What Causes Dry Brittle Hair And How Can You Treat It
Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Your hair puts up with a lot. From sizzling heat to chemical treatments, you put your hair through the wringer. So, it should come as no surprise when it starts to show signs of damage.
Brittle hair is a combination of dryness, dullness, split ends and frizzing.
Like dry skin, dry hair has a wide spectrum of levels from mild to severe and a wide range of causes, as well. Understanding what causes your hair to become dry and brittle is half the battle.
Lets explore the subject of brittle hair and its causes. Well also talk about the difference between brittle and thinning hair, and how to treat it.
What Are The Types Of Hair Loss
There are three: anagen effluvium, telogen effluvium and FPHL.
- Anagen effluvium: This is caused by medications that poison a growing hair follicle .
- Telogen effluvium: This is caused by an increased number of hair follicles reaching the telogen phase, which is the stage where hair falls out.
- Androgenetic alopecia/female pattern alopecia/female pattern hair loss /baldness: This type is the most common. Hair thins over the top of the head and on the sides.
Solution: Speak To A Doctor
It is worth consulting your doctor for guidance if you are struggling to identify the reason for hair thinning or if your hair loss is becoming substantial. That way you can not only discuss your general health and identify your stress and hormone levels, but also receive expert advice on whether something more serious is to blame.
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What Questions Might Your Healthcare Provider Ask To Diagnose And Categorize Your Hair Loss
Your healthcare provider might ask about your habits:
- What kinds of hair products do you use?
- What kinds of hair styles do you wear?
- What types of food do you eat ?
- Do you have a habit of pulling your hair out ?
They might ask about your history:
- Has anyone in your immediate family experienced hair loss?
- Is there anything stressful going on in your life?
- What medications and supplements do you take every day?
- Has hair loss ever happened to you before?
- What foods are in your diet?
And, they might ask about your observations:
- How long have you been losing hair?
- Have you been shedding more?
- Have you noticed hair loss in places other than your scalp, like your eyebrows? Leg and arm hair?
- Does anything worsen your hair loss?
- Does anything improve your hair loss?
- Have you noticed hair loss occasionally or has it been going on continuously?
- Have you noticed if your hair growth has changed?
- Has your hair been breaking more often?
How To Perform A Wet Assessment On Your Hair
It is almost impossible to wet assess your hair by simply holding one hair strand and pulling it on both ends. This process would create undue stress since no single strand of hair is ever truly subjected to that kind of tension at any given time.
Regardless of whether its healthy or not, a strand of hair pulled by both of its ends will most likely break, depending on the amount of pressure applied.
The best way to perform a wet assessment on your hair is by performing the normal act of touching it or combing through it.
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Same Problem Different Solutions
Keisha and Brittany both have the same basic issue. Theyre both experiencing hair breakage. However, the solution to their individual hair problems will require different approaches.
The two examples perfectly illustrate what ensues when the balance between moisture and protein is tipped too far in one direction.
In the section of this article, we will teach you how to effectively identify the difference between moisture-based and protein-based hair problems.
Well also show you how to organize your natural hair regimen to effectively mitigate these issues.
Hormonal Imbalance Hair Loss
A hormonal imbalance can lead to multitude of annoying health and beauty issues, from adult acne to weight gain. If your hormones are out of whack the effects will radiate throughout the whole body .
“Hormones play a huge role in regulating the hair growth cycle” explains Anabel. “Oestrogens are ‘hair friendly’ and help to keep hairs in their growth phase for the optimal length of time. Androgens are not very hair friendly, and can shorten the hair growth cycle.”
“An excess of androgens can cause hair loss. The extent of this is often down to genes – If you have a genetic predisposition to follicle sensitivity, a hormonal imbalance can affect your hair more than it would someone who does not have a predisposition.”
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How To Deal With Dry Brittle Hair Falling Out
When your hair is healthy, you just know it it feels thick, full, soft and shiny.
But its not always easy to keep your hair healthy. According to a survey of women in the US, 91% of people cause damage to their hair every day. So if youre experiencing dry brittle hair falling out, its time to take action to preserve and restore the health of your hair.
What Are The Common Causes Of Hair Loss In Women
What causes hair loss?
- Hair style: Your style of hair can cause hair loss when your hair is arranged in ways that pull on your roots, like tight ponytails, braids, or corn rows. This type of hair loss is called traction alopecia. If hair follicles are damaged, the loss can be permanent.
- Vitamin deficiency.
- Over processed scalp hair .
What causes anagen effluvium hair loss?
- Toxic substances, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy and some medications. These cause sudden hair loss that can occur anywhere on your body. It happens to hair in the growth stage. Sometimes, this type of hair loss can be permanent if your hair follicles are damaged.
What causes telogen effluvium hair loss?
- Extreme physical stress or shock to your body: This causes temporary hair loss. This category includes events like losing a lot of weight, surgery, anemia, illness and having a baby.
- Extreme emotional stress: mental illness, the death of a loved one, etc.
- An abnormal thyroid.
- Medications and supplements: blood pressure medicines, gout medicines and high doses of Vitamin A.
- Hormone changes caused by pregnancy, menopause or birth control pills.
What causes FPHL ?
- Genes: Your familys genes can cause thinning of hair along the top of your head.
- Aging: Hormone changes as you age can cause balding.
- Menopause: This type of hair loss often gets worse when estrogen is lost during menopause.
There are also some conditions that affect hair loss:
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Iron Deficiency/anemia Hair Loss
“One of the most common causes of hair loss in women is an iron deficiency. Iron is essential for producing hair cell protein”, without it, your strands will suffer says Anabel. If in doubt, it’s best to speak to your GP for advice regarding an iron deficiency, as they may recommend a blood test to confirm the correct treatment.
What Shampoo Should I Use For Thinning Hair
Because thinning hair can happen for a number of different reasons, you might have to go through a trial-and-error period to find the shampoo that works best for you.
Some shampoos are aimed at reducing hair loss, while others aim to thicken existing hair.
Prescription-strength shampoo for thinning hair is also an option that you can speak with your doctor about.
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Should I Schedule Protein Treatments In Advance
Some people prefer scheduling moderate protein conditioning treatments, but we dont recommend using protein treatments on a specific schedule.
While scheduling is great when youre just starting out, chances are youll soon start to notice that your hair generally has its own plan, especially when you need something different.
Setting aside one or two weeks in your natural hair regimen for protein treatments isnt effective enough when it comes to addressing all your needs as they arise.
Your hair doesnt understand or know your schedule.
The needs of your hair change from day to day. As such, you should only do protein treatments when required.
Scheduling will also make it hard for you to truly develop an understanding of what your hair needs.
Because you will be looking at the calendar instead of focusing on the different signs and cues your hair is giving you.
Using protein treatments on a schedule may eventually lead to protein overload, and remember, it is harder to bounce back from protein overloads than it is from moisture or conditioning overload.
How To Protect Manage And Treat Thinning Hair:
You likely dont need to wash your hair every day. In fact, Samantha DelaFuente, a stylist at Marie Robinson Salons in New York and Miami, tells SELF that she recommends washing only two or three times a week. Dont be afraid of dirty hair, she says.
And dermatologists agree: Washing too often strips your hair of necessary oils, and washing infrequently can leave hair dull and limp, especially if you overuse dry shampoo, Dr. Bridges says. If you have natural hair, which tends to be drier and more prone to breakage, clean it even less frequently, Dr. Khetarpal says.
Moisturizing shampoos formulated without sulfateschemicals in shampoos that help clean but can also be drying on sensitive or dry scalpsare a safe bet for everyone. In particular, celebrity stylist Tym Wallace tells SELF he recommends Oribe Gold Lust Repair & Restore Shampoo .
Conditioner gives your hair shine and reduces static electricity, the AAD explains, which is why it improves the look and feel of dull or damaged hair. Apply to the ends of the hair and work your way up, DelaFuente says. A little goes a long way the more conditioner you use, the flatter your hair will be.
Remove tangles with a wide-tooth comb and rinse with cool water, which closes the cuticle and makes the hair shiny, Dr. Bridges explains.
After shampooing and conditioning, try using a leave-in product, like a conditioner or detangler, which will boost moisture and provide heat protection before styling.
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Youre Hard On Your Hair
Sometimes itâs your styling routine thatâs to blame when your hair starts to break or fall out. Using too much shampoo, brushing or combing your hair when itâs wet, rubbing hair dry with a towel, or brushing too hard or too often can all strain your strands and make them break. Two big causes of breakage include braids that are too tight and weaves that weigh down the hair.
How To Tell If Youve Got Broken Hair
Situations where massive chunks of hair are literally breaking off sporadically, are pretty obvious, but sometimes the signs arent quite so obvious. One subtle sign of hair breakage is if your hairbrush or shower drain has more hair than usual. Another sign is fly-away hair standing straight up after a blowout, says Angela Cosmai, a celebrity colorist at NYCs Pierre Michel Salon.
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What Are The Cycles Of Hair Growth
Hair goes through three cycles:
- The anagen phase can last from two years to eight years. This phase generally refers to about 85% to 90% of the hair on your head.
- The catagen phase is the time that hair follicles shrink and takes about two to three weeks.
- The telogen phase takes about two to four months. At the end of this phase, the hair falls out.
Your shorter hairs like eyelashes, arm and leg hair and eyebrows have a short anagen phase about one month. Your scalp hair can last up to six years or even longer.
How To Stop Hair Breakage Rn
Now that you know the primary reasons why your hair is essentially revolting and peacing out, youre a million steps closer to fixing the problem. Ultimately, youve got to reduce the abuse, nourish, and protect.
Give your hair a break and stop the madness, says Gibson. Do not over process and do not excess heat style. Also, stop putting it in really tight ponytails or putting it in a ponytail when its wet and make sure youre using the right products to strengthen it.
He says to seek out a conditioning product that specifically strengthens and hydrates hair, such as R+Cos Palm Springs Treatment Mask, $32, which contains a hyper-nourishing blend of butters and oils and is basically like a tall glass of water for your locks.
You can also find loads of shampoos, conditioners, and leave-in conditioners that are made to rebolster sad hair and help prevent further hair breakage. Anything with the words recovery, repair, and mending are a great place to start.
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How To Stop Hair Breakage: Why It’s Happening & How To Fix It
Unless youve been divinely blessed by the hair gods, theres a major chance youve dealt with hair breakage at some point in your life. This can be low-key breakage thats hardly noticeable but still a PIA, or the kind that sends you into wide-eyed emoji hysteria when you notice a decent chunk of hair has completely broken off. Whatever the case, broken, damaged hair is not an ideal scenario.
With some celeb hairstylist expertise, were filling you in on the primary causes of hair breakage and then teaching you how to stop hair breakage in its tracks. Bad, broken hair days are officially canceled.
Can Thinning Hair Grow Back
Thinning hair can grow back depending on what caused it to thin in the first place. Individuals who experience thinning hair due to nutrient deficiencies, stress, pregnancy, and other non-genetic reasons could experience regrowth.
If youre experiencing new hair loss or hair thinning, its best to consult your doctor. Some medical conditions can be associated with thinning hair.
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Underlying Causes For Hair Loss
Numerous problems can trigger female hair loss. Some are external, such as taking certain medications, frequently wearing hairstyles that pull the hair too tight, or even a stressful event such as surgery. In other cases, thinning hair is triggered by something going on inside the body for instance, a thyroid problem, a shift in hormones, a recent pregnancy, or an inflammatory condition.
Hair loss may also be genetic. The most common genetic condition is known as female-pattern hair loss, or androgenic alopecia. Women with this condition might notice a widening of the part at the top of the head, often beginning when a woman is in her 40s or 50s. You might experience this if you inherit certain genes from one or both parents. Hormonal shifts that occur during menopause may also spur it.
Another trigger for hair loss in women is an inflammatory condition affecting the scalp. That might be eczema, psoriasis, or a condition called frontal fibrosing alopecia, which typically causes scarring and hair loss sometimes permanent at the front of the scalp above the forehead.
Other common causes of hair loss include overuse of damaging hair products, or tools such as dryers and other devices that heat the hair. Underlying illness, autoimmune conditions such as lupus, nutritional deficiencies, or hormonal imbalances may also cause hair to shed.
Solution: Use The Right Tools
“Look for a brush with rounded, plastic prongs and a vented, cushioned base,” such as the Philip Kingsley Vented Paddle Brush, suggests trichologist Kingsley. This will help to detangle your hair and give you control as you brush without the need for excess force.
You should also always comb from the ends, using your hands to secure your hair as you do so to avoid pulling, and then move slowly upwards. If you are struggling, use a detangling spray alongside a wide-tooth comb to minimise breakage. This technique can be especially useful for curly hair that tends to frizz when overly brushed, as you can counteract the knots and tangles that cause breakage without compromising your style. A moisture-boosting shampoo and conditioner, such as Waterman’s GrowMe range will also help the process.
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Eat A Healthy Balanced Diet
Eating a balanced diet can lead to healthier hair. There are many nutrients that contribute to hair growth and mitigate hair breakage. This is why you want to ensure youre getting plenty of folic acid, zinc, and iron on a daily basis.
If needed, supplement your diet with hair vitamins. Dont forget about consuming antioxidants and lean proteins, as both of these can keep your hair strong and healthy.
Note: To achieve healthy hair growth, your body must follow a specific hair cycle that includes several phases. to learn more about the hairs growth cycle.
Dermatologists Can Distinguish Between Hair Loss And Hair Shedding
If you are concerned by the amount of hair falling out, you dont need to suffer in silence. You can turn to a dermatologist for help. These doctors specialize in diagnosing and treating the skin, hair, and nails. A dermatologist can tell you whether you have hair loss or excessive hair shedding. Some people have both.
A dermatologist also can find the cause or causes and tell you what you can expect. Effective treatments options are available for many types of hair loss. The sooner treatment begins, the better the prognosis.