If you’ve ever bleached, colored, or heat-styled your hair, it’s likely you have some degree of hair damage. Don’t fret: Most of us do. While fun to experiment with, modern haircare trends and treatments can wreak havoc on the health and strength of your strands, no matter your hair type. Sometimes, this damage is obvious. Other times, it’s less so. But just because hair damage isn’t always immediately evident doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be addressed when it does occur. With proper care, you can help improve the appearance of dry, stressed hair before the damage gets worse.
To help, we’ve put together a guide to caring for damaged hair. Ahead, you’ll learn what happens to your hair when it’s damaged, what weakened hair looks like, and what the most common causes of hair damage are. We’ve also created a simple yet effective five-step routine featuring Kiehl’s hair products and treatments. Read on to find out how to improve damaged hair and take your mane from mangled to magnificent.
What Happens When Hair Is Damaged?
In order to care for damaged hair properly, it’s useful to know what happens to your hair when it’s damaged. And to understand that, you need to know a little bit about hair anatomy.
Each strand of hair contains three main layers. The innermost layer, or medulla, makes up the core of every strand. Around the medulla is the cortex, which accounts for the bulk of the hair shaft and determines the hair’s mechanical properties, like its texture. Finally, there’s the outermost layer, called the cuticle. This outer layer, which is coated in a thin layer of lipids, functions as a protective barrier and shields the inner layers from external stressors.
When the cuticle is damaged, it’ll lose its lipid coating, resulting in rough, dull-looking hair. If it’s not repaired, continued stress will leave the cuticle unable to protect the hair’s inner layers. Without a protective barrier, the cortex and medulla can crack, split, and fracture, resulting in hair breakage, split ends, and other external signs of damage.
What Are Some Causes Of Hair Damage?
Common and well-known causes of hair damage include excessive use of hot tools, frequently bleaching or dying the hair, and exposure to chemicals (like swimming in chlorinated pools). However, anything that strips the hair’s protective outer layer (even friction from brushing your hair) can result in damage. Since these stressors are sometimes unavoidable, taking good care of your hair is the most effective step you can take toward minimizing damage.
How To Help Manage Damaged Hair: Our 5 Steps
Now that you know what damaged hair is (and what can cause it), you can begin to curate a protective haircare routine designed to help minimize damage and keep your hair looking its best. Keep reading for our simple, five-step routine for damaged hair, plus tips and recommendations on Kiehl’s best products to add to your haircare arsenal.
Shampoo To Remove Excess Oil and Buildup
All haircare routines should begin the same way: with picking up shampoo and washing your hair. The best shampoo for damaged hair is one made with nourishing, hydrating ingredients, such as Nourishing Olive Fruit Oil Shampoo. This creamy shampoo boasts a blend of hair-friendly plant oils, including olive fruit oil, avocado oil, and lemon oil. It gently cleanses dry hair while helping to restore moisture and improve hair’s overall manageability for shiny, healthy-looking strands.
For extremely dry or damaged hair, try Damage Repairing & Rehydrating Shampoo. This restorative shampoo is formulated with moringa oil and hydrating hyaluronic acid. It helps strengthen and fortify weak, brittle strands to repair damaged hair and promote an overall healthier appearance. Use this strengthening shampoo every time you wash your hair for a smoother, more lustrous mane with continued use.
Kiehl’s Tip: You may be used to lathering up every time you step in the shower, but many people don’t need to—and shouldn’t—shampoo every day. Learn more in our article How Often Should You Wash Your Hair?
Soften Strands With Conditioner
The primary purpose of conditioner is to lubricate the hair to improve manageability and give strands a smoother, softer texture. Ideally, conditioner should also help restore the cuticle’s outer lipid covering, which helps keep your hair strong and protected against external stressors.
For daily maintenance of dry, damaged hair, we recommend Nourishing Olive Fruit Oil Conditioner. This lightweight formula with avocado oil and olive fruit oil moisturizes and conditions dry, damaged strands. Our best-selling formula helps detangle knotted, unmanageable hair while boosting shine to restore hair’s healthy appearance.
Alternatively, try Damage Repairing & Rehydrating Conditioner, which is formulated with hyaluronic acid and ceramides. This ultra-restorative conditioner moisturizes hair and helps strengthen brittle strands damaged by external stressors like excessive heat styling or chemical processing. The unique formula also fortifies and nourishes each hair fiber, enhancing manageability and giving hair a healthy, lustrous look. Apply a generous amount to damp hair in the shower and brush through, focusing on the ends of your hair. Leave the rich conditioner on for a few minutes and then rinse out and gently squeeze hair dry for soft, smooth strands.
Address Damage With A Nourishing Mask
Adding a deep conditioning mask to your haircare routine once or twice a week can help replenish brittle strands and restore hair’s healthy appearance. Try Olive Fruit Oil Deeply Repairative Hair Mask. This ultra-rich hair mask is formulated with a blend of nourishing plant oils, including olive oil, avocado oil, and sunflower oil. The deeply moisturizing formula helps strengthen fragile strands and boosts shine, while continued use helps protect your hair against future damage.
After rinsing out your shampoo and conditioner, gather your hair into a low ponytail and squeeze out as much excess water as possible. Then, apply a generous amount of the rich mask to your hair, concentrating on the ends. Let it sit for at least three minutes before rinsing thoroughly with warm water.
Layer On a Leave-In Treatment
Once you’ve finished showering, gently towel-dry your hair and apply a leave-in treatment, such as Damage Repairing & Rehydrating Leave-In Treatment. This lightweight formula with nourishing coconut oil and moringa oil attracts to the weakest areas of the hair to help reinforce and smooth brittle, damaged strands. Beyond this, it helps strengthen hair fibers over time for visibly more lustrous, healthy-looking hair.
To use our leave-in treatment, dispense a dime-sized amount into your palm (less for short hair, more for long strands) and apply to damp hair. Distribute the creamy formula evenly through your strands and style as usual for visibly smoother, shinier-looking hair.
Kiehl’s Tip: Detangle damp hair with a wide-toothed comb instead of a brush to minimize breakage and keep your mane looking full and healthy.
Add a Styling Aid
As the final step in your daily routine for damaged hair, reach for a smoothing and nourishing styling aid, like the classic Creme With Silk Groom. This unique, non-greasy styling cream, formulated with jojoba oil and hydrolyzed wheat and soy protein, helps protect hair from damage and improves manageability. The conditioning styler moisturizes damaged hair while adding lustrous shine, giving your finished look a polished finish.
Kiehl’s Tip: To further minimize damage, let your hair air-dry and skip hot styling tools whenever possible.