After years of wash and wear, sometimes strands start behaving differently, with oily roots or split ends suddenly showing up, uninvited. You may have a dedicated routine that has coaxed your natural texture to shapeshift with the help of products and hot tools, but find that after years of similar styling, hair is starting to feel sparse and thin.
What to do next can be bewildering. Many hair challenges are caused by the way we treat our locks each day, but other lifestyle and health factors can be at play. It’s worth considering what you’ve been doing recently and over time, the products you’re using and how you apply them, and your styling approach.
Taking stock of the advice below may spark some ideas about what to change. However, if the problem lingers, and in particular if you’re seeing hair loss that seems over the 50-100 hairs we naturally shed a day, it’s time to speak to your doctor. If you just need a styling rethink, your hairdresser can introduce you to more effective products and techniques.
1. RETHINK THE WAY YOU WASH
Shampooing hair and following with conditioner are still essential steps but like skincare, more than ever the products landing on shelves are targeted to our specific hair type.
It’s not just coloured or curly hair that get their own products; releases now further address the type of colouring process you have had or the specific curl pattern and type your locks are.
Recent arrivals to consider include Kérastase’s Genesis, which is said to help reduce hair fall, and Oribe’s Alchemy collection, which aims to increasing the resilience and elasticity of our strands. You can brighten greys with Olaplex No.4P Blonde Enhancer Toning Shampoo, while L’Oréal’s Professionnel’s Metal Detox shampoo removes mineral deposits caused by water quality that can affect the results of colouring services. It’s worth considering if you need products that are more finely tuned to your hair type to get the best results.
How you use them also matters. Nicole Kae, Creative Director for evo hair, suggests much like double- cleansing our faces, washing hair twice with the right products will give better results.
“Shampooing should really be done twice,’’ she says. “The first one loosens out greases, products, elements and build-up, while the second shampoo gives you the benefits it has to offer.”
Even if you’re only doing it once, she advises making sure you really emulsify the shampoo and massage the whole scalp.
“A lot of people tend to rub the outside of the hair only and this misses removing the build-up from the scalp. Think about how good it feels when you get a wash at the salon; they cover your whole scalp.”
Conditioner also absolutely has its place even if it feels like you can get away without it. “Fine hair absolutely needs conditioner,’’ Kae says of a common myth. “A lot of people shy away from conditioning with fine hair because they are afraid of weighing down. This is where product recommendation comes into play; if you’re weighed down, you’re using the incorrect product for your hair.”
2. CONSIDER YOUR SCALP
Usually if we have oilier than usual roots, or start seeing flakes sprinkled on our shoulders, we reach for a shampoo or conditioner to sort it out. Instead, try using a dedicated scalp product that treats the skin and hair follicles that grow all that hair. Now more than ever, the part the area has to play in the way hair looks is being recognised. Scalp treatments provide concentrated effects and can help solve a range of issues and, combined with a gentle massage, can help improve blood circulation to the area.
Scalp scrubs with both gritty particles and/or more gentle AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) can help break down product and sebum build-up, dissolve dead skin cells and help follicles operate efficiently. Scalp serums treat scalp as the extension of your facial skin and provide replenishment to keep the area in a healthy state.
3. USE A HAIR MASK
Using conditioner regularly is important to help maintain shine and softness, but you may think adding a hair mask as well is overkill. Think again. A hair mask is basically a super-powered conditioner and standing in the shower for those extra few minutes a hair mask takes to work will pay dividends, deeply nourishing and strengthening strands. They typically contain rich ingredients with natural oils and antioxidants that are heavier in concentration than conditioners and go deeper, and can ultimately help reduce hair breakage, smooth frizz, make the hair more manageable, enhance shine and feel less dry.
“Using a mask or treatment regularly is important, especially if you have coloured hair, chemically serviced hair or long hair in general,” says Kae. “Every hair type needs love and TLC on the regular. “
Try these: Evo The Therapist Hydrating Shampoo; Oribe Hair Alchemy Resilience Shampoo; Kérastase Genesis Masque Reconstituant; The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Scalp Scrub; Joico Defy Damage Protective Shield
4. REDUCE TENSION
Stop pulling your hair! This applies whether you impatiently yank a brush through your strands, brush hair when it’s wet or wear your hair tied up constantly. All cause unnecessary strain and stress on strands or your scalp and can cause damage that’s sometimes hard to repair. Wet hair is very porous and filled with moisture, meaning strands are at their most vulnerable to stretching and snapping. If you must, use a wide-toothed comb when your hair is wet.
Using soft fabric or silk scrunchies causes less pulling on strands, unlike elastics that can cause tension ‘break points’. Yet it’s also wise to give hair a regular break from too-tight styling as repetitive pulling can contribute to traction alopecia, particularly around the hairline.
5. TURN DOWN THE HEAT
A common and easily avoidable mistake is to think the hotter the better when it comes to styling tools. In reality, while some heat is needed to encourage the desired change in texture, exposing hair to a temperature that’s too hot damages the healthy internal structure of strands and can lead to dullness, frizz and breakage. Good-quality hair tools have internal sensors that maintain an optimal heat, or have variable options so if your hair is already damaged or lightened (which can add extra stress to strands) you can select a lower styling heat.
While you can choose a much lower heat on many cheaper hair tools, it can lead to not achieving the style you want, so you spend longer using it, or doing more passes from something like a straightener, risking drying strands and causing damage.
6. CONSIDER LIFE AND LIFESTYLE CHANGES
According to experts there are a range of things that can impact hair health but hair loss experts say they are seeing more women than ever before. Exact figures vary but according to Carla Hunt, Clinic Manager of Clive Hair Clinics, up to 30% of women experience Female Pattern Thinning (FPT) by 30, with the number rising significantly after menopause.
“The age of a woman when hair thinning starts will differ between women as there are many factors that can trigger and worsen hair loss,” she says.
Though genetics have a role, she lists other variables like stress, nutritional deficiencies, medication and hormonal changes or imbalances that can play a part in hair loss.
It’s why it’s important to look at the bigger picture before undertaking any treatment for hair loss, whether it’s through a professional clinic or with at-home treatments like those containing Minoxidil.
7. DIET MATTERS
According to experts, diet can play a big part in having healthy hair, and one with a balanced amount of nutrients should be prioritised. “We see a lot of vegans and vegetarians affected by hair loss due to an iron deficiency,” says Hunt.
There’s no suggestion diet alone is responsible for, or a solution for hair loss but her top picks to support healthy strands in general include boosting your protein intake with things like eggs, chicken or salmon, including amino acids found in garlic, onions, sardines, chicken, lamb and fish and adding selenium from the likes of brazil nuts.
8. TRY A TREATMENT
Adding in a treatment at your next salon visit can do more than just make hair feel a little softer, or add temporary shine. In fact, these targeted applications now have a wider scope than ever so it’s worth asking your hairdresser about what’s right for you.
In particular you might have heard of bond-building treatments. This ultra-reparative option aims to treat the millions of bonds that make up the internal structure and strength of hair. These bonds can become weakened and broken, particularly during the chemical process of colouring, lightening or chemically straightening hair, resulting in damage that causes breakage or texture changes to your strands.
Bonding treatments work at a molecular level to deliver essential ingredients to the hair’s internal bonds. You may have heard them referred to by the name Olaplex, but this is a brand name from the company that pioneered one of the most well-known (and patented) approaches. Each treatment available – there are also ones from Joico, L’Oreal and so on – works in a slightly different way depending on the chemicals involved but the end game is to strengthen and protect your hair by reinforcing those bonds.
9. CONSIDER YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Just like we change up our skincare for the challenges each season throws at us, the same should be true of our hair care. In winter, look for nourishing protective hair care that returns essential moisture into strands, as dry air and the need to wear a hat can cause static, resulting in fluffy, frizzy flyaway hair. In the summer, sun damage can also play havoc, drying and fading and splitting strands.
Felicity Bruce, Joico ambassador and owner of Cocoon Hair Design recommends using a protective styling cream, saying it’s like putting on a coat of armour before styling or heading out.
“Joico’s Defy Damage Protective Shield is an instant hair bestie. It protects you against the effects of daily styling, heat and exposure to UV as well as environmental pollution. This means it helps prevent damage and guards against colour fade. Used prior to styling, hair is strengthened inside and out, and leaves your hair so soft!”
10. GET REGULAR TRIMS
Cutting the ends of your hair doesn’t affect the follicles in your scalp, which determine how fast and how much your hair grows. So while cutting your hair regularly won’t make it grow faster, it does play a part in helping hair look healthy and full.
Getting rid of split ends reduces hair breakage, and breakage is what makes hair look thinner at the ends. Living with frayed, split ends instead of trimming will eventually cause the split to ‘travel’ up on each strand and break, which will not only make your hair look much thinner than it is but will also keep it from getting longer past a certain point.