damage. Since this is the oldest hair on your head, it’s been subjected to all of those aforementioned culprits for the longest amount of time and taken the biggest beating. And that means your ends generally require some more TLC than the rest of your hair, but more on that in a minute. A few other signs indicate damage: “Hair that won’t grow at the same rate as the rest of your hair, often looking like it doesn’t belong in the haircut,” says Jeff Chastain, Celebrity Hairstylist and Founder of MASC. Constant dryness is another big one, as is hair that doesn’t take color evenly, Chastain adds.

So, what can I do about it?

Regular trims are your hair’s BFF. And if you have scissor-phobia or are trying to grow your hair out, don’t stress—this doesn’t mean you need to take off inches. Ask your stylist for a dusting, which will take off just those damaged tips. “Trimming split ends ensures they won’t creep further up the hair shaft and cause more damage,” says Chastain (and ultimately result in you having to cut off way more hair than you want). If you color your hair, it’s a great idea to combine every color appointment with a trim, according to John Mouzakis, a stylist at Mixed Co. Salon in Chicago.

Protective products are another great—and easy—fix, and there’s something to help with any and all types of damage. To combat the negative effects hot tools have on your hair, a heat protectant like Joico Defy Damage Protective Shield, $21.50 at Ulta is an absolute must. “Apply it to damp hair before blow-drying, then again on dry hair before flat ironing or curling,” advises Mouzakis. For hair that feels brittle and dry, strengthening and moisturizing treatments are your best bet. The caveat? Use them in that order. “You always need to repair the structure of the hair that’s breaking first, in order to get it to a place where it can accept the moisture you’re adding back in,” explains Chastain. We’re big fans of fast-acting masks, which you can use in the shower in place of conditioner weekly. Try the Garnier Fructis Strengthening Treat 1 Minute Hair Mask, $4.29 at Walgreens, followed by the Take Me to Tahiti One Minute Moisture Mask, $22 at Fave4.

Chastain’s other favorite tip? Use a moisturizing mask while you work out. “Dampen your hair, then apply the mask and put it into a ponytail or bun. The heat from your head, coupled with the fact that it’s sitting on your hair for a bit longer, makes it more effective, and it’s an easy way to incorporate a mask into your routine,” he says. Multitasking for the win. Mouzakis adds that moisturizing masks are also a great way to alleviate the damage and dryness that occurs during a cold, dry winter.

Finally, reconsider some of your hair habits. Excess shampooing can strip hair of moisture, not to mention increase how frequently you’re exposing your hair to hot tools. Aim to wash hair no more often than every other day. Spending time out in the sun? Pop on a hat to shield your hair from the damaging rays. Attempt to space out any chemical treatments like coloring as far apart as possible. These are all small changes, but they’ll add up in your quest to ensure that every day is a good hair day.

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