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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.
haircrisis1.JPG

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!!!
Jo-Lynne 

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.
haircrisis2.JPG

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 , or ), 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.)
haircrisis3.jpg

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.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

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 [email protected].

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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robin m
Guest
robin m

Is there any verdict on the heat styling protective products like Dove and Thermasilk? I also use a flat iron (although a Chi) and am starting to notice split ends – but my hair is halfway down my back. I am terrified of effing up my hair, but also don’t want it to be curly/wavy/frizzy every day, either.

robin m
Guest
robin m

/me ducks, I see the Heat Protectant products were covered in the linked page, now. 😉
I did try the Conair ~$30 flat iron (ceramic) from Walmart, no worky. I’ve also tried the one they sell on HSN with the little nubs in it? Maxiglide? Something like that. Nothing works like the Chi (bought for $90 at Amazon, free shipping).

Neena
Guest
Neena

I use a flat-iron regularly, and have learned the benefits of deep-conditioning regularly, investing in a good, ceramic flat-iron, and using products that protect my hair. I have a couple suggestions of products that I LOVE and can’t live without: Phyto 9 is amazing stuff. You can get it at Sephora and a number of salons carry it. http://www.sephora.com/browse/product.jhtml?id=P2891 Also, Alterna carries a hemp product called Hemp Shine and Texturizing Catalyst that has actually made my hair healthier. http://www.4alterna.com/ I recently discovered Bumble and Bumble’s Hair Powder. This stuff is awesome! It prolongs the need to shampoo since it helps… Read more »

dcrmom
Guest

Wow! I was so surprised to pop over to your blog and seem my mug plastered right there! Thanks for all this great advice. My flat iron is a CHI, but I have stopped using it. I have also gotten yet another hair cut — short this time! I do have to wash every day b/c it looks stupid after I sleep on it, but I’m not flat ironing at all anymore. I am going to check out all this product advice. THANKS SO MUCH!!

BaltimoreGal
Guest
BaltimoreGal

Frederick Fekkai has a new line of products called Coiff:
http://www.fekkai.com/products/products.cfm?family=15
They’re made so you can mix & match them and your hair’s won’t be overwhelmed! I have been using the Thermal UV Protectant, Ironless Straightening Balm, and Ultra-Light Finishing Creme combination and it works really well- my hair is straight, not fried from using my hair drier, and not frizzy. The products are NOT cheap- about $25 each- but you don’t need to use much so they’ll last a long time.
Plus, I think good hair is worth it!

Jamie
Guest
Jamie

Get thee to a dr!
Thinning, brittle, dry hair is a classic symptom of hypothyroid. There are also several other health related reasons why your hair could be thinning- stress, new medications, etc.
It’s worth it to rule it out, at least.

Giada
Guest
Giada

So, I’ve actually had this EXACT same problem. I’ve got thin hair that’s pretty fine (was super fine when I was a kid, but now it’s got a bit of a wave, so it’s less fine) and has always been quite thin. I highlight it, wash it every day, and always blow dry. Additionally, I straight iron the sides and front where the blowdrying isn’t enough to keep it straight all day. A couple of years ago, my hair went from soft and fine and healthy to brittle and super dry. It was sad and upsetting and I never felt… Read more »

Kourtney_R
Guest
Kourtney_R

My laws, yes, you need a nice winter jacket. I actually spent quite a bit on a nice wool maternity winter coat (I’m in Calgary, & we get COLD). It didn’t matter how whale-like I felt while getting dressed, when I put my jacket on to leave the house I felt together & chic. (As compared to wearing my husband’s winter parka, where I felt all Shamu & awful.) I also bought a pair of knee-high boots (flat, lace-up with a side zip, sorta boxer style) that I wore with leggings & a denim skirt & a twin set continually… Read more »

Emma B
Guest

I actually clicked through just to talk about the thyroid thing, but Jamie said it for me first.
Seriously, this is how I got diagnosed with a whacko thyroid in the first place — my hairdresser saw how it was falling out, and told me to go straight to the doctor to get it tested. If she hadn’t said it, I know it would have taken me a lot longer to figure out what was wrong.
If the styling tips don’t help, and you keep noticing loss from the roots, definitely take it up with your doctor at your next appointment.

ksd77
Guest
ksd77

One thing that has helped keep my hair healthier is washing it less. I know you only wash it 4 times a week right now, but if you can go a day longer here or there it can really help. I only shampoo 2 – 3 times a week (and do a hot oil treatment once a week) and my hair is super healthy despite regular heat styling and highlighting.

MrsHaley
Guest
MrsHaley

Jo-Lynne — No advice, just a big thumbs-up … you are very pretty, despite hair woes. 🙂

dcrmom
Guest

Wow, great advice. I actually do have a slightly hypoactive thyroid which is under control with a low dose of Synthroid. I’m definitely investing in a deep conditioner right away.

Rose666
Guest
Rose666

Help!!! I am getting a bit worried with the condition of my hair, I was it ever second day but use GHDs after drying my hair, however, my hair has got to a stage that it has got so thin and damaged i want to just hide away. My hair is shoulder length and when i am straightening it i have a problem with one particular area and now its a mess. I have been advised to have me hair cut shorter and maybe this my help with my hair being so thin and maybe by giving my hair a… Read more »

carme
Guest
carme

Here’s two things that work for me – when I overly heat styled my hair. #1 is the hommade approach where you can use a teaspoon of olive oil and two teaspoons of mayonnaise – apply to your hair and then cover it with a plastic cap and leave it on for thirty minutes. That is the cheapest way. If you are a super busy mom like me and work also, you can use the heat leave-in protector from the Shielo brand BEFORE doing any heat styling. The Shielo protector will stop the heat from damaging your hair, and it… Read more »

tracy
Guest
tracy

I suggest NOT using any flat irons at all. They ARE all bad.