Thursday, 17 September 2009

Can you really repair damaged hair?

The question in 4th place in the recent poll was inspired by this email from Nicole - she asks,

'Can heat damaged hair be nurtured back to health? Some parts of my coily tresses have begun to straighten. I think the last flat iron I received was too hot :( Certain areas of my hair just dont feel the same. Is this reversible?'


Is heat damage reversible?

I hate to say it to you Nicole but unfortunately, the answer is no, it is not reversible. If you have soaked your hair in water and the curl has not returned, unfortunately, it is not coming back. You do have to soak your hair in water to get it back to its original moisture level. If you use very high heat unfortunately the protein in the hair can literally melt. To read more on this see my previous posts on

1. How hot is hot
2. A guide to straightening with heat

Can any other type of damage be fixed?

Not really and not permanently (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, pg 263-286, 1987). For natural hair, damage is usually in three main forms:

1. Washing and combing will cause damage to the cuticle. Naturally the more gentle you are, the less damage you do
2. Bleaching or permanently colouring your hair will lift the cuticle.
3. Weathering - the older your hair, the less cuticle layers it has, the more damaged it will be. Your main way to repair this damage is with conditioner.

Really just hair conditioner?

Conditioner contains a variety of agents which are particularly attracted to areas of damage. For example silicones are particularly good for temporarily fixing split ends. Fatty alcohols such as stearyl alchohol and surfactants such as behentrimonium chloride can adsorb (meaning temporarily stick) onto hair. (Don't tune out - See the diagram below!). However, all of these ingredients will wash out. The only remedy for damaged hair is to cut off the damage and let the hair regrow. This has the added benefit that the hair can reach a new and in many cases longer length simply because the old and weathered ends have been cut off.

26 comments:

  1. i had no idea combing and brushing your hair could cause damage. until i used a denman brush. now it's time for a haircut

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  2. lol Chanel - Denmans were evil to me too! It didn't even take long, probably the second time that I came to use it; I found random split ends all over the place. For some denman brushes are heaven sent but for me it is that is the devil's pitch fork.

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  3. So the old wives tale of cutting your hair so it can grow is semi true

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  4. Yes there is some truth to it. The act of cutting hair doesn't make it grow. However, cutting it means the ends are not as worn. This means the strand is likely to survive for longer over the next period of growth.

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  5. How often should I cut it? At them moment I go to my hairdresser every three months letting her cut off one centimetre. My hair grows about one centimetre per month which means I'm making two steps forward and then one back. Is that ok?

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    Replies
    1. Only you can determine when your hair needs a trim. The "rule" of trimming every 6 weeks or 8 weeks is arbitrary.

      If you want to grow out your hair, you need to pay attention to how fast it grows, and then care for it so it doesn't become damaged between trims (however far apart that is for you.)

      Measuring your hair is an important first step. Measure from the hairline at the front of your forehead, over the top, and down your back to the very longest length to get a standard measure every time.

      I highly recommend going natural in your hair care. Many simple, free changes will make a huge difference. Read up on this and other sites--especially as they relate to the type of hair you have and want to achieve--and you will quickly find the support and be filled with the knowledge you need to achieve your hair goals.


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  6. i love how you break things down for us laymen to understand! ...and not tune out! =)

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  7. Hi JC,
    You told us how hot is hot but i will like to know how cold is cold. It is 8 °C at the moment and we are only in September. At witch temperature do i have to protect my hair against cold.

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  8. Denman brushes were evil as hell to me too!I lost so much hair I wanted to sue the brush for mistreatment of my hair LOL. I had a feeling the trimming your ends deal was true its just you need to cut off the damage to progress so it doesn't keep breaking off or your just moonwalking in place at your hair length. Sigh guess I need to bite the bullet and clip my ends..been about... 2 years now LOL. (it seem to be growing fine though?!)

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  9. I don't think that trimming every 3 months is absolutely necessary for everyone. For example if like Jaded you have had no problems with growth, then it is likely that the ends of your hair are not that damaged and not really preventing you from increasing the length of your hair.

    I do think that if your hair is very damaged, trimming is necessary, probably aggressive trimming. However after that, it really is up to you. Ultimately if you keep taking off length, you will be unlikely to see any progress. Perhaps try trimming every 6 months or once a year and see how well your hair does.

    There is also the scissor happy hairdresser factor to think of. What is one centimetre to you and what is one centirmetre to your hairdresser?

    @Kadiane - interesting perspective, I need to research that

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  10. Hi Jc, my daughters hair is completely natural and it is easy to comb until i get to the ends. the ends are very bushy and hard to comb. A natural stylist told me that is because her ends are split and should be cut. A friend that is into natural told me that the ends can be repaired and that cutting would shock the hair and cause more split ends. From reading your post, it appears that the stylist is correct in saying the hair should be trimmed. Please advise, I'm confused..lol

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  11. Cutting hair cannot cause 'shock' to the hair, this is a total myth. Hair which is regularly trim actually tends to be in better condition than hair that is not trimmed at all. It is very possible that your daughter needs a trim or it could just be that you need to only comb her hair when it has conditioner on it (as opposed to dry combing).

    Try the link to the natural haven academy to the right and see the posts on hair trimming.

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  12. So, based on this you are saying that damage cannot be corrected to the hair itself (once it has grown out). Have you found anything about repairing the scalp? I am just starting "my natural adventure." I decided to get rid of the chemicals because relaxers really thinned my hairline. After my last relaxer, I noticed a small area that was extremely thinner than the rest of my hairline. Its not bald, but the hair is noticeably shorter and thinner (I could tell that continuing the relaxers would've eventually "finished the job"). So, is there a way that I can repair my hairline?

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  13. I have about 3 inch's to an inch in some parts of heat damage but my hair is only about 6 inches long can i just keep treating my hair and trim it over time or should i just cut my hair off

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  14. covetnatasha - The damaged hair is not 'fixable'. You can keep it by being very gentle with it because it is liable to break. If you are not yet prepared to have a haircut, just do what is best for you and trim it gradually.

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  15. my hair is full of split ends, but isn't there other alternatives to cutting it.

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  16. hi out there! my daughter's hair is very dry. when i oil it, her hair seems to soak up all the newly applied oil. also, her hair is contantly breaking. her hair is so short now that it is difficult to braid her hair. What do i need to do? please help!

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  17. What is the science behind if you cut hair it lasts longer or grows in faster If I have damaged hair and I cut it short will it grow back faster Why would it be less likely to shed

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  18. Trimming your hair does not "make" it grow faster but it can prevent you breaking off more hair. I notice that if I have splits my hair tangles and knots really easily and this leads to more hair breakage. When I notice this before it gets too bad I trim my hair. While it doesn't necessarily make it grow faster, it maintains its fullness and its health.

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  19. Even I had been there. I used to trim my hair every month to get rid of the damage but in vain. I now use HairX Anti-Ageing Shampoo and it has really worked for me. My hair was totally full of split-ends. Apart from this, I totally swear by good diet.

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  20. My first time trying zillions (loved it) and just took them out. My hair is soooo dry and my hair is very tangled. My hair didn't come out, scalp looks pretty good and my roots are wavy. My hair didn't tangle prior to me having zillions. I would perm my hair regularly, but it has been 2 months. I want to breakaway from perms and would love to go more natural. I left a conditioner (Lustrasilk) on my hair overnight (not leave-in) and my hair is soft, but continues to tangle. First, what can I use to detangle my hair. Second, where do I go from here. My hair is approx 3 inches.

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  21. I understand what you are saying, however, your hair can still grow long even if damaged or chemically treated. The main thing is to not over process your hair and to ensure you oil it regularly. My hair never grew past my shoulders for years until I started being more cautious and limiting how ofter I did things to it, such as, heat styling, chemical treatments, etc . I also ensured that my hair ALWAYS had oil. Within 3 years my hair reached just above my waist. My hairdresser was shocked how in shape my hair got from how it was before. The main thing is oil, the longer you hair, the less oil you have. Just like age, your skin gets less moisture as your age and in order for it to keep your elasticity, you got to moisturize it. Simple.

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  22. Hello. One half of my head is completely heat damaged ...it doesn't curl at all...is there anyway that can be fixed? If u cut it will the new hair growing be back in it natural curly state ? Thank you!

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  23. I had some heat damage from my last flat iron. Funny because I never experienced heat damage with press and curl as a child or in college. Anyway, I didn't want to cut it all offf - so I did deep condtioners and clipped a little every few weeks. The last time I put single twist in my hair - I could really see the heat damaged ends - so I cut them off. At this point I don't care - I've always been into having healthy hair and figured my hair will grow back out healthier than before.

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