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Starting on the Road to Healthy Hair: List of Most Damaging Things You Can Do to Your Hair

Updated on September 4, 2011

So you want healthy hair?


Healthy hair is a lot of work, yet what it adds to your looks (for both men and women) and self-esteem is certainly worth the effort. Whether you want to grow your hair long or just want to keep what you have looking great, here are a few helpful tips. These tips can work very well for keeping new growth healthy and can, to some extent, aid in the healing of already=damaged hair. If you don't want the aggravating work of repairing severely-damaged old growth, consider cutting it off and starting fresh. With proper care it will grow back FAST!

Thank God I'm Natural--The Ultimate Guide to Caring for and Maintaining Natural Hair
Thank God I'm Natural--The Ultimate Guide to Caring for and Maintaining Natural Hair

A book that has gotten great reviews in taking care of nappy hair.


First off, my profile picture (to the right) is an excellent example of what my hair USED to look like...I rarely ever used a blow dryer, never colored and only permed it once, two years before the picture was taken. I couldn't understand why mid-back seemed to be the "terminal length" for my far as I knew, I was doing the right things to care for it. I thought perhaps the very fine hairs would just always break too easily to grow out. I wanted much longer hair, so my sister helpfully directed me to some online resources for proper hair care that really taught me a lot about what I was doing wrong. Without further ado, here are some common mistakes that cause a lot of damage to the hair.

Primary Sources of Hair Damage

Hair Dryers, Curling Irons, Coloring, Perming. This one is pretty much a given, as most people know that all these things that apply heat or chemicals to the hair will damage it. Just in case, I've thrown it in to stress just how important it is to avoid these for truly healthy hair.

Combing and Hair Accessories. Avoid combing your hair when it's wet, and always comb from the bottom on up to avoid breaking hairs by unexpectedly hitting a tangle. Wet hair catches in the comb easier and can also stretch, causing stress that will later turn into splits. Many hair accessories have rough edges, metal tags that wear on the hair, or tangle easily and cause damage during removal.

Drying Hair After Washing. No, I'm not talking about hair dryers again...I'm talking about your towel. I used to always wrap my hair in a twist of towel on top of my head until most of the water had soaked into the towel, then flip my hair over my head and "scrub" it with the towel to get as much additional water out as possible. Not only does this cause breakage and possibly additional tangles, it causes stress all along the hair length. If you have a LOT of little hairs that are significantly shorter than the rest, it could be due to breakage caused by this kind of stress.

Chlorine. Do you wear a bathing cap when you go swimming? I don't, and I know very few people at the public pool who wear one. Personally, even where the health of my hair is concerned, I can't bring myself to try to tuck it all up in a stupid-looking cap that may or may not even protect it. However, you can coat your hair with conditioner about an hour prior to swimming (if your pool allows it) and be certain to wash your hair directly afterward to help get rid of the excess chlorine.

Weather. Ok, I live in Wyoming...this means that you can fry an egg on a rock in the summer and freeze your blood in its veins in the winter, and this is absolutely horrible for hair. I can recall so many mornings I'd run to the school bus with my hair still wet from the shower and have hair icicles by time I got there, and times the sun was hot enough to make my hair feel rough and dry.

Of course there are a ton of things that can cause your hair to become damaged, so I have only listed a few of the most common. Your mileage my vary, but at least this may get you to thinking about the countless factors in daily life that cause hair damage.

What You Can Do to Help Your Hair

Other than the obvious avoiding extreme heat and chemical treatments for your hair, here are a few things you can do to ensure your hair is getting its proper nutrition.

Ensure a Healthy You for Healthy Hair. This is a huge one! Make sure you're eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water. Anything that's bad for the rest of your body is bad for your hair too. Additionally, you can take biotin supplements to speed your hair growth and also promote healthier skin and nails. These are not very expensive and do make quite a difference -- a multi-vitamin doesn't hurt either.

Comb Selection. Most combs in the store are, unfortunately, unsuitable for healthy hair. Plastic or acrylic combs usually have a seam along the teeth from where the mold came together, which constantly scrapes at your hair, thinning each strand until it breaks. Combs with teeth set too close together are not good either, as these have a greater chance of getting tangled in the hair or shearing straight through a tangle instead of carefully working it apart. The best comb is a wide-tooth comb of either wood or bone, because there are no seams and they will soak up some of the natural beneficial oils in your hair and help spread them. These combs should be discarded as soon as they start to splinter.

Brushes. For the most part, brushes are a big no-no as they do more damage than just about any other "hair care" item. The one exception I've found is the Boar Bristle Brush, it's a very soft-bristled brush (often of boar's hair, obviously) that is very useful for pulling oils off the scalp and distributing them over your hair's length. This brush is only to be used after you've thoroughly combed your hair and it is tangle-free; if it runs over tangles, the hair can get damaged.

Drying. The best method I've found for this is to gently pat my hair with a towel, then wear the towel across my shoulders with the hair draped over it to let it drain naturally. If you don't have the time or patience to do it this way, it's not difficult to pat the hair to get most of the excess water out then throw it into a bun where it will be out of the way and get the chance to dry slowly.

Shampoo. I don't mean in general, I mean getting the right shampoo. A lot of the cheaper shampoos that may make your hair look smooth and healthy are doing just that...making it LOOK healthy. Check the ingredients of your current shampoo. Anything with excessive ingredients ending in -cone are probably just coating your hair to make it look better. Unfortunately this kind of coating can make it tangle easier than it would otherwise, and keeps beneficial oils off the hair making it dry, brittle, and unhealthy. Additionally, the primary cleanser in shampoos is generally an ingredient that is a skin irritant (sodium laurel sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate) which can cause your scalp to produce excess oils trying to protect itself from the irritant. Personally, I prefer homemade shampoos or cold-process shampoo bars with lots of good oils in them to help ensure each washing doesn't strip it of what it needs.

Oiling. Yes, adding oils to your hair is extremely beneficial. This may take some experimentation to get right, but is definitely worth it when you do. There are many oils available that will work well on the hair (check the links below for some great guidance for oil choice). Personally I use jojoba oil during the summer and extra virgin olive oil during the winter. Oils not only help hydrate the hair, they also help protect it from damaging factors such as weather, and make it easier to comb so there's less chance of damage occurring during de-tangling.

Many updos are fast and easy to do


Updos. I'll admit that I do wear my hair down every now and then, usually when I'm having a bad day because I ALWAYS get compliments on my hair when I wear it down. However, wearing your hair down all the time is just inviting trouble. Braids are the most common, look nice, and are pretty easy to do...however, they are not the best because your hair is still rubbing against clothing, furniture, and other damaging items while the ends are exposed. The photo on the right shows my hair in a simple cinnamon bun that takes about five minutes to make once you get the hang of it (less if you use hair sticks instead of the pins I used for that one), feels great to wear, and stays in place through a vigorous work day. The options are limitless; do some exploring for hairdos that fit your style.

Trimming. Also called "micro trims", these are just regular small trimmings of an inch or less to keep split ends at bay. I personally do a micro trim every six weeks. It is not difficult to do your own trims with a pair of high-quality hair scissors and following easy online instructions to get the shape you want. In between trims I do what is called "dusting", which is going through and trimming off individual split ends. Dusting is a great activity for while you're watching TV or chatting with the family in the evenings.

A simple ponytail cuff can help keep hair out of harm's way while still letting it loose

Hair Toy Selection. Just because some accessories cause damage doesn't mean you just plain can't have any. Hair sticks (NOT plastic or acrylic) are a top choice because of their available varieties and endless uses. There are all sorts of clips and the like that can be used without damage to the hair, the "ouchless" hair ties that have no metal tab and are large enough not to tangle in the hair are also good. Barrettes should be wide and not overloaded and any rough edges filed off. Slide barrettes and ponytail cuffs are personal favorites of mine, the first is basically a hair stick with a piece that goes across the top of the hair to fasten it like a barrette and the second is often a leather or fabric piece that ties onto the hair so that only soft material is against the hair. Bun wraps can easily be made or bought as well, these wrap around the hair and then tie or twist into a bun for an effortless updo.

I could go on all day with all the different things you can do for gorgeous hair but neither of us have all day so I'll end here, I hope you've garnered some helpful hints from this and check out the links below for some more great hair tips and toys.

I hope this hub has been helpful. Now, I would really appreciate a moment of your time to help me in continuing to write very relevant content that you want to read. Please leave me a comment answering the question, what is your biggest challenge when it comes to hair care?

In progress...the last 1/4 of this hair was permed at one time, the rest is new growth with pains being taken for proper care
In progress...the last 1/4 of this hair was permed at one time, the rest is new growth with pains being taken for proper care
2008...the same hair, now healthy
2008...the same hair, now healthy

A quick french braiding tutorial


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    • K Kiss profile image

      K Kiss 

      8 years ago from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

      My hair is super damaged right now and this hub was very helpful indeed. I will try to comply with some of the tips you shared. Cheers.

    • SummerSurf profile image


      8 years ago

      Useful article ...thanks! I'm thinking of getting Biotin supplements and also maybe getting a trim. I've tried Monoi Oil and am reducing how often I straighten my hair. I do already eat a healthy diet but am taking a multivitamin to top up my vitamin levels.

    • andur92 profile image


      8 years ago from India

      Thanks for the post..!

    • wychic profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Mikulin 

      9 years ago from Sheridan, Wyoming

      Hi! Acrylic can be damaging to hair, though less damaging than sun, dust, smoke, and tangling from bike riding. Since skull caps don't really rub it shouldn't cause too much damage, but if possible putting a silk kerchief underneath the skull cap would definitely help prevent damage. Alternatively, if a small amount of silk can be gotten to make a liner for the cap that would also help prevent damage (I often find old silk shirts and such at thrift stores that can easily be salvaged for liner material). Hope this helps! :)

    • profile image

      Rahul (India) 

      9 years ago

      Hi, do caps/hats containing acrylic cause hair damage/fall?

      I cycle in relatively dusty/smoky environs and would like to protect my hair from that. I've bought these Reebok skull caps to wear while cycling. However, am hesitant to wear them because of acrylic content in the fabric. content: 70-80%.

    • guidebaba profile image


      11 years ago from India

      Nice tips. Good.


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