damaging hairstyles

These are the most damaging hairstyles for straight, curly and coily hair

Time to take down that high ponytail and unpick those braids: an expert trichologist breaks down the various ways we’re harming our hair without even realising.

When I was younger, my mum told me to brush my hair regularly, put it into braids or a bun and, once a month, pour olive oil onto it and sit with a hot towel wrapped around my head. In typical eight-year-old fashion, I thought she was doing it for her own benefit: I oddly believed she found it fun looking after my hair. Now, realising it was the last on a long list of things she did, all I can say is thank you. She got so much right. However, according to trichologists (hair scientists), there was one crucial thing we were getting wrong: namely, the hairstyles we were picked. 

Those tight, twisted buns and taut, sleek ponytails could have been putting my delicate hair under too much strain, leading to protracted breakage, weakness and split-ends. So, in a bid to not carry these bad habits into my late 20s and beyond, I asked Eva Proudman, chair of the Institute of Trichologists, to break down where we’re going wrong and how to remedy it. 

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Straight hair

“There are several styles (and methods of achieving those styles) that are the key offenders in causing damage to straight hair.”

“For starters, constantly wearing a ponytail will have a negative effect on the condition of straight hair for a number of reasons, especially if you’re using elastic bands that can cause real friction on the hair and lead to breakage. Worn too tight, and it can lead to traction alopecia, which can cause permanent hair loss. Try a fabric scrunchie, instead.

“Too much heat (tempting, I know, as a quick fix to maintain those sleek tresses) can break and damage the hair, too. So always keep an eye on the temperature of your device and try not to use it daily. Give your locks a break!

“There really is no substitute for using a good shampoo and conditioner to keep your hair in tip-top condition. Poor hair care equals damaged hair that can be hard to repair.”

Curly hair

“We all tend to wash our hair regularly as part of our overall beauty and hygiene routines. But our hair is at its weakest when wet, and using a towel to rough dry curly hair can cause friction. Ideally, use a microfibre towel to dab it dry. It’s so much better for the condition of your hair.

“Curly hair is more fragile than straight hair, so over-brushing can stretch it and cause breakage. Instead, use your fingers to separate the hair first and then a wide-tooth comb to comb through.

“Curly hair also needs a good conditioner to keep it well hydrated. I always recommend looking for ingredients such as glycerin and coconut oil to aid hydration.

“Chemically straightening the hair can really be harsh and damaging – so learn to embrace your curls and celebrate them! Likewise, using too much heat to dry or straighten curly hair on a regular – or daily basis – can be really damaging, too.”

Coily hair

“Whilst incredibly popular, it really is worth remembering that weaves and extensions can put tension on delicate afro and coily hair, causing breakage, and in some cases, even leading to permanent hair loss. Chemically straightening the hair can also damage the structure of the hair, and also lead to permanent loss. 

“And, perhaps surprisingly, the overuse of oils can actually leave the hair dehydrated. What this type of hair really needs is moisture and hydration, so I would suggest that ‘hair steaming’ could be really beneficial for afro/coily hair.”

Expert tips for healthy hair

“From its fresh full nature at the root, the hair slowly thins as it becomes progressively more dehydrated through lifestyle and styling choices such as UV rays, sun, sea, tinting, heat styling and aggressive products,” explains renowned celebrity hairstylist Michael Van Clarke. “This thinner brittle hair then breaks easily under pressure.”

Van Clarke suggests trying:

  • No-heat or low-heat styling more often.
  • Using silicone-free products.
  • Feeding nourishment back into the hair. The Regular LifeSaver Prewash Treatment is best for all types of hair.
  • LifeSaver UV Leave-in Styling Treatment is great for wavy and curly hair. It eliminates frizz and treats and protects the hair at the same time. Magil Oil and Ten Second Transformation are finishing products that feed and style.
  • More strategic colouring to get the most effect with the least damage.
  • Tools designed with hair health in mind – try gentle detanglers and stylers. 

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