How to strengthen weak hair?


Hair forms part of our first impression, speaking for us before our words are spoken – a great canvas for our identity, style, and creativity. We can be bold with dramatic colours, cute with braids, tidy with hair-ties, undone with beach waves and sleek when it’s straightened. Whatever look we are trying to create, our success lies in the overall condition of our hair before we begin. We all wish to have a foundation of strong, healthy, glossy looking hair, but the reality is that very few of us are blessed with hair that complies with our styling wishes each morning.

Brittle hair may be one of the culprits for hair that won’t cooperate and is a common issue with several contributing factors such as environmental conditions, hair care habits, and nutrition1,2, 3. In most cases we can look after brittle hair with a few mindful changes and be well on our way to improving and strengthening our tresses.

Here we discuss all you need to know.


Brittle hair has many characteristics

Brittle hair is simple to spot; it feels dry, looks dull, splits at the ends and is prone to breaking4.


This in an indication that the hair cuticle has been compromised

The look of our hair can be attributed to the outer most layer, known as the cuticle. It is the layer which we see and where natural oils sit, reflecting light to make hair look shiny and therefore healthy4 1 The cuticle is also responsible for protecting the inner layers of hair; under a microscope it has scaly-looking cells that overlap and protect the other layers that make up a single hair strand, helping to keep each strand in one piece5.

Hair that appears dry and brittle hair has a cuticle that is compromised causing hair to look dull, lifeless and therefore unhealthy6.


There are many unexpected causes of brittle hair

Significant factors that lead to dry, brittle hair can be split into three main categories: environmental conditions, hair care habits, and nutrition, many of which fall into our daily routine. We may be very familiar with many of the usual suspects such as hot tools, hair dyes and chemical treatments, but what if we have already cut these things out of our routine and are still not experiencing our best version of hair1?

Well, hair can still be vulnerable without those processes. This is because the part of the hair we see – the cuticle – is actually dead fibre which naturally degrades over time as we go about our daily lives. This means that once a strand of hair has been created and has left the follicle as it grows longer, it can’t be changed and rebuilt.5 

So, to get the best from our hair, we should not only try to minimise hot tools and hair dye, but also think about supporting our bodies in the hair making process from the follicle and then after it has grown with regular nurturing to keep it looking silky for as long as possible. 

But what are the less obvious ways we might be doing more harm than good, and what should we do about it?

Below we share 6 areas to be mindful of.


1. Tying hair too tightly, too often

Anybody with hair long enough to tie into a ponytail can usually be found to be sporting a hairband around their wrist, ready to be deployed at short notice. Hair ties are the key to a productive workout, protection from whiplash on windy days and keep us feeling tidy after a long day, so it’s no wonder they are very dear to us.

That said, when tied too tightly, and too often, hair ties and accessories can cause friction and pull on the hair follicle causing damage to the hair or breakage1.

Though it can sometimes feel like more effort, try to embrace more days of wearing hair loose. And for those moments and activities where it’s needed, invest in hair accessories and styles that do not pull harshly on the hair.


2. Brushing hair too often

Thick, healthy looking hair can be a thing of beauty, but many of us don’t expect perfect hair that is catwalk-ready all the time. The very least we expect to do is keep our strands in line and looking tidy with a brush or comb, especially after a good night’s sleep. In fact, we may have even heard that brushing with 100 strokes a day should be part of a healthy hair routine.

However, research (and our hairbrushes) show that brushing our hair can actually cause a lot of damage and breakage – the more we brush, the more breakage we will experience, which can become exaggerated if we have bleached hair7,8

We can reduce the amount of damage and breakage from brushing with the help of a leave-in conditioner which will help to reduce tangles and allow the brush or comb the glide more easily through the hair7. And in terms of brushing technique, opting for a wide tooth comb or flexible bristle brush to get large knots out, and avoid pulling too much on hair by removing tangles gently with a leave-in conditioner9.


3. Hair that takes too long to dry

Nobody will be stunned to hear that using a hairdryer too often, especially at high temperatures will cause damage to the hair. But, surprisingly, a study has shown that hair which took at least 2 hours to air-dry also showed signs of damage10.

When hair is wet, it causes several layers of each hair strand to swell, and it is this prolonged contact with water and swelling that is thought to be the cause of damage to the hair.

More research is needed, but these early results indicate that using a hairdryer at a very low temperature could be more beneficial than air-drying, if it takes longer than 2 hours10.


4. Not shielding hair from the sun

Most of us have heard of (ultraviolet) UV-A and UV-B rays which come from the sun, and are likely aware of the damage they can do to our skin. This is evident with the sheer number of sunscreens available to buy with different protection levels, and sometimes specific to certain body parts10.

However the suns UV rays can also damage our hair; when the cuticle becomes exposed, it causes damage that leads to hair that is dry, rough, and brittle2.

We can minimise this damage by shielding our hair in the same way we would do for our skin. Covering hair with a hat or scarf, or applying hair products specially designed with sunscreen included in them will protect that glossy shine.


5. Avoiding a haircut

There are many reasons we don’t make it to the salon as often as we would like; hectic schedules, delaying an appointment to coincide with a special event or maybe we would like to grow our hair out. Whilst this may seem innocent enough, we may be letting our hair experience more damage than it needs to.

This is because as hair grows longer split ends are more likely to appear, due to tangling during brushing, and if not cut off they may cause splitting further up the hair strand12 .  

A regular trim will keep split ends in check, keeping the most vulnerable part of our hair strands looking healthy for longer.


6. Neglecting a healthy diet

Finally, a well-balanced diet is possibly the most important factor for having healthy hair that will thrive during our daily routine.

Vitamins and minerals play an important role in the condition and health of our hair12,3. Therefore, if we are filling ourselves up with a diet lacking in a variety of the right nutrients, we may not be giving our hair the chance to shine.

13, 14 and 15 are all essential nutrients the body needs to support a healthy head of hair.

Eating a balanced diet that is rich in these vitamins and minerals is a great way to support the health of our hair14. Some people may also wish to support their diet with a nutritional supplement specially designed to contain beneficial vitamins and minerals for hair health.