Causes for hair breakage and what you can do to stop the damage

causes for hair breakage
From the products we choose to put in our hair to the infections we never hope to get near our hair, causes for hair breakage can come in many forms. Hair breakage can affect any hair type and is common among many adults. The good news is that much of it is treatable and even preventable with proper care.

Hair Breakage from Coloring

Many people color their hair. Walking down the aisles of any drug or grocery store, one can see the considerable amount of products dedicated to hair coloring. However, the chemicals in hair dye can damage the hair cuticle, causing it to weaken and break. People who prefer to lighten their hair can be more at risk, as harsher bleach-based products are needed to achieve those results.

If you color your hair, opt for a professional stylist who can help minimize damage. Make sure to use a deep conditioning treatment before and after coloring to help protect your hair. You can also consider using a temporary hair color that will wash out after a few shampoos.

Chemical Relaxers

Chemical relaxers straighten curly or kinky hair by breaking down the protein bonds in the hair. Similar to hair dye, the chemicals used in these products can cause significant damage over time. In the case of hair relaxation chemicals, the process can weaken the hair shaft leading to breakage. 

What helps with hair breakage in the case of relaxers would be to find an alternative to the chemical process. If the decision to use a relaxer still seems the best route, make sure to have it done by a professional stylist and follow up with regular deep conditioning treatments to keep your hair healthy.

Blow Drying

Compared to using chemicals, blow-drying your hair seems like no big deal. But, unfortunately, this is not the case. When it comes to hair breakage, the high heat from the blow drier dries the hair out, making it brittle and prone to the problem.

There are several actions one can take to reduce blow-drying hair damage. Use a heat protectant spray and choose a cool or warm setting. Avoid high heat and hold the blow dryer at least 6 inches from your hair. You can also air-dry your hair by gently squeezing out excess water with a towel and letting it dry naturally.

Hair Breakage from Physical Trauma

It’s not always chemicals that are to blame for hair breakage. The daily maintenance and rituals you perform on your hair can contribute to hair breakage through physical trauma.  This often called traction alopecia. Physical causes for hair breakage include:

  • Pulling your hair back tightly into a puff, ponytail or bun,
  • Using hair elastics that are too tight. 
  • Brushing your hair aggressively.
  • Using narrow toothed comb on curly hair
  • tight braids, weaves, or dreadlocks
  • wearing tight curlers
  • scratching out hair due to itchy scalp condition
  • trichtillomania a type of body focused repetitive behavior in which a person pulls out their own hair
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Alma TED hair restoration before and after:
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Ringworm on Hair Scalp

Ringworm , or tinea capitis, is a fungal infection that can affect the scalp, causing hair loss and breakage.  There is also often itching and scaling on the scalp. This infection is most common in children. Ringworm is highly contagious and can spread through contact with infected objects, such as pillow cases, combs and brushes or directly person-to-person. Some types if ringworm are contracted from animals.

To determine if a person has ring worm,  a doctor usually does a fungal culture of the scalp.  The treatment for ringworm is usually an oral medicine prescribed by the doctor.

Texture of curly hair

Curly, and very curly or kinky hair is more prone to breakage.  Curly and kinky hair are drier and the turns in the hair shaft create weak points that can easily break.  This texture of hair requires special care.  Read more about how to care for kinky and curly hair texture.

What to Do for Hair Breakage – General Prevention Tips

After you have addressed any medical reason for hair breakage, there are still some things to do to minimize damage. To prevent further damage and promote healthy hair growth consider these tips:

  • Prevent breakage from spreading up the hair shaft by trimming your hair regularly to eliminate split ends. 
  • Use a deep conditioning treatment after shampoo at least once a week to help moisturize and nourish your hair.
  • Avoid using hot tools on your hair too often, as the heat can cause damage.
  • Be gentle with your hair when styling, and avoid using tight hair elastics or brushing your hair too aggressively.

Finally, if you have any additional questions about causes for hair breakage and how to treat it, schedule a consult with our hair loss dermatologist in our Murray Hill office in New York City here. 

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