We spoke to an expert for the lowdown on whether your routine is helping or hurting your locks…
Whether our hair is straight, curly, wavy, long or cropped in a bob, our hair routine is as important to us as our beauty routine.
It’s also a canvas to experiment with colour and styling, and an important way to express ourselves.
But whatever you choose to do with your hair, the one thing that we all know we should care the most about is our hair health – as anyone who has ever sat in a hairdresser’s asking for a bleach knows only too well.
We spoke to Iain Sallis, a leading UK trichologist consulting on hair and scalp health, to reveal what stresses out our hair the most and how to alleviate any damage that we might be doing.
1. UV DAMAGE
While we all know that sitting out in the sun without any sun cream is bad for our skin, we might not be giving our hair the same love and attention.
According to Sallis, “Your scalp needs to be treated like the rest of your skin,” and sitting out in the sun can leave your hair vulnerable to stress. It causes the hair fibres to deplete, and it happens faster with thinner hair – so be on high alert in the sunshine.
Or, for an easy way of gaining protection, rock a wide-brim hat or street-worthy bucket hat.
2. DETANGLING THE WRONG WAY
One of the main ways that we stress out our hair is pulling on our locks – or as Sallis calls it, “excessive traction”.
Twisting your hair absentmindedly at your desk or dragging a hairbrush through dry hair that still has yesterday’s hairspray in it can cause more damage than you think.
Being gentle seems counter-intuitive when it comes to detangling, but the best way to do it is with the right hairbrush and techniques.
As for the right brush, the Tangle Teezer detangling range, designed with a palm shape (making it easier to hold) and innovative two-tiered teeth technology, will help ensure you’re kinder to your hair.
No matter what your hair type, from fine to curly and anything in between, there’s a hairbrush to help you.
The Fine & Fragile hairbrush has softer teeth, so it’s gentler on fragile hair and on the scalp.
There’s also The Original hairbrush and Thick & Curly hairbrush, which has stronger teeth that are 4mm longer, so it glides through curly hair with ease and speed.
As for technique, Sallis says, “If you have long hair that tangles easily, you need a gentle hairbrush designed for just that. Start at the ends of the hair then work up to the scalp. Your hair is at its most fragile when it’s wet, so using the wrong hairbrush to detangle can lead to unnecessary hair breakage.”
3. EXCESSIVE STYLING
It can be tempting to spend hours on your hair after washing.
There’s the hairdryer, diffuser and curling tongs, not to mention piling on products and pulling hair up into a high ponytail. But all of this excessive styling can be problematic.
“One of the most overlooked reasons for hair damage is mechanical. This is basically anything that exerts an external force on your hair. Combs, hair clips, hair ties can all have an impact on hair health. As the effect of these is usually low compared with what a bleach can do in one go, we do not necessarily think about it. But the problem with low-level repetitive damage is that it sneaks up on you,” says Sallis.
“Unfortunately, hair cannot repair itself – so you can only guard against future damage and prevent your damaged hair from becoming more damaged by changing up your routine.”
He suggests some key changes. First up, ditch combs and brushes that have metal teeth, which are harsh on hair, and get rid of hair ties with any metal on, because they can snag and cause breakage.
And when it comes to product, don’t rely too heavily on dry shampoo, which, Sallis says, can “cause more friction on the hair making it harder to comb out”.
4. HEREDITARY HAIR-THINNING
An added cause of stress can be if you notice your hair is thinning, or if thin hair runs in your family and you worry about the hereditary impact. The stress of it all can actually cause what you’re trying to avoid.
So try talking to a haircare professional.
“If you think your hair is thinning, you need a diagnosis,” says Sallis. “After you know what you’re dealing with, you can get the right treatment for the problem. Don’t jump into using off-the-shelf hair-loss products, especially if they’re not a medical product.”
“Hair-loss shampoos are expensive, and they don’t correct the underlying issue. There are treatments that can definitely help with hair loss, but the first thing to do is to get a diagnosis.”
5. SEVERE HEAT
According to Sallis, over-styling with heat depletes the proteins in your hair, causing severe damage.
But you don’t have to throw out all of your favourite styling tools yet – just be more aware of the way you’re using them.
“Hairdryers aren’t too bad, but people tend to use them incorrectly, applying the nozzle of the drier directly on to the hair,” says Sallis. “Doing this causes the air flow to be super-heated more than it’s been tested to.
“This ‘occlusion’ can cause significant damage over time and contribute further to already-damaged hair.”
So, next time you pick up your hairdryer, think about placing the nozzle further away from your scalp to ease the stress on your hair.
And those of us with curly hair need to be extra-careful with heated hair tools.
“People with curly hair rarely leave it ‘au naturel’ – it takes more styling, which is likely to cause breakage and damage,” says Sallis. “If the hair is both thin and curly, it can’t stand any excessive styling before it breaks.”
This is because curly hair is drier than straight hair, as oil from the scalp never travels as far up the hair shaft. So, for curly haircare, remember that moisture is key.
6. BLEACHING OR CHEMICAL PROCESSING HAIR
With all the colourful hair trends popping up on Instagram, it’s tempting to try pink hair one month and lilac the next.
But over-bleaching and perming can damage your hair’s long-term health. Repeatedly bleaching hair causes “the hair bonds to break and causes excessive damage,” explains Sallis.
So, if you can, wait for your hair colour to grow out before you apply a new one on top. And if you can steer clear of hair dyes all together and embrace your natural locks, even better.
Or, for a nice splash of colour, play around with temporary-colour hair crayons; these don’t bleach the hair, and are perfect for occasional bursts of colour.
No matter what your hair type is, Tangle Teezer provides you with the right hairbrush to confidently detangle your hair resulting in less breakage and damage.
Tangle Teezer now has a detangling hairbrush with a specific level of teeth flexibility for every hair type.
Get to know the new Fine & Fragile hairbrush, created specifically for fine, fragile and colour-treated hair, as well the core range: The Original and Thick & Curly, which detangles even the curliest of hair types.