13 Hair care mistakes that could be secretly damaging your hair
Just like in skincare, it's easy to get things wrong when it comes to your crowning glory. Maybe your hair routine is a wash-with-shampoo-once-every-few-days type deal. Maybe you're a heat-styling addict. Or, maybe it's a six-hour long process of hair oil, then shampoo, then conditioner, then a hair mask to finish everything up. Maybe you've fallen prey to the no-poo movement. Maybe you're doing everything right... for the wrong head of hair.
Either way, it's pretty much guaranteed that at least one step in your hair routine is a blunder in some form or another. Good news, though—we've collated all of the mistakes you're probably making and put it into a list for you to browse.
Read on to learn why these thirteen things are ruining your hair in the long run.
Hair care mistake #1:
Washing your hair too often
So, everyone has different needs, so this really depends on your hair type. While it’s true that some people (especially those with finer hair types) need to shampoo every day to avoid oily roots, it’s a double-edged sword. Washing your hair too often just means that it gets greasier faster because your scalp overcompensates on the oil-production front. Also, washing your hair too often can strip it of its natural healthy oils, leaving your hair dry, dull and prone to breakage.
Hair care mistake #2:
Not washing your hair often enough
Unfortunately, it also works the other way around. More porous hair types benefit from a less frequent washing schedule, because it keeps the hair moisturised. However, you cannot leave your hair unwashed for too long as it can inadvertently lead to hair loss. When you leave your hair unwashed, you start to produce sebum—a waxy substance that’s responsible for giving your hair that lustrous shine.
However, when sebum builds up over time, it blocks the follicle and prevents new hair growth. Plus, the buildup of gunk on your scalp eventually causes itching and when you scratch it, you’re causing microabrasions around your hair follicles. This invites everything from fungi to bacterial infections (and more!). Generally, you should aim to wash your hair every other day (or every third day), but do what works for your hair type.
Hair care mistake #3:
Using products that are too harsh
The ‘no-poo’ (no shampoo) movement has gained traction in the last few years and is a great testament to ditching the harsh detergents. Many claimed that their hair was changed for the better after they stopped using shampoos; they saw significant hair growth, shinier (and healthier) tresses and even a complete change in hair texture (from straight to curly). But, note that the movement also had its critics, with others reporting that the movement did nothing but leave them with dirty hair (yikes).
However, there’s a reason why so many people saw great results, and it’s because they stopped using harsh products on their scalp and hair. The hair growth? Their ends weren’t breaking off as much. The shinier tresses? The natural oils from their scalp were being distributed down the hair shaft when they brushed. The change in texture? When you stop using harsh products that dry out your hair, your curl pattern starts to return. So, instead of forgoing shampoo altogether, what you can do is to opt for more gentle formulas, such as those that don’t contain sulfates or harsh detergents.
Hair care mistake #4:
Forgetting your scalp
Like your skin, your scalp is prone to clogging. Be it dead skin, product buildup or pollution, your scalp needs a deep clean every once in a while. Properly cleansing and exfoliating your scalp helps to clear your follicles, promoting a healthy scalp and encouraging hair growth. Plus, if you’re prone to dandruff, you may want to look into doing this too.
Hair care mistake #5:
Skipping the conditioner
Wonder why your hair won’t grow past your shoulders? Or why your hair is thinning at the ends? If you’re not keeping up with your conditioning routine, it’s probably breaking off! The longer your hair, the drier your ends; you see, while your roots tend to stay healthy because they are conditioned by the oil produced from your scalp, the oil isn’t easily distributed down the hair shaft, which is why your ends get very dry.
Conditioner is used to replenish the moisture in your ends and promote the health of your hair. Plus, the hydration ensures that your hair doesn’t get tangled throughout the day, which also means you’ll have to brush less! Don't. Skip. The. Conditioner.
Hair care mistake #6:
Conditioning your roots
Speaking of conditioner, you’ll probably want to avoid conditioning your roots, unless you like having super flat, oily hair. Like we said, the natural oils produced by your scalp are heavily concentrated at the root, which is what keeps it so healthy. When you apply conditioner over those natural oils, you’re wasting both time and product.
Hair care mistake #7:
Brushing hair the wrong way
You heard that correctly: there is a right and wrong way to brush your hair. Firstly, never start at the top of your head. This is just asking for trouble (AKA breakage). Secondly, don't rip the brush through your hair while you are trying to detangle. What you want to do instead, is work from the bottom up, gently detangling.
Hair care mistake #8:
Brushing hair too often
Please don’t take this to mean ’do not brush your hair’; brushing is a good way to distribute your natural oils and keep your hair in order, but brushing your hair too often can lead to breakage, especially if you’re not brushing it correctly (read above point).
Hair care mistake #9:
Brushing hair when it’s wet
This goes out to all you curly girls out there (though it’s good advice for all hair types): it’s a well-known fact that brushing your hair when wet reduces the frizz factor. However, wet hair is extremely fragile and prone to breakage.
So, instead of opting for a brush, detangle with your fingers or use a wide-toothed comb to get rid of your knots. Ideally, wait until your hair is around 70 per cent dry before you whip out the detangler.
Hair care mistake #10:
Towel drying… with a towel
Okay, so we know it’s in the name, but hear us out when we say that you should not be using a towel to dry your hair. The textures of your standard terry cloths are often too rough, and can damage the hair shaft as well as lead to breakage and frizziness.
That said, towel drying definitely gets the job done. If you are not willing to give it up, substitute your towel with a cotton T-shirt or a microfibre towel. The soft texture is gentle on your locks and the natural fibres are absorbent. Also, never rub your hair—always squeeze the water out.
Hair care mistake #11:
Letting your hair air dry
Yes, of course you want to avoid heat styling as much as possible–that’s a given. However, you also don’t want to have your hair dripping wet for extended periods of time. Your hair is structured in layers–the middle is made of the ‘cortex’ and is surrounded by the cuticle. When it’s wet, the cortex of your hair swells, which puts pressure on the cuticle. If it’s left too long, the cuticle succumbs and bursts, leading to split ends. That said, though, you have to dry it the right way to avoid further damage.
Here's what GHD Scientist and Vice President of Smart Devices, Dr Tim Moore, had to say: "You need to treat hair carefully when it is wet. Wet hair is weakened, which means that it is easily broken and damaged by high temperatures. In fact, the denaturation temperature of hair drops when it is wet, so you must be careful when drying."
So, according to Dr Moore, this is what you should do when you're fresh out the shower: "Start by towel drying in a scrunching, circular motion and before using a hairdryer, use a heat protect spray. Use the hairdryer on the lowest, cool setting so you don’t heat the hair above the denaturation temperature. As the hair dries, the temperature can be increased since the denaturation temperature increases - you can feel this while drying as the hair will suddenly start to warm up. You can then set your style using the high-temperature setting.”
Hair care mistake #12:
Sleeping with wet hair
Dry your hair before you sleep, please. Going to sleep with wet hair is, arguably, worse than literal heat damage–while you sleep, and toss and turn, your poor locks are subject to friction. Given that we’ve established that wet hair is more prone to breakage, you can probably gather that all of this isn’t very good for it. Not to mention, breakage + friction = frizz-fest.
If you're sleeping with damp hair for another purpose (e.g. heatless waves), make sure you’re covering your hair with a silk scarf for protection.
Hair care mistake #13:
Wearing tight hairstyles on the regular
Traction alopecia is real, guys. Everyone loves a sleek ponytail or a topknot, but for the sake of your hairline, we urge you to ease up on them a little (looking at you, Ariana Grande). The constant stress on the hair follicles can cause significant hair loss; and over long periods of time, this hair loss can be permanent. If you can’t skip the slicked ‘do, try leaving some face framing layers free to lessen the stress (or get bangs!).