5 Everyday Things You're Doing that's Damaging Your Hair

by AbbyFitz

Could your daily routine be undermining the health of your hair? Discover what you're doing that is secretly damaging your tresses and what you can do to stop it.

As a woman whose hair is about hip length, I can tell you a thing or two about split ends, frizz, and dry hair.

Did I mention my hair is curly and I live in Florida? You can probably imagine how bushy I can get.

Look, we can control the frizz to some extent by using the right hair products to give us smooth curls or a sleek hairstyle, but all of that goes out the window once split ends start creeping their way up the hair shaft.

If you're wanting to keep your hair long and beautiful, you've got to do something about the dead ends.

I've tried products that promised to "help seal, protect, and prevent" dead ends.

Yeah, whatever.

What I finally learned (trust me, it was the hard way) is I was actually sabotaging myself with my diet, my hair products, and my styling tools.

In my quest for smooth, healthy looking hair, I was actually harming my hair and causing the very damage I was trying to prevent.

In this article I've listed five common mistakes that I learned actually do harm to our hair. Are you guilty of any of them?

Stop! Put Down the Scissors!

Trimming your dead ends should only be a last resort.

Image: Long Curly HairYep, that's me. I've been growing that mane for quite a while now. People often ask me why I have such long hair. Well, it's a story that parents of young children really need to read, because you can scar a kid for life with one bad haircut.

When I was around seven, my mother and I went on our yearly summer getaway to her home state of Missouri. I'd while away the lazy summer days swimming and playing with the farm animals.

By that point in life, my little blonde curls had grown to about my shoulders. I was seven years old and I wasn't really concerned about what my hair looked like. Heck, for all I can remember it could have been a bush.

Enter my Aunt Shirley. She's the family hairstylist. Time for a perm? Call Aunt Shirley. Need a haircut? Call Aunt Shirley. Need a wash and a set? Yep, you got it. Call Aunt Shirley.

Well, my mother and aunt got to talking one day about my curls. The decision was made that my dead ends needed to be trimmed because I was looking kind of frizzy.

Apparently they didn't realize I had curly hair. I mean, frizz is a given if you don't know what you're doing.

So one day my aunt cut my hair off. I don't mean a trim, I don't mean a couple of inches. I mean to-my-ears off.

For the entire time it took for it to grow out again, I was convinced everyone thought I was a boy. I vowed I would never have short hair again. And I haven't.

Image: Uncontrollable Frizzy HairUnfortunately, like my mother and aunt, most women think that damaged ends are a part of life, and the only way to get rid of them is to cut them off.

Now, I'm not going to disagree too much on that point. Once your hair is damaged to the point of breakage, there's not a whole lot you can do.

Nobody wants to look like they stuck their finger in a light socket, so trimming your dead ends is the only remedy.

But if you're not taking proper care of your hair to begin with, your hair will be damaged and break, and before you know it you're stuck in a never-ending grow/cut cycle.

Damaged hair begins long before your ends start splitting. Dead ends are caused by not only what you put on your hair, but also what you put in your body.

Do any of these scenarios sound like you?

1.) I Wash my Hair Almost Daily

Washing your hair more than two to three times a week can contribute to a dry and itchy scalp, and, ultimately, dead ends.
Itchy head

A dry, itchy scalp can be downright miserable, but did you know it can cause actual damage to your hair?

If your scalp is dry, it means your natural oils aren't making their way down the hair shaft to properly moisturize your ends to prevent breakage.

Do you shampoo your hair everyday? Frequent shampooing, especially with sulfate-laden shampoos, strips your hair of your natural oils.

You're probably thinking, "isn't that what shampoo is supposed to do, remove the oily buildup?"

The answer, surprisingly, is no. Your hair and scalp need those oils to stay healthy. Without it, your hair will become dry and damaged, not to mention an ugly, frizzy mess.

So if you're addicted to washing your hair, please, just put that shampoo bottle down and step away from the shower.

Trust me, there are healthier ways to get a clean head of hair.

2.) I Mainly Eat Fast Food and/or Processed Food

Unhealthy eating habits do more than make you fat, they can make you have a bad hair day.
Fresh Vegetables

10 Foods for Healthy Hair

  • green leafy vegetables
  • beans
  • legumes
  • citrus fruits
  • eggs
  • nuts
  • Swiss chard
  • avocados
  • salmon
  • raspberries

Did you ever wonder why no matter what you do to your hair it's as dry as straw and just looks, well, hopeless?

Hot oil treatments are not going to fix your dry, lifeless hair. Your hair is brittle and breaking because you're not getting the nutrients you need.

Processed foods like boxed macaroni and cheese, Hamburger Helper, soft drinks, energy bars and basically anything you don't make from scratch has little nutritional value. In some cases, they can actually leach vitamins from your body during digestion.

If you're not eating colorful vegetables, uncured meats, and healthy oils everyday, you're likely vitamin and mineral deficient and your hair is suffering because of it.

Healthy hair needs biotin, zinc, vitamins A, B, E, and C, and folic acid, all of which are found in a diet rich in fresh produce, nuts, and meats.

Good-for-you oils like olive, coconut, and fish oil are just what your hair needs to keep it shiny and manageable. Without these, your hair will be dull and lifeless.

Be sure to cook with coconut or olive oils and eat plenty of fish. If that's not an option for you or you're concerned you're not getting enough, omega-3 or fish oil supplements are worth considering.

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3.) I Drink Soft Drinks, Coffee, or Tea Instead of Water

Water flushes your body of toxins and hydrates you from the tips of your toes to the ends of your hair.
glass of water

Everyone knows water is essential for proper body function, right?

Notice I said water. Just because you're drinking something wet doesn't mean it will prevent dehydration.

Coffee, tea, and sodas won't flush toxins out of your body. Don't count on them to keep you hydrated either. Caffeine actually dehydrates your body.

When you're not drinking enough water, your hair and scalp suffer. Your scalp and hair become dry, and your hair loses its shine and becomes brittle. If you're avoiding water on a regular basis, your hair will become straw-like and break off.

So skip the diet coke and drink water instead. Not only will your hair be healthier, but you'll feel better, too.

Have You Ever Suffered from Damaged Hair and Split Ends?

What did you do to fix the problem?
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4.) I Use a Blow Dryer, a Flat Iron, or Curling Iron Frequently

Daily subjecting your hair to heat causes irreparable harm to your hair.
Woman Brushing Hair

It's a no-brainer that heated hairstyling tools cause hair damage. The excessive heat zaps moisture and fries your hair, which gives you flyaways and frizz.

The best thing for your hair is to let it dry naturally. There are times, though, when that's not an option. I mean, it just doesn't look professional for you to show up to work with a drippy head.

Luckily, there are healthy blow dryers out there. Cool, ionic hair dryers are the best ones to use if you just can't wait for your hair to dry on its own.

Unfortunately, there's not a better alternative for flat irons or curling irons. Both of these appliances damage your hair to the point of breakage.

But don't lose hope. Once you stop using high heat appliances, your hair will become smooth and silky because you don't have any fried ends!

5.) I Choose Hair Products Based on Fragrance, Price, and How Well I Think it Cleans My Hair

A common hair care ingredient, sulfates, actually strip your hair of natural oils and cause frizziness, breakage, and scalp irritation.
Shampoo and conditioner

Is your only criteria for hair products a good smell, cleaning ability, and softness? If it is, sorry, you're guaranteed to have damaged hair.

I touched on sulfates a little bit in Number 1, but it's worth repeating. 90 percent of shampoos on the market today contain sulfates. Chances are if you go into your shower right now and read the label, you'll find some sort of sulfate listed.

The problem with sulfates is they only trick you into thinking your hair is clean and healthy.

Have you washed your hair with a new shampoo and thought, "wow, this is great, my hair is squeaky clean!" 

Well, sulfates just stripped your hair of dirt, grime, and every bit of natural oil your poor scalp was trying to produce.

After a few weeks of using that shampoo, your hair started to feel oily and icky, and you switched to another brand because your hair had "gotten used to it."

Your hair didn't get used to the shampoo. Your hair was trying to compensate for all that stripping and it went into overdrive oil production mode.

In the past, I couldn't live without my hair conditioner. My hair would be a tangled mess if I didn't use it after I shampooed. There's no way I'd even get a comb through it.

When you use a sulfate shampoo that strips your hair of moisture, you've got to use conditioner to put the moisture back.

But conditioners contain sulfates, too. They may detangle your hair and make it soft, but conditioners are really damaging your hair and drying it out.

Now you're thinking, "what the heck am I supposed to do?

Trust me, you don't have to go all hippified and shun man-made products. You can still clean your hair naturally with store-bought shampoos while keeping it healthy.

Turns out, there are a lot of sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners to be found on Amazon, Vitacost, and even Sephora

Sulfate Free's the Way to Be

Woman Washing Her Hair in Sink

I've found the best sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner that works for me are actually shampoo bars and a vinegar rinse.

It's unbelievably cheap. Most bars only cost around $5-$7.

I wet my hair, rub the bar onto my hair until a lather forms, scrub as usual, then rinse really well.

For conditioning, I mix about 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar in a quart of water and pour it through my hair. I rinse my hair with plain water, and I'm done!

My new hair regimen has also had an unexpected bonus. I don't have to use any kind of gels or mousses anymore to control my frizz and define my curls. The shampoo bar and vinegar rinse keeps my hair moisturized, which means I don't have frizzy hair.

Living here in humid Florida, the ability to have frizz free curls without any styling products whatsoever is a miracle in itself.

Shampoo Bars for Natural Hair

Natural Home Remedies for Dry, Damaged, or Frizzy Hair

Healthy Hair: Every Woman's Goal

There isn't a magic bullet for dead ends, but little changes in your lifestyle adds up to an awesome head of hair.

There's a lot of products on the market that claim they can seal and treat dead ends.

The unfortunate reality is if you're hair is breaking off, there's more going on than just what's on the surface.

A healthy diet, combined with a sensible and chemical free hair care routine, is what you need to keep your hair undamaged and looking marvelous.

Updated: 01/29/2014, AbbyFitz
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DerdriuMarriner on 02/23/2014

Yes, me, too!

AbbyFitz on 02/22/2014

I like things that have more than one use

DerdriuMarriner on 02/22/2014

Definitely not gross. Its multi-purpose for me: household and laundry cleaner and freshener, hair shiner, food additive (I like to splash it on veggies), etc.

AbbyFitz on 02/19/2014

People really ought to give vinegar a try. It sounds gross, but it's not

DerdriuMarriner on 02/19/2014

Me, too, I'm a fan of vinegar rinses, which also bring out natural highlights in hair.
My hair also is curly, long, and thick. Running fingers through hair gets better results -- and also feels better -- than combing.

AbbyFitz on 01/26/2014

I hope it works for you!

Mira on 01/26/2014

That's good to know. I'll try it then. Thanks.

AbbyFitz on 01/26/2014

@ Mira after I rinse the vinegar out, I can smell the vinegar faintly, but after it dries there's no smell at all. I can only smell the soap

AbbyFitz on 01/26/2014

Thank you younghopes!

AbbyFitz on 01/26/2014

@violetterose believe it or not, I only comb my hair when I wash it. The rest of the time I only run my fingers through it

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