How To Transform Your Dry & Brittle Hair Into Soft, Silky Tresses

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Written by Annie Walton-Doyle

Updated: April 28, 2024

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If you’ve noticed your hair is feeling dry, that’s because it’s lacking in moisture, which can mean it’s not receiving enough hydration, or it’s unable to retain it. Dry and brittle hair isn’t just weakened and prone to damage, though—it can also look dull and be prone to flyaways, split ends, and noticeably straw-like texture.

In this guide, we’re going to show you how to identify and fix your dry and brittle hair.

How To Spot Dry And Brittle Hair

When your hair experiences initial damage, it often loses its shine and softness—the dry and brittle texture you may be noticing. With continued damage, dried-out hair may endure reduced strength and elasticity, ultimately resulting in structural breakdown and breakage.

Hair that’s looking lackluster, feeling dry and fragile, or exhibiting signs such as breakage, split ends, and unruly flyaways, could indicate damage. Dry and brittle hair may be a warning sign of potential future hair breakage.

Causes Of Dry And Brittle Hair

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The first step to fixing dry and brittle hair is to try to work out what’s causing it. Dry hair can be caused by a variety of different factors, or even as a combination of a few different concurrent issues.

A Hot, Dry Climate

Your hair is impacted by its surroundings, so it’s not surprising that drier weather will result in drier hair. Sadly, there’s not much that can be done aside from moving to a cooler and damper location, but knowing that your hair is a victim of your climate can make you more cognizant of taking extra care to properly hydrate your locks to mitigate any potential damage.

Chemical Damage

Chemical treatments like dyes, bleaches, and perming or straightening solutions can do major damage to the hair follicle. This can instantaneously dry out your hair, but also leave the strand less able to retain moisture. 

Chlorine is another major stressor that can lead to hair drying out and becoming brittle. The American Academy of Dermatology encourages those who swim to take steps to help protect their hair, including wearing a swim cap, rinsing hair immediately after swimming, and washing hair with a specially formulated swimmers’ shampoo and following with a deep conditioner.

 A Poor Routine

Using low-quality hair products means you’ll never get the most out of your mane. Cheaper shampoos can be overly harsh and drying on brittle locks, while conditioners may not offer the moisturization needed for healthy hair.

Make sure to tailor your routine if you’re concerned about brittle hair by looking for products specifically designed for dry hair types. If you’re a wash-and-go kind of lady, it may be time to up the ante slightly, adding a leave-in conditioner or a hydrating styling product.

Treatments For Dry And Brittle Hair

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There are a whole host of ways to nurse dry and brittle hair back to its former glory. You can add hair products to treat from the outside, change your diet or add supplements to treat hair from within, take up particular haircare habits to help enhance hydration, or opt for a holistic approach by combining all of the above.

Introducing Oils

Hair lacking natural oils tends to be dry and brittle, while also being rough, lackluster, and prone to tangling, which can lead to breakage. Natural oils are excellent treatments for fortifying and nourishing damaged, breakage-prone hair.

Coconut oil, almond oil, castor oil, argan oil, and olive oil are all renowned for their potent hydrating and moisturizing properties. These oils function as emollients, creating a protective barrier around the hair shaft to seal the cuticle and retain moisture.

They also offer lubricating effects, improving slip between hair strands, facilitating detangling, and smoothing the cuticle surface, thus enhancing overall hair health and appearance.

Extra Conditioning

Switching out your regular conditioner for a more heavy-duty hair mask once or twice per week can help to add some much-needed nourishment to dry or brittle hair. We love the Davines NouNou Nourishing Repair Mask for times of hair need.

Application methods can also help lock in some extra moisture. Though unconventional-sounding, we highly recommend the soak and smear technique. Wash and condition your hair as you normally would. Gently blot excess water with a towel, then apply a leave-in conditioner throughout your hair. Finally, use hair oil to seal in the moisture and make your hair easier to style.

Gentle Shampooing

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that those with dry and brittle hair change up their shampooing style to help keep their locks hydrated. Instead of applying shampoo to the lengths of the hair, it’s recommended to keep the product at the hair’s roots.

“When you rinse the shampoo from your scalp, let it flow through the length of your hair and resist the temptation to rub it into your hair,” the Academy recommends.

DIY Fixes

If you don’t have a conditioning hair mask in your arsenal, there are items in your kitchen that can help to treat dry and brittle hair. Ingredients like avocado, mayonnaise, and eggs all contain a blend of fats and protein that can nourish and repair the hair strands for a bargain price.

Protecting From Heat

Both heat and ultraviolet light can dry out locks. Per Wiley, despite hair being nonliving and unable to get sunburned, UV and visible radiation can damage its cosmetic value.

This dries out the hair strand, leading to discoloration and protein damage. Using a high-quality heat protectant and keeping hair covered in hot and sunny weather can help it feel less dry and brittle.

Minimizing Chemical Damage

If you do insist on color-treating your hair, you can still take steps to minimize how much it causes dryness and brittleness. You can opt for a gentler style of dye, or a color close to your natural shade. You can also try to go longer in between touch-ups, giving the hair more time to recover in between chemical treatments.

Eating Well

Per Medical News Today, a diet rich in omega-3s and antioxidants can help hair feel healthier and more moisturized, and to look shinier. It recommends plenty of “fatty fish, including salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna, oysters, blueberries, tomatoes, walnuts, broccoli, and kidney beans.”

Supplementing Where Necessary

Omega-3s can also be supplemented in a diet by taking capsules of borage oil, flaxseed oil, or evening primrose oil, one to three times a day. Medical News Today also recommends vitamins A and C, biotin, and iron supplements to help support healthy and well-hydrated hair strands.

Scalp Care 

A National Library of Medicine study indicates that an unhealthy scalp can contribute to dry and brittle locks, diminished shine, and rough hair texture. To mitigate hair dryness, it’s beneficial to use hair products that are gentle on the scalp and to include scalp care as part of your hair care routine.

The National Library of Medicine affirms the importance of scalp health in preserving hair, citing: “There is a wealth of observational data on specific dermatological conditions of the scalp providing evidence for the role of the scalp condition in supporting the production of healthy hair.”

According to the NCBI, stimulating your scalp enhances blood circulation, strengthening hair roots and facilitating better nutrient transport along the strands. This not only helps repair current damage but also fosters the growth of new, healthy, and undamaged hair strands.

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