Understanding the hair’s structure is the first step to keeping it in great condition. Consultant dermatologist and hair and scalp specialist, Dr Sharon Wong, explains: “Each hair fibre consists of three layers of a protein called keratin. The innermost layer, called the medulla, has a honeycomb structure of keratin with airspaces within it. This is surrounded by the middle layer called the cortex, in which the keratin strands are organised lengthways. This is the layer that gives hair its strength and stretchability. The cuticle is the outermost layer and consists of overlapping layers of keratin – a bit like tiles on a roof – which form a protective, waterproof layer on the hair.”
She continues: “The most common cause of damage to hair is weathering from excessive styling. Chemicals such as hair dyes and chemical relaxers cause the cuticles to lift away from the surface. This exposes the core of the hair shaft to damage and allows water to enter the medulla. Hair also becomes less shiny as the roughened cuticle surface is less able to reflect light. Applying heat, especially when cuticles are damaged and water has entered the medulla, causes the water to expand inside the hair fibre, creating weak points and hair breakage.”
Harm to hair can show up in all sorts of unwelcome ways, from the obvious, such as breakage, to the subtle, such as hair that’s dull and a bit ‘meh’. The main offenders are below.
Likely cause: “Chlorine from tap water and swimming pools binds to the hair. This causes oxidation and damage when you get out of the pool and the air hits the hair after swimming,” says Rob Forgione, UK director for RPR Repair Protect Rejuvenate products.
Treat it: “The secret to keeping hair safe from chlorine is using a leave-in treatment before swimming and washing hair immediately when you get out of the water. My RPR Dechlorinate Shampoo (RRP £12.95) will remove all chlorine and chemical build-up without stripping the hair.”
Likely cause: “Friction can be caused by bristle brushes and even during sleep,” says top hairdresser Paul Windle. “We love bristle brushes for styling, but their ends are sharp and can cause friction to the hair. Run one along the back of your arm and see if it scratches you. If it does, think about what it will do to your hair.”
Treat it: “At night, I recommend using a silk pillow along with the Windle & Moodie Day and Night Cream (RRP £21). This contains a blend of monoi oil, sugar beet and aloe vera to condition hair.”
Likely cause: Over-styling; not enough trims. “Hair's composition is like a twisted rope – once the ends of the hair become worn and damaged, usually from colouring or thermal damage, the protein fibres split and unwind and this is how the split end is formed,” Forgione explains.
Treat it: Hollywood hairdresser Rita Hazan says: “It’s important to cut the dead ends in order to keep your entire hair healthy. The clinical antibreakage repairing complex in Rita Hazan Triple Threat Split End Remedy (RRP £24) is specially formulated for damaged hair. Smart polymers seal frazzled ends, while future damage is prevented by oligopeptides strengthening strands, leaving hair smooth and healthy.”
Likely cause: Excessive heat. “Any heat over 180°C will damage the hair’s cuticle,” says top stylist and brand ambassador for Charles Worthington, Ken O’Rourke.
Treat it: “Most tools now come with a thermostat to regulate the heat. It’s there to be used, so find the lowest temperature that gives you the desired style and remember it.” Charles Worthington Volume & Bounce Express Blow Dry Primer (RRP £6.99) protects hair from heat damage up to 235°C and helps to speed up blow drying.
Salon Science brand ambassador Andrew Jose says: “Rather than grabbing the tongs, a great product to use is Salon Science Thickening Serum (RRP £15), a no-heat air styler for thicker and fuller hair. Apply to damp hair after washing; split hair into two inch sections, apply a small pump and twist the product into each section. Leave hair to dry naturally, with soft movement created by twisting the hair, then comb through with fingers to separate when hair has dried.”
Likely cause: “Dandruff is thought to be caused by the overproduction of a certain yeast, called Malassezia furfur, which causes skin cells on the scalp to divide too rapidly,” says Anabel Kingsley, trichologist at Philip Kingsley.
Treat it: “It’s really important to cleanse and treat the scalp daily to return cell turnover to normal. Use an antimicrobial shampoo and soothing antimicrobial toner every day until symptoms clear. Reduce to every other day for 10 days, then use as needed. Apply a scalp mask, such as Philip Kingsley Exfoliating Scalp Mask (RRP £17), twice weekly to help remove flakes, ” says Kingsley.
Likely cause: Lack of nutrients. Dr Wong explains: “Hair follicle cells are the second fastest dividing cells in the body and require all the nutrients of a well-balanced healthy diet. This includes lean proteins, ‘good’ carbohydrates and fats, vitamins and minerals – there is no one superfood for hair. As hair is not an essential structure for survival, the body does not prioritise nutrients for hair growth. As a result, hair is very sensitive to nutritional deficiencies and this, together with crash diets, can arrest the growth of hair follicles and cause hair shedding.”
Treat it: Eat more protein for breakfast, as this is when it’s best absorbed by the hair follicles. Dietary supplements such as Solgar Biotin 1000 MCG (RRP £7.55) and Solgar Oceanic Silica (RRP £6.99) can help strengthen hair from within.
Likely cause: Over-colouring and over-processing. “It will feel dry to touch and look lifeless,” says Jose. “Hair loses elasticity when damage occurs, leading to brittle hair that can be prone to snapping.”
Treat it: Use a fortifying mask like Phytokeratine Extreme Exceptional Mask (RRP £37) or Davines Nounou Hair Mask (RRP £18.50). At the salon, ask for a strengthening treatment, like Olaplex, in conjunction with colour or straightening. “Always ensure hair is trimmed every eight weeks to get rid of unwanted wispy, damaged ends – this helps to prevent hair splitting further up the cuticles to the mid lengths,” Jose explains.
Likely cause: The most common factor is androgenic thinning, which is genetic, but stress, underlying health issues, poor diet, certain medicines, styling damage and environmental aggressors like pollution can all play a part.
Treat it: Organic Hemp Oil Restoring Hair & Scalp Treatment (RRP £14.99) combines organic hemp oil with a unique blend of panthenol (provitamin B5) and plant actives that can stimulate hair growth and help to prevent hair loss. With continued use, this leave-in treatment mousse can help to reduce hair loss and support healthy hair growth by activating and protecting follicle stem cells in order to produce stronger hair, with increased density and volume.
The trend for ‘free-from’ foods has spread to the beauty aisles – customers will be asking about products that respect hair’s natural structure and texture. Rather than trying to mould hair against its will, next-generation hair products aim to bring out the best in every hair type with lightweight styling solutions, free-from shampoos and conditioners and colourguarding rinses. Eco-friendly, vegan and natural ingredients feature – call it the Goop effect!
Instagram is making its influence felt in hair colour, with postable looks like unicorn colour, salmon-sushi pink and other pastel shades making waves.
As for styles, Ken O’Rourke says: “This summer, I am loving long bobs, just touching the shoulder and left natural. I love it when hair is left to air dry and all you need is a touch of serum, oil or salt spray to help bring out the natural textures in your hair.”