Don’t let your shampoo bottle fool you: Dry hair is not a hair type—it’s a condition that can be treated. Your first step: Find out what’s stripping strands of their natural oils. We asked experts in the field to nail down some culprits, as well as simple treatments to nix dry, damaged hair for good.
1. The Weather
“Summer includes overexposure to the sun, swimming, and products with alcohol, which can all dehydrate hair,” says Remington celebrity stylist Richard Marin. “And with winter comes extreme cold followed by overheated indoors, which can make hair parched and dry.”
2. Smoothing Treatments
Too many smoothing treatments done close together can leave your locks super thirsty. “These treatments work effectively to smooth out hair and make it luscious and dreamy, but if they are done too frequently, the buildup of protein on the hair causes it to become brittle,” says hairstylist Sylvia Vaught, who’s also the founder of L.A.-based home blowout service Blow Me.
3. Hormone Changes
“Birth control pills, pregnancy, and menopause are all times of physiological shifts within the body that can have an adverse effect on the hair, including dryness and brittleness,” says Vaught. She recommends seeing your doctor to discuss treatment options.
4. Using the Wrong Shampoo
Not all shampoos are created equal: Vaught warns against using your man’s drying shampoo when yours runs out. “You would be better off rinsing your hair a few times with just water to remove some of the oil, rather than risk the stripping effects of a shampoo that is not right for you,” she says.
5. Brushing Hair When Wet
“Remember that hair is most susceptible to breakage when it is wet,” says Vaught. This won’t necessarily dry the hair, but it will leave the ends brittle and lead to breakage down the entire strand. Instead of brushing wet hair, use a comb with a bit of leave-in conditioner on it.
6. Daily Heat Styling
Whether it’s the dryer or flat iron, daily heat to the hair will strip the hair of moisture. “This causes quite a bit of unnecessary damage that can be avoided,” says Vaught. If heat is imperative, aim to keep the temperature below 400 degrees.
How to Fix Damage That’s Already Been Done
1. Go Thicker in the Winter
“Dry and brittle hair is a common problem year round, but these dry winter months leave many searching for a magic moisturizing solution,” says Vaught. A simple fix: Go heavier on the conditioner. “Just as you may use a heavier face cream, your hair also needs a heavier dose of moisture. Try Kevin Murphy Hydrate Me ($27, kevinmurphy.com)—it packs a great moisture punch.”
2. Use an Ion Blow Dryer
“Ions dry the hair from the outside, versus a traditional dryer, which dries from within the hair shaft to the outer layer,” says Marin. “This makes a huge impact on the health of your hair and is a huge time saver, as ions dry hair faster.”
3. Straighten Hair When Wet
“One of my favorite quick-conditioning treatments is to use a wet/dry straight iron, the Remington Wet 2 Straight Iron($22.99, target.com),” says Marin. “Apply argan oil onto damp hair, and run the iron over it for a quick heat conditioning treatment. You will notice a dramatic difference in just one application.”
4. …Or Skip the Straightener All Together
If hair won’t stay completely straight, go for a different look. “How about using a salt texturized to create a bit of movement instead?” says Vaught. “R+Co has a great one called Rockaway Salt Spray($25, randco.com).”
5. Deep Condition Once a Week
Mark one day on your calendar for a conditioning mask reminder. “Simply wash your hair, put on a deep conditioning mask, wrap your hair in a hot towel for 30 minutes, and voila,” says Vaught. Your hair will be silkier and smoother.
6. Use Sulfate-Free Formulas
These formulas are most commonly recommended for those with color-treated hair because sulfates fade color. However, they also remove moisture. “Make sure to wash and condition hair every time with sulfate-free formulas,” says Marin.