Shiny, healthy hair is something most women work hard to achieve. But did you know that everyday missteps can leave your locks lifeless and dull? Some common hair care bad habits can lead to hair damage, like breakage, drying, or even hair loss. Kim Steckbeck, master stylist at Studio 21 hair salon in Woodstock, Ga., explains how kicking these wicked ways can chase away bad hair days.
Dos And Don’ts Of Healthy Hair
Bad Hair Habit: Shoddy Shampooing
A key essential of good hair care is figuring out how often to wash your hair. “Over-shampooing can cause your scalp to become tight and itchy,” Steckbeck says. Another bad habit, not shampooing enough, can cause the scalp to become oily, also causing dandruff. “Shampooing habits vary depending on activity level, oily scalp, and more,” she says. For instance, don’t allow oil to build up on the scalp and become scaly and itchy — you want to shampoo when it starts to look oily. And a beauty tip for dry hair: It can be washed every two days or so, but frequency depends on your activity level. “Sweat should be at least rinsed from the hair,” Steckbeck adds.
Bad Hair Habit: Styling When Wet
Treat your hair with kid gloves, especially when it is wet. That’s when your hair is at its weakest and most vulnerable, says Steckbeck. Wet hair can stretch, causing breakage or damage to the cuticle, so avoid brushing or combing hair when very wet. Gentle hair care means drying your hair with a towel before blow-drying, but blot — don’t rub. When you rub a cotton towel on your hair, explains Steckbeck, it creates tangles. Beauty tip: Aim to get your hair 90 percent dry before styling, she says.
Bad Hair Habit: Flat Iron Frying
Many women use a flat iron to create a smooth, sleek look. But Steckbeck says to turn down the heat on your hair. She says a common hair care bad habit is over-using a flat iron or putting it on a setting that’s too high. A flat iron that’s too hot will cause hair to become dry and brittle, resulting in frizzy hair or hair breakage. The thickness of your hair and the condition it’s in determines the correct setting. “Always start with the lowest setting, increasing to the setting that works best, but with the lowest amount of heat,” she says.
Bad Hair Habit: Skipping Sun Protection
Sun goddesses take note: You need to protect your hair as well as your skin from sun damage. Steckbeck says the sun can fade color-treated hair, so invest in a good, large hat that will protect against hair damage. Chlorine in swimming pools can dry out your hair and is particularly bad for blondes. “Chlorine is blue, blonde is yellow,” she notes. “Chlorine coats the hair, leaving it green.” Retro beauty tip: Consider using a bathing cap in a chlorinated pool or rinsing your hair right after swimming.
Bad Hair Habit: Hair Extensions
“Fused-in hair extensions are glued to approximately five strands of hair, and combing through them can cause hair to break,” says Steckbeck. If you want to remove the extensions, get professional help. This needs to be done very carefully so that hair loss or damage is kept to a minimum. If you want hair extensions, Steckbeck says to opt for the clip-in variety — they are much better for your hair.
Bad Hair Habit: Skipping Trimmings
A common hair-care bad habit is not trimming the ends of your hair when needed. This can leave your locks with hair damage like split ends and breakage. Steckbeck says that how often you get your ends trimmed depends on what you do to your hair on a daily basis. “Someone who straightens or curls their hair often will need to trim more often than someone who simply blow-dries,” she says. “Look closely at hair ends — if they do not come to a blunt end, it’s time to trim.”
Bad Hair Habit: Too-Tight Braids
Another hair care horror: Wearing ponytails or braids too tightly. Steckbeck says that wearing hair accessories tightly can cause hair damage as strands pop and break. Chronic pulling on the hair follicle can cause hair loss called traction alopecia, which can be permanent. This is most commonly seen in African-American women who wear their hair in tight braids or cornrows. Men who attach hairpieces in the same spot over a long period of time can also have permanent hair loss.
Bad Hair Habit: Stripping Out Hair Dye
Smart hair care includes what not to do. If you have a change of heart after you dye your hair a dark shade, stripping out the color will open the cuticle so much that it won’t lie as flat as before, says Steckbeck. The result is hair damage with dry, brittle, frizzy tresses. “Black is the hardest to remove,” she says. “It typically must be done with bleach. This leaves unwanted tones in the hair. Then, you must recolor to a desirable shade. This is very stressful on the hair.”
Bad Habit: Poor Eating Habits
Add hair loss to the problems that poor nutrition can cause. If your body doesn’t get enough protein, vitamins and minerals, it cannot sustain hair growth. Not getting enough iron can lead to iron-deficiency anemia, which can contribute to hair loss as well. Bad habits like crash or fad diets can contribute to the problem, and hair loss is a common side effect of eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia. Beauty tip: If you’re a vegetarian, make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet.
By Regina Boyle Wheeler
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, M.D., M.P.