Enemies of Healthy Hair

Healthy strands boast tightly closed cuticle layers. If hair is in good condition, it shines, swings, feels good when touched, and has no “cotton-candy” ends or split strands. The easiest route to healthy hair is to avoid as many of the following damaging things as possible.


Shampoo works by removing dirt and excess sebum from the hair’s surface. Gentle shampoos remove just what they need to. Harsh shampoos, however, can take with them your hair’s protective sebum, that necessary natural oil that keeps hair pliable, moisturized, and healthy. In some cases, harsh shampoos also disrupt your hair’s cuticle layer, roughing up those tile-like portions and allowing damage to the interior cortex.

Wet hair is up to 30 percent weaker than dry hair, so handle damp strands carefullly! Wait untill your locks are dry before doing any heavy-duty brushing, combing, or styling.

Don’t overdo it

In countries such as America, where people have a pathological obsession with squeaky-clean tresses, hair is often overwashed. (As an American, I am allowed to say all of this.) When strands are shampooed too frequently – this means washing hair when it doesn’t need to be washed – there is no dirt for shampoo to remove, so it moves to whatever else happens to be clinging to your strands: This is usually your hair’s protective sebum. Get into washing habits that suit your hair and you will benefit from healthy¬≠looking, naturally shiny hair.

Rough handling

Raking through damp strands with a fine-toothed comb, yanking at tangles, brushing hair 20 times a day, absent¬≠mindedly tugging at locks, backcombing strands for a fuller finish – these all constitute rough handling, and they’re all surefire ways to damage fragile tresses.

Every time you handle your hair, even if you just push your fingers through it, you put stress on its cuticle layer, causing the cuticle’s tightly overlapping tiles to come unhinged; in hair-care circles, this is known as mechanical damage. Particularly aggressive treatment can even strip away a section of these tiles. When this protective armor is compromised or removed, hair splits, frays, or snaps off.

Hair accessories

Ponytail holders, barrettes, combs, clips – most of us have been using these and other hairdo helpers since childhood. This is fine, as long as you don’t use them more than one to three times a week. Wearing your hair day after day in the same style can wear away the hair’s cuticle layer and cause breakage in those locks that are contained by the accessory. For instance, the hair directly under a barrette can be roughed up by the friction created between the hair and the ornament’s metal clasp.

Similarly, if you’re not gentle when removing them, hair accessories can damage locks in another way: Try not to yank free any tresses that become stuck in the hinge of a clip or a barrette or wound around a ponytail holder. Unfortunately, ripping strands out of a hair ornament’s grasp can strip away a long swath of the cuticle layer.