I remember the day I killed my hair. I had just finished an at-home straightening treatment that reeked of rotten eggs, and I was trying to style my new coif. But my locks were oddly limp and lifeless, the bangs clingy to my forehead. I reached up and pulled at some of the strands around my face, only to have them break off in my hand. This is just one example of the many hair mistakes I’ve made in my life.
Over the years, I’ve done some major damage to my hair. I’ve bleached it, dyed it, straightened it. I even shaved it on the aforementioned day when my hair died. I got a lot of props for being bold and confident – basically a Puerto Rican Sinead O’Connor without a ripped-up picture of the Pope – but the truth was that I had pushed my poor follicles to their limit. But even without the constant coloring and heating, there are plenty of ways women ruin their hair. From daily rituals to one-time occurrences, here are all the ways you’re ruining your hair – and how to turn things around and make your hair the healthiest it’s ever been.
1. You Shampoo Too Much
I frequently fall prey to this one, as I live in New York City and feel the need to wash my hair every time I ride the subway. But the experts seem to agree that no matter what type of hair you have (or how often you use public restrooms) washing your hair every day is detrimental to maintaining healthy, shiny locks because it strips your mane of necessary oils. Jill Soller-Mihlek, a hairstylist at Dvir Salon (which has locations in both Brooklyn and Manhattan), recommends washing “only every second or third day, or alternate with a conditioner-only wash.”
2. You Use Crappy Shampoo
I used to pride myself on paying the least amount of money possible for a shampoo that smelled like coconuts. But I noticed that my hair wasn’t too happy with this money-saving decision. Although shampoo doesn’t have to be expensive to work well, it needs to contain the right ingredients. “Many shampoos contain harsh detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate that can dry out your hair,” says Soller-Mihlek, who suggests switching to a sulfate-free shampoo.
3. You Use the Wrong Shampoo
Who knew that there was so much you could be doing wrong with your shampoo? But it’s true, it’s not just about shampooing less frequently or using a sulfate-free shampoo. Take note of your hair type or coloring proclivities and go from there. “Some shampoos can wreak havoc on colored hair, so it’s important to use one formulated for color-treated hair if you color your hair,” says Soller-Mihlek. “If your hair is very oily and lacks volume, you probably don't want a shampoo with heavy moisturizers, just as if your hair is on the frizzy or poofy side, you wouldn't want to use a volumizing one.”
4. You Condition Wrong
Slathering on conditioner can result in a false sense of hair security, what with that silky, soft feeling it gives your locks. But there’s a good chance that whether you’re leaving conditioner on too long or just using it too often, it’s weighing your hair down or making your scalp feel filmy.
5. You Condition Your Roots
Guess what? Your roots are doing just fine, thank you, and don’t need to be conditioned! Conditioner is meant to give moisture back to the parts of your hair that need it,” explains Soller-Mihlek. “This usually means the mid-lengths and ends -not the roots.” Soller-Mihlek adds that “the only time conditioner needs to go on your roots is if your are doing a conditioner-only wash."
6. You Blast Your Dryer on the Highest Heat
It’s tempting to blast your hair during your at-home blowout. After all, says Soller-Mihlek, "the higher the heat, the smoother the blowout.” But according to Women’s Health, super-hot settings actually cause the water in your hair to boil (eep!), which can result in cuticle damage (plus, OMG, you’re boiling your hair!). But there are ways to minimize the damage, says Soller-Mihlek. Most importantly, she advises using a heat-protection product. Another tip? “Rough dry the hair at a medium temperature until it's about 50% dry before you go in with a brush and turn up the heat, and lastly, try not to let the dryer nozzle have too much contact with your hair,” Soller-Mihlek says. “If you aim the air down the hair shaft, you can hold the nozzle just above the hair and still get a smooth finish.”
7. You Use a Flatiron Without Protection
Using a flatiron is like having a drunken one-night stand with a stranger: inadvisable, potentially dangerous, and something you may regret later. But we do it anyways in our quest for straight hair. When you do decide to straighten your hair, use protection in the form of a thermal protecting spray – otherwise, all that heat can cause breakage and split ends.
8. You Use a Flatiron on Wet Hair
“Why would you flat iron wet hair," Soller-Mihlek asks. "Why would you do that? Who does that? Don't do that.” She’s right; your hair should be bone-dry before you start to iron it. Even a little leftover moisture from a protection serum can cause your locks to sizzle and scorch like bacon in a frying pan.
9. You Don’t Trim Your Split Ends
When growing out your hair, you may distance yourself from the salon thinking a cut would defeat the purpose of your master hair plan. But know that your split ends have a master plan of their own. “The thing about split ends is that they don't just stay at the ends,” warns Soller-Mihlek. “If you don't get rid of them with regular trims, they will continue to split all the way up the hair shaft, and when you finally decide to get a trim, you'll need to cut a lot more to get it looking healthy. Even if you are trying to grow out your hair, I always recommend a teeny ‘microtrim’ at least every 6-8 weeks.”
10. You Brush Your Hair Too Much
Disney makes brushing your hair seem so glamorous (especially if it’s done with a dinglehopper), but in reality, there’s such a thing as too much brushing. “Brushing too much can cause split ends and make your hair frizzy,” says Soller-Mihlek, who explains that using “a good detangling brush” – she likes the Tangle Teezer ($11.99 on Amazon) and The Wet Brush ($7.83 on Amazon) – “will help to get the knots out without roughing up your tresses too much.”
11. You Go Crazy With the Bleaching
We all kinda already know that bleach is bad for our hair, but we do it anyway. “It's still the best way to get a nice pale blonde,” says Soller-Mihlek. But she suggests going to a salon that uses Olaplex. “a great product that can be added to the bleach mixture to prevent breakage, and help mend already damaged hair.” Moms-to-be, take note: Soller-Mihlek herself has “personally switched to highlights instead of a double-process blonde – it not only saves half of my hair from any chemical processing, but it's safer for preggo ladies like me because the bleach doesn't come into contact with the scalp,” she says.