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How To Care For Dead Hair: 6 Tips

A haircut isn’t the only way to deal with dead hair. Here at Kiehl’s, we explain what can cause hair damage and how to care for lifeless strands at home.

Dead hair is something that nearly everyone deals with at some point. And that’s to be expected—some degree of damage is normal, even for those who take great care of their strands. But too many dye jobs, an unhealthy relationship with your flatiron, and many other not-so-great hair habits can cause your hair to become excessively damaged, leading to a mane that appears lifeless and dull (in other words, dead hair).

The bad news: Once something is dead, it’s dead—there’s no bringing it back to life. The good news, though, is that the right hair products can help improve the appearance and even feel of super-damaged strands. Here, we’ll give you the rundown on what exactly “dead hair” is, what causes it to develop, and how you can prevent excessive damage. You’ll also discover our top tips for breathing life back into your strands’ appearance (metaphorically, anyway). Keep reading for your guide to managing dry, dead hair.

What Does Dead Hair Look Like?

The term “dead hair” is a bit of a misnomer because technically speaking, all of the hair you see—on your head and elsewhere on your body—is comprised of cells that are no longer living. Your hair is only genuinely alive before it emerges from the hair follicle. Colloquially, however, dead hair is generally used to describe extensively damaged tresses. An abundance of split ends (or “dead ends”), hair that’s abnormally brittle, and a general appearance of dullness can all indicate your tresses may need some TLC. Other signs of damaged strands include dryness, roughness, and general unmanageability.

What Can Cause Hair Damage?

If you’ve ever bleached your hair at home or fried your damp strands with a hot tool, you’re probably aware that both of those scenarios can have an unfortunate effect on otherwise healthy-looking strands. But chemical processing and heat exposure aren’t the only factors that can contribute to damage. Friction ( from brushing your hair or rough-drying it with a towel, for example), an improper haircare routine, and environmental stressors can also damage your hair. What all of these factors have in common is that they can weaken, disrupt, or even completely strip the outer layer of your hair away, making it extremely brittle and vulnerable to further stress.

Can You Reverse Damage Once It’s Been Done?

If you’re here looking to learn how to fix dead hair, we have some news you may not love: You can’t—not permanently, anyway. Like we said earlier, dead is dead. That being said, there are things you can do to help improve the appearance of your damaged strands and limit further damage.

How To Care For Dead Hair: 6 Tips

If your hair is super damaged, there are some things you may want to avoid, including chemical treatments, bleach, and frequent use of hot tools, as these can easily worsen the damage. But that’s not all you can do to help give your hair a healthier appearance. Ahead, find our top tips for caring for a dead-looking mane.

1. Avoid Over-Washing Your Hair

Unlike brushing your teeth or washing your face, shampooing isn’t something everyone needs to do every day. Many people can wash their hair every other day, while those with super-thick or curly hair can go even longer between washes. There are exceptions, of course: If you have extremely fine hair, you may want to wash it more often to minimize greasiness. Similarly, if you exercise vigorously, shampooing daily to remove sweat and other buildup may be a good idea. For more details on how to determine the best washing schedule for your needs, check out our article This Is How Often You Should Wash Your Hair.

2. Use Products Formulated For Your Hair Type

When you do lather up, be sure to use a shampoo and conditioner formulated for your hair type to avoid over-stressing or stripping your strands. If your hair is generally pretty well-balanced, we suggest reaching for Amino Acid Shampoo and Amino Acid Conditioner. The former, which contains coconut oil and amino acids, gently cleanses while helping to add volume to fine hair, while the latter helps strengthen strands and improves manageability. The customer-favorite duo is sulfate-free and suitable for all hair types.

For those with super dry or brittle hair, we recommend Nourishing Olive Fruit Oil Shampoo and Nourishing Olive Fruit Oil Conditioner instead. This moisturizing pair with olive, avocado, and lemon oils helps nourish and hydrate depleted strands without weighing your hair down. Use it as your go-to shampoo and conditioner for softer, shinier-looking hair.

Kiehl's Nourishing Olive Fruit Oil hair products

3. Don’t Neglect Your Scalp

In order to grow strong, healthy-looking hair, you need to start at the source—in other words, your scalp. An unhealthy (or under-nourished) scalp can lead to patchy, weak, or just plain old unhealthy-looking hair. As such, we recommend everyone incorporate scalp care products into their regular haircare routines.

Start by swapping out your shampoo once weekly with a scalp scrub, like Amino Acid Scalp Scrub Detox Treatment. Made with salicylic acid, sea salt, and amino acids, this easy-to-use exfoliator helps remove dead skin, excess oil, and product buildup, leaving the scalp feeling moisturized and balanced. By allowing your scalp to breathe, it creates the optimal environment for full, healthy-looking hair.

Also once a week, we recommend treating your scalp to hydration with Amino Acid Moisture-Restoring Dry Scalp Treatment. The creamy scalp conditioner contains coconut oil and a triple amino acid complex. It hydrates to help replenish the scalp’s moisture while protecting it against the damaging effects of stressors like hard water. Though it’s intensely hydrating, the rich mask won’t weigh down your scalp or strands, and it’s suitable for all hair (and scalp) types. We recommend applying a generous amount to your scalp after shampooing, then waiting between three and five minutes before rinsing with lukewarm water. For a more intensive treatment, you can leave it on for up to 15 minutes.

4. Try a Nourishing Hair Mask

Another way to help give your hair a healthier appearance—at least temporarily—is by using hair masks regularly. If you’re struggling with dead ends or damaged hair, we recommend reaching for Olive Fruit Oil Deeply Reparative Hair Mask. The thick, oil-infused conditioning mask helps strengthen and nourish severely dry hair, restoring its shiny, healthy appearance. When used regularly, it also helps protect your strands from the detrimental effects of external stressors, leaving your hair more resilient over time. To use it, apply the mask liberally to damp hair, starting at the ends and working your way up (but avoiding your scalp). Leave it on for three to five minutes before rinsing thoroughly with lukewarm water—hot water can strip your strands of much-needed moisture.

5. Always Protect Your Strands When Styling

Though our advice is to avoid heat styling damaged hair, the reality is that even regular brushing and combing can contribute to breakage if your hair is brittle. To help prevent further damage, we recommend reaching for a leave-in treatment that helps protect your tresses, like Strengthening & Hydrating Hair Oil-in-Cream. The creamy treatment with avocado oil and olive oil helps repair and strengthen very dry, brittle hair. The unique formula penetrates the hair fiber and fortifies it, making your mane more resistant to damaging external stressors. Apply a small amount to your ends and lengths while your hair is damp, then dry as normal for stronger, shinier-looking strands.

6. If All Else Fails, Hit The Salon

Truly, the only real way to eliminate damage is to start from scratch—in other words, cut off the dead ends entirely. Regular trims may also help keep minor damage from spiraling out of control. Talk to your stylist to determine how often you need to get a trim or cut, and follow our tips above to keep your hair looking and feeling healthy between appointments.

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