If you’re one guilty of neglecting haircare, your crowning glory may need some serious work in the future. We’re talking about long-term commitment to repairing dry and damaged hair that could possibly rack up way more cost than paying the extra bit of attention to it right now.

Looking for ways to amp up your haircare routine? We’ve got a couple of useful tips to begin with. But first, how does damaged hair look like? And when should you be concerned?

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What is damaged hair?

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To set healthy hair apart from damaged hair, it’s paramount we understand what’s beneath the surface. Each strand of hair consists of two separate components, the bulb follicle and the shaft.

Hair bulb follicle: The living part that anchors each strand of hair to the scalp, forming the base that secretes sebum to lubricate the hair. The human scalp contains approximately 100,000 hair follicles.

Hair shaft: The non-living part above the surface of the skin that gives your hair its major blowout appearance, composed of keratin (a type of tough protein) and three layers, namely the medulla, cortex, and cuticle.

The outermost cuticle comprises of thousands of overlapping cells that lay flat towards the ends of hair to protect the inner structure and control water content in hair fibres while the middle layer cortex gives hair its natural colour and adds elasticity and strength to it. The medulla forms the innermost pith layer that is especially prominent across most asian hair types, giving us the thick luscious hair envied by many around the world.

So what exactly happens when hair is damaged? When hair is striped of moisture and natural oils, a vital lipid-coated membrane layer that functions similar to the skin barrier is breached, causing hair to become extremely porous. The first line of defence is breached.

Now picture the outermost layer of hair that is the cuticle. When exposed to chemical processes or excessive heat (stay tuned below for more causes of hair damaged!), what happens is that the protective cells surrounding it will be raised for potent solutions like bleach to enter the cortex layer, further weakening the overall integrity of the hair.

With a compromised lipid envelope, the hair shaft naturally becomes more brittle and fragile, resulting in hair that is prone to breaking. Consequences include split ends, thinning hair, hair breakage, and hair loss on top of dry and frizzy hair that appear dull and just straight-up unkempt.

What does hair porosity have to do with damaged hair?

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Remember the lipid-coated membrane we talked about earlier? That’s called the integral hair lipid and serves as an environmental resistance with its strong bond to the keratinised surface of the hair. As the hair’s first external defence system, it is vital to preventing gaps or tears around the cuticle that result in high porosity.

The higher the porosity, the greater the hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture and product. While that may sound ideal, we explain why this can lead to damaged hair altogether.

High porosity: Hair with high porosity tend to absorb moisture and release it too quickly, causing it to become dry and brittle. Check: your hair has excess frizz and air dries pretty fast.

Low porosity: On the other hand, hair with low porosity typically have cuticles that lay flat against the shaft, blocking all sorts of moisture from entering. This makes it harder for water to saturate and moisturise hair and often leads to nasty product build-up. Check: your hair takes a long time to fully soak up water during a wash, product have a tendency to sit on top of your hair.

An easy way to find out your hair’s porosity is to run a finger down a strand of hair. If it feels smooth, you’ve got low porosity hair. If it feels rough and bumpy, that’s because hair cuticles are wide open meaning your hair is extremely porous.

While debunked several years ago, the water bowl test stands popular amongst many. It’s said that by placing a strand of hair into a stagnant bowl of water and observing it, you can tell which hair type you have. If it sinks to the bottom, it has high porosity, whereas if it floats above the surface of the water, chances are your hair does not absorb moisture easily. For hair that floats above the bottom of the bowl but does not quite reach the top, congratulations, your hair is of normal porosity.

What causes damaged hair & how to treat it

But no matter your hair porosity, there are a handful of basic rules to observe in order to obtain the best crown. We break them down for you and cover how best to repair damaged hair for a start.

Here are five reasons your hair damage might be caused by.

#1: Shampooing your hair excessively without treatment

While it’s totally understandable why you’d want to give your tresses a good douse at the end of each day (here in hot and humid Singapore where dirt and sebum can quickly congest and clog up follicles), it’s not advisable to clean out your scalp more than once a day, especially if you do not have an oily scalp.

This is because when shampooing on a daily basis, the hair can get stripped of its natural oils that keep hair hydrated since shampoo isn’t able to tell the “good” oils from bad ones, resulting in dry ends and an even drier scalp. Unless you turn into an ultimate greaseball from skipping a wash, it’s best to allow your sebaceous glands protect your hair naturally and keep the shampooing sessions to a minimum.

The treatment

Or if you can’t shake off the habit of daily shampooing, nourish your dry ends with the right hair oils for damaged hair.

This lightweight leave-in oil-serum transforms dull, shapeless, damaged hair to sumptuously soft and luscious locks with its enriching sunflower oil formula. It works to retain moisture and control frizz all day without appearing oily. 

Run a few drops through wet hair after shampoo and let air dry.

Suitable for before or after shampooing, and as a final touch for damaged hair.

Retails for S$26.90. Click on the link to check for promotions.

Watsons

To tame damaged hair that’s unruly, apply one or two pumps of this hair oil through the midshaft to ends for smoother, glossier tresses that show no signs of damage or frizz.

This multitasking hair oil comprises of a perfect blend of African galanga root extract and nutrient-rich ama, borage, and baobab oil that work to shield hair from harmful UV rays as well. 

Retails for S$45. Click on the link to check for promotions.

Sephora

#2: Blow drying too frequently

You just got out of the shower, straight to the hair dryer it is. We get it, here in Singapore, there’s nothing more precious than time. Be it to avoid the morning traffic or to catch some precious Z’s ASAP, it’s key to take the time to care for our tresses.

A blow-drying session damages your hair when water inside hair fibres heats up, causing the water droplets to turn to steam. This causes permanent damage as the heat dries out the scalp and deprives your strands of moisture, resulting in dull, lifeless hair.

That being said, the same goes for heat styling tools. Using a straightener or heated curler can fry hair fibres, leading to raised cuticles — an absolute no-go for those with high hair porosity!

The treatment

Our advice is opt for air-drying where possible, however, if you have to blow-dry, here are a few solutions.

Instead of blow drying with hot air, your hair will suffer less damage with a cooler setting. Be sure to dial down the temperature on your hair dryer and hold it six to eight inches away from hair to prevent the weakening of the hair shaft. As a good rule of thumb, it is also crucial to move the air-dryer around every half a second to prevent a concentrated heat spot that aggravates hair condition even further.

Another way to prevent damage if you’re insistent on using heat is to use a heat protectant appropriate for your hair texture prior to blow drying. We’re loving the Living Proof Restore Instant Protection Hairspray that tames static while adding protection (from UV rays as well!). This silicon-free spray helps to amp up the volume on usually-flat Asian hair without weighing hair down.

Living Proof Restore Instant Protection

Living Proof Restore Instant Protection

Providing heat protection of up to 230°C, this protectant promises to last for 24 hours and is suitable for all hair types.

Retails for S$42. Click on the link to check for promotions.

Sephora

Redken Satinwear 04 Blow Dry Lotion

Redken Satinwear 04 Blow Dry Lotion

Reach for this if you’re looking a blow dry lotion that reduces friction and breakage. Functioning as a reparative lotion that helps hair become instantly manageable and frizz-free, this heat activated product is the first step to any perfect blow dry.

Retails for S$35.53.

Amazon

DV Tip: To know if your heat protectant works, try applying some to your hand before directing the blow dryer in hot setting at it. If your hand heats up unbearably, your protectant isn’t working for you, unlike these 13 best-selling ones that are sure to put your mind at ease. Find a suitable product that creates an effective protective barrier to prevent heat from penetrating deeper into hair follicles.

It’s also best to strictly avoid going over hair lengths more than twice if you’re using a straightener as already vulnerable strands can be worsened during heat processes.

#3: Brushing too much (especially when hair is wet)

If you fall into the group who runs a brush through your hair rather frequently but still notice rough textured hair, it could be a case of having too much of a good thing.

As you run a brush through your hair excessively, friction and damage may be generated, causing breakage and split ends as the cuticle undergoes repetitive trauma. Sensitive hair (hair that has received recent chemical services like bleaching, dyeing, relaxing) and hair with high porosity may suffer to a higher degree as the number of gaps and tears in the hair cuticle may increase.

It’s also important to avoid running a brush through your wet hair. This is due to the fact that hair strands have the most elasticity when damp and tend to stretch out easily, making them awfully fragile and prone to snapping.

However, if you’re one to skip on hair brushing altogether, here’s why you should adopt this habit into your life now. Brushing stimulates blood circulation which generates hair growth, oxygenates the scalp, and eliminates impurities. This means a healthier scalp that produce stronger hair. Brushing also aids in bringing down natural oils from root to tip, strengthening the protective barrier against harmful external factors.

The treatment

If you can’t wait for hair to dry completely and absolutely need a way to tame your unruly hair, use a wide-tooth comb instead to section out the hair or use a brush specially designed to detangle wet hair.

Tangle Teezer The Wet Detangler Hair Brush

Tangle Teezer The Wet Detangler Hair Brush

This hair brush is fitted with 325 teeth to confidently manage your locks while reducing the chances of breakage with this brush that glides through lengths without painful snagging. It’s suitable for use on both wet and dry hair!

Retails for S$35. Click on the link to check for promotions.

Sephora

As for regular brushing, avoid those with stiff and hard plastic bristles that have the tendency to pull at hair strands resulting in external abrasion. Instead, you’d want to find one that bends and moulds with your hair as you take it through your lengths.

Christophe Robin Boar Bristle Detangling Hairbrush

Christophe Robin Boar Bristle Detangling Hairbrush Award-winning

The  is an award-winning tool sworn by many around the world. Made of 100% natural boar hair, this extremely gentle hairbrush slides through knots and tame frizz in seconds.

Despite its hefty price tag, you can be guaranteed a head full of (good) shine and strengthened tresses.

Retails for S$163. Click on the link to check for promotions.

Sephora

#4: You’re putting your hair up in a topknot or high pony too often

We get it, these may be the easiest ways to manage your hair especially if you’re gruelling through a tough gym session, but pulling your strands up in a tight band for long hours can be more detrimental to hair follicles and its cuticles than you know it.

Going for the same updo for days in a row could eventually leave dents and kinks in your hair with repeated pressure on the same spot.

The treatment

To avoid wear and tear of the hair cuticles, it’s best to change up your hairstyle and utilise a different set of accessories to keep them out of your face every now and then.

It’s best to put aside intricate accessories that bite at hair fibres and go for hair ties without snaggy metal bits that could cause breakage. We recommend these telephone cord-like hair ties and silky scrunchies that leave zero traces of kinks even with long hours and glide on and off easily.

Kitsch Hair Coils

Kitsch Hair Coils

These hair coils spreads the pressure of hair elastic over a great surface area so that it won’t add kinks or pressure on your hair.

We love that they come in fun pops of colour that also look good around your wrist.

Retails for S$8 for a pack of four. Click on the link to check for promotions.

Sephora

Silk Scrunchies

Silk Scrunchies

In 15 different colours, you can seriously consider getting all of them so you can pair it with whatever outfit you’re wearing.

Retails for S$9.98. There’s a 89% discount going on at the time of writing. Click on the link to see latest price.

Shopee

#5: You’re not protecting your hair from UV rays

Similar to SPF sun care on our skin, our tresses require protection from UV rays that damage our hair’s cuticles and break down its protein, keratin. This results in dull, weakened, dry, frizzy, and damaged hair prone to tangles.

The treatment

To protect your strands, it’s best to use thermal protection like donning a wide-brimmed hat or UV heat protectors when heading out.

We’ve rounded up 17 of the best UV heat protectors that also shield your hair from the sun — psst, these can be used prior to heat styling as well!

Best professional hair masks for damaged hair

Abyssinian Abyssinian Oil Hair Mask

Abyssinian Abyssinian Oil Hair Mask

This hair mask deeply nourish your hair to help restore its healthy glow.

Its star ingredient is the Abyssinian oil, which has moisture-retention properties to help damaged hair recover and restore cuticle strength.

Retails for S$53. Click on the link to check for promotions.

Sephora

Moroccanoil Restorative Hair Mask

Moroccanoil Restorative Hair Mask

This is rich in protein and argan oil to help repair damaged hair so that it’s smoother and more manageable.

As a bonus, it has a pleasant scent so you’ll feel like taking a sniff at your tresses all day.

Retails for S$67. Click on the link to check for promotions.

Sephora

John Frieda Detox & Repair Hair Mask

John Frieda Detox & Repair Hair Mask Most affordable

Containing avocado oil that deeply nourishes hair and green tea, which is rich in antioxidants, this repairs damage while preventing it.

You’ll find that damaged hair becomes smoother and easier to manage after using this hair mask.

Retails for S$19.90. There’s an ongoing promotion at the time of writing. Click on the link to check for latest price.

Guardian

Joico Defy Damage Protective Masque

Joico Defy Damage Protective Masque

This deeply nourishing hair mask helps protect your tresses against heat damage, UV damage, and environmental aggressors.

On top of preventing damage, it also replenishes damaged hair by rebuilding broken hair bonds so it’s stronger and softer.

Retails for S$31. Click on the link to check for promotions.

LookFantastic

Salon treatments for damaged hair

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Keratin treatments and K-gloss are among some of the salon treatments you can consider for damaged hair.

Here are a few with the most attractive deals you can consider.

  • Ice Cold Hair Treatment by Tanubhi Beauty Care: Originally at S$80, you can redeem this voucher to get the treatment at S$55 and also enjoy a free scalp massage and blow dry service
  • Brazilian Keratin Hair Treatment by Forest Salon: Get more than 40% off this treatment with this exclusive deal.
  • K-Gloss S.4 Anti-Frizz Hair Smoothing Treatment by De Hair Profile: This is really a steal! At just S$148 (U.P: S$459), you’ll be getting the K-Gloss treatment, Olaplex Multiplier Treatment and a Director’s Cut for a total hair makeover. Get the deal here.
  • K-Gloss S.4 Keratin Treatment by Cair Salon: This pampering hair treatment for damaged hair is now available at S$178 instead of S$238 if you redeem this voucher now.
  • Keratin Hair Treatment by Spajelita: Enjoy this effective hair treatment at a fraction of its original price by checking out this deal. Now at just S$187.60 instead of S$268.
  • K-Gloss Formaldehyde-free Keratin Hair Treatment by Dsalon: Most keratin treatments contain formaldehyde, which is harmful to health, but not this one. And as a bonus, you can get this treatment at just S$168 (U.P: S$280) by redeeming this voucher.
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