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Hope for Heat-Damaged Hair

By Amalah

Hi. I’m having a hair crisis. After consulting several friends, one of whom pointed me to your blog, I have determined that somehow I have stressed my thin, typically healthy, but now very dry and broken hair. They all think it is the ceramic flat iron I have been using for the past two years. Before that, my hair was no stranger to the curling iron, so I’m skeptical, but it’s either that or diet, and I don’t know why it would be diet-related.

I do not color or treat in any way. I wash 4x a week and blow-dry and style with a flat iron. I do not always use a thermal protection spray, although I do own one. I do not always condition. I have been using a Biolage shampoo for the past few months.
Attached are several pictures.

One is a picture of my current situation. (Picture in sleeveless crew neck shirt) This is after two, yes TWO hair cuts in one week.

A year ago it was shiny, sleek, silky, and healthy. (Picture in floral top.)

For some reason, over the last few months, it has become dry, broken, thin, and yuck. At the hairdresser’s a week ago, she said, “Has your hair always been this thin?” After her cut, it looked so bad a friend compared me to a cancer patient.

(Picture of me in black v-neck shirt)

I had it cut again by someone else to get my current cut. (Picture of me in black sleeveless crew neck shirt)

When I style it initially it looks okay, but as the day goes on, it gets frizzy, and it is practically see-through it’s so thin.

Any ideas?? Help!!!

Eeek! You KNOW it’s bad when your friends get all brutally honest with you, right?

I’m gonna jump on the bandwagon and blame the flat iron too — our hair ages along with the rest of our bodies, so stuff it used to put up with in the past can still cause it to go all kablooey as we get older. And I am also going to ding you on the “I do not always condition” thing.

Your hair needs a break from the heat-styling. A nice loooong break. Because that’s CLASSIC heat damage there, all thin and frizzy and kind of mangy at the ends.

But! The good news! Your roots! Look how nice and healthy!

So hopefully, armed with a new and improved haircare regimen, we can turn those healthy roots into healthy ends, while (again, hopefully) improving the current ends in the meantime.

And your new and improved hair regimen has three steps. Ta-da!

1) Upgrade your conditioner to a deep conditioner — one especially for dry, brittle, damaged hair. And use it everyday on the bottom half of your hair, leaving it on for a good five minutes at least. Usually I tell people to just condition the very ends, but your “ends” are kind of taking over at this point.

You can stick with the shampooing four times a week, although you might want to try something besides the Biolage. It’s clearly not really doing much for you. (And if I may paraphrase my own Phillip: Biolage is an okay line, good for people making the first leap into salon products, but it’s far from the best stuff out there.)

Lines to consider for both shampoo and conditioner: Bumble & Bumble (I’m thinking Creme de Coco, Super Rich or Deeep), Pureology ReConstruct Repair (I know you don’t color your hair, but the stuff is just so GOOD), Wella, Kiehl’s or Aveda.

Of course, now that I’ve recommended a slew of pricey shampoos and conditioners, let me also suggest a good old VO5 hot oil treatment, or a once-a-week homemade avocado hair mask (mash and mix one avocado, one egg yolk and a 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil; apply to hair for 30 minutes, and then shampoo and condition).

2) Upgrade (or ditch) the flat iron. You mentioned it’s ceramic, but there’s still a big difference between a bottom-of-the-line ceramic iron and a professional quality one. (Check out the Smackdown’s full take on flat-irons here.) Either way, the thermal protection spray is essential, providing you’re using a good one. (That link has a lot more info and recommendations from readers, so I’m not going to repeat the whole thing here.)

Depending on just how curly and frizzy your hair is, I would really encourage you to try and NOT flat iron it as many days as possible. Maybe with the right styling products you can get away with just a really good blow dry? Wear your hair up in a clip on the weekends? If you absolutely must use a flat iron, so be it, just make sure it’s a really good one and you’re using it properly.

3) Get some volumizing products. I use a volumizing shampoo and conditioner, but I think your priority needs to be moisturizing in that department…so it’s up to all your styling/finishing products to add some oomph to the thinness.

Depending on where you end up with the blow-drying/flat-ironing, you have a ton of product options: Pureology Root Lift, Bed Head Small Talk, Bumble & Bumble Thickening Spray, just to name a few. Following the flat iron advice I linked to will probably help the frizz, although I’ve also found that Bed Head Head Rush is a nice finishing spray for fine hair that adds a little thickness without weighing things down.

But I still wouldn’t expect that much from styling products right now — the key is nourishing and replenishing your hair from the inside out, and backing away from the heat styling for awhile. It sounds like two years was your hair’s limit on how much abuse it’ll take. Now we just have to see how long it’ll take to bounce back to its former shiny smoothness.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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