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Monday, May 24, 2010

Restoring Damaged Hair

Hair is one of my favorite topics!

Most women today have damaged hair, but they don't know how to fix it inexpensively. Even if you have severely damaged your hair, you can make it soft, strong, glossy, manageable, and healthy by being ridiculously gentle and protective of your hair.

First, how do we damage our hair? Dyeing hair will damage it, even if a "gentle" (this is one of the deceptions of the "hair care industry") formula is used. Every time it's dyed, it gets a little more damaged. Also hair drying and using a curling iron (and perming and straightening and thinning) can damage hair, even if you only do it one time. Even excessive heat in the water you use to wash and rinse your hair can damage hair. (Warm is okay, but very hot water is bad for your hair.)

If you "thin" your hair to manage the damage, keep in mind that if a hair dresser uses a razor or some other technique/tool that "wisps" the ends of the hair to thin it, then, although it helped in cutting away damaged hair, it also damaged it and made it more likely to fray and split. Blunt cutting (perpendicular to the strand, at least 1/4" above the damage) is the best cut to keep hair integral.

Unfortunately, damaged hairs will wind themselves around healthy hairs, causing tangles that will damage the healthy hair when you try to comb or shampoo your hair, or move your head ;-) Also, when it's damaged, the scalp sebum (natural waxy oil) that protects hair will not move easily down the hair shaft, and the problem compounds.

I know that women do these things to make their hair more beautiful, but truly beautiful hair is healthy, glossy, well-maintained hair. Dyeing, perming, straightening, drying, curling, moussing, back-combing, streaking, highlighting, hair-spraying, razoring, misting, thinning are just terms synonymous with "damaging." Do we say, "I need to get to the beauty salon to get my hair damaged"? We might as well! Better to stop throwing money at all the damaging "treatments" and start taking care of our hair by giving it what it needs to be beautiful and healthy. The great thing is that it is inexpensive, easy, and fun to take care of your own hair! Women have been doing it for centuries, and you can, too!

But what to do? There's no way to "heal" damaged hairs, but we don't want to cut off our hair that is so feminine. The healthy hairs need to remain and be protected, and the damaged hairs need to be cut, managed, and allowed to grow out so that they do not cause more damage. The key is a combination of "dusting" and oiling and protection. Every time you "dust" and oil your hair, you improve (lower) the ratio of damaged hair to healthy hair.

To bring your hair back to full gloriousness, you need to get radical (because damaged hair will actually damage other hair, if allowed to).

My background: Right now my hair is waist-length and very integral and healthy, and my bangs (which I cut in October 2009 and started growing out in January 2010) are getting long enough to tuck behind my ears (but they don't always stay). Last summer (August 2009), I put hydrogen peroxide in my hair (mixed with water and leave-in conditioner), then I used my hair dryer on it. Then I washed it out and conditioned it. I had read some things on the internet that led me to believe this would lighten my hair safely and inexpensively. I forgot that I should not believe everything I read on the internet! My hair did not lighten at all, and it turned to straw and started breaking off. I could barely get a comb through it. I had a halo of frizzy fly-aways that was very obvious with the rest of my hair being so long and straight. But my hair is restored now (May 2010), less than a year later.

Here is my hair care routine, which repairs/prevents hair damage:

1) Shampoo: I shampoo every morning, but if every other day works for you--that's even better for your hair! My hair is fine and my scalp is super-greasy, so I need to shampoo every morning. I comb my hair out before I take my shower/wash my hair. Since I wear a braid to bed, I usually only have to finger comb it out of the braid and any night-tangles.

When I shampoo in the shower, I let my wetted hair hang down my back, then I take a little shampoo (nickel-sized) and rub it between my palms and then over my scalp/hairline hair. Then I take another nickel-sized bit of shampoo and rub it between my palms and apply it to the scalp hair underneath. Then, using the balls of my fingers, I gently rub the shampoo into my scalp, using small circular movements all over my scalp. I just concentrate on the scalp and don't try to rub shampoo down the length. Then I coil it into a "bun" on my head and kind of balance it there while I wash the rest of me.

Then I rinse the hair very thoroughly and wash cascades of rinse water through the hair, tipping my head to the side and using my hands to gently move the hair to get water to the hair that's underneath. The rinse is actually the most important part. If your hair is very thick, you might need to rinse longer than I do to get the rinse water to the scalp to wash away every trace of shampoo. (Shampoo left in the hair will damage the hair.) Your final rinse should be cold water, if you can stand it. The cold water closes the scales on the hair, which makes it more manageable and shiny.

Clarifying shampoos strip the hair and should only be used once a month or less (if you have product build up). I only use gentle shampoo, oil, and the occasional conditioner application, so I don't really get product build up. A cheap, gentle shampoo might be Suave, generic baby-shampoo, or Nature's Gate (if you can find it at a discount store for less money).

2) Condition: I don't use conditioner very often anymore. I try to use oil as my "conditioner" because I think oil penetrates and strengthens and protects the hair, while conditioner just coats it with a lot of chemicals and can even damage it in the long run. If you think you absolutely need conditioner for manageability at this point, then go ahead and use it. But to my current point of view, dusting and oiling are more important than conditioner. When your hair is restored, you probably won't need to condition very often.

3) Dry: I gently squeeze water out of my hair with a soft towel and air dry (or combination air-dry and hair dryer on warm/cool heat setting). No hot air at all. If your hair dryer has only a hot setting, then I would recommend air-dry only.

4) Comb: I comb only dry hair because wet hair is very weak and prone to damage. My hair is straight. If you must comb wet hair (maybe you have to with wavy/curly hair? I'm not sure), then I recommend adding a little oil to the length and ends of the damp hair, and then combing gently with a wide tooth comb (or a pick if you have very curly hair), starting from the hair tips, working your way up to remove tangles. Use only a wide-tooth comb (or a pick). Start about 1" from the ends, section by section, and work your way up the section length, detangling as you go. This will probably take a long time, until your hair loses its damage. Healthy hair is very manageable.

5) "Dusting": When you dust your hair, you cut the damaged hairs and leave the healthy hairs uncut. This will improve your hair incredibly. Use a pair of ($8 or so) hair cutting scissors that is used for cutting hair only and nothing else. It should last a lifetime, if well-cared for. "Dust" dry, gently combed-out hair to which no oil or conditioner has been applied (this makes the damaged hair more obvious and therefore easier to cut). Then after you dust, apply oil, comb through, and put your hair in a braid or updo.

If you are facing seriously damaged hair, then I recommend you dust every day for a week and then weekly thereafter. The first time will take a long time, and you will have a lot of hair "dust" (the damaged hair bits that have been trimmed off) to clean up.

Don't be afraid! This works! Instructions on how to dust your hair can be found here:

(The site above,, has lots of great, free advice on hair care.)

6) Oil: Oil will protect and condition your hair beautifully. I use jojoba oil, which is plant-based, but light and similar to natural sebum. I bought a 16 oz. bottle for cheap from a company I don't remember through I put a little in a plastic toiletries bottle that I washed out and rinsed with water and then sterilize with rubbing alcohol. (Let the rubbing alcohol residual droplets evaporate before pouring in the oil.) I keep this bottle by my bathroom sink for daily use. To prevent contamination/spoilage, I keep the big bottle of jojoba oil in the refrigerator and refill the little bottle as needed.

I pour a tiny amount (1/4 tsp.) in my palm, rub my palms together (to distribute and warm the oil) and gently apply to the length and especially ends of my hair. Then I gently comb through to distribute the oil through my hair. If you don't have jojoba, then canola oil is good, and olive oil is even better (closer to natural sebum) if you can use that. Leave in the oil. Be careful to lightly apply it, unless you don't mind a heavier look for day. You can always add a little more, if you need to.

7) Keep it confined: Keep hair confined in braids and updos. Braid or put up washed, dried, dusted, oiled hair in a smooth style. (Some styles are deliberately messy, knotted, back-combed, etc., but these styles are extremely damaging to hair.) Braids and updo protect the hair from wind, moving the head, rubbing against fabric, hairs rubbing against other hairs, getting caught in things, getting snarled, etc. Use only gentle, coated elastics or terry cloth bands, mini scrunchies, or hair pins. Any wooden hair sticks should be sanded perfectly smooth and oiled. Never use bobby pins, metal barrettes, uncoated elastics, or elastics with metal parts. (You can use bobby pins or metal barrettes occasionally after your hair is completely restored.)

I also recommend, at night, taking your hair out of the confined style, oiling the hair again before bed (it can be heavier at night, if you plan to shampoo your hair the next morning), combing it through gently, and then braiding it to sleep in. You will be amazed at how much oil your dry, damaged hair will soak up.

A lot of damage can happen while sleeping, tossing and turning on the pillow. You can also wear a bed cap (a la Little House on the Prairie) or some scarf or bandana--it protects the hair and protects the pillow from oil, but you might feel that's excessive. I don't wear one; but I would, if I could find one ;-)

If your husband doesn't like your hair up or in a braid, then you can take it down right before he comes home, but keep it confined when he can't see you, while you're working around the house or running errands.

8) No hair salons: I don't go to any beauty salons or hair cut places at all, even for trims. I haven't for years, and it has saved me a lot of money. I hate to say it, but it is in hair-cutters' financial best interests to damage your hair, and even to deceive women that what they are doing is not damaging, to get the ladies to shell out bucks on a frequent and regular basis.

My experience is that if you go to them, they will rip a comb through wet hair, use high-heat styling techniques, will try to convince you to dye or perm your hair or buy expensive hair products, will use razors on your hair, will cut off way more than you told them to, and otherwise discourage you and demoralize you and destroy all that you tried to build and restore during the previous three months.

They hate long hair and will wheedle and needle you to cut your hair short; then when you tell them "only an inch," they'll just cut off however much they want anyway, and there will be nothing you can do about it. I was once publicly chastised in a hair salon for having long hair, and I refuse to put up with that nonsense anymore. It was best for me to remove myself from the hair-salon vicious circle, to be more self-reliant/DIY, and to stop giving these harpies my hard-earned money.

I now trim my own hair--not only "dusting," but the actual trimming and evening of the ends. I trim however much I want every three months, or as needed. You might want to trim an inch every two months or so until any damage is cut out/grown out. (Most people's hair grows an average of about an 1/2" per month.)

It really works! Here are some online instructions:

May God bless your hair restoration efforts!

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