How To Stop Hair Breakage: Causes, Natural Treatments & More
If there's one thing that can make having a good hair day nigh impossible it's dealing with hair breakage. If you find that your strands are dry, brittle, and practically snapping in the blink of an eye, you're probably desperately searching for the solution for how to stop hair breakage fast. And thankfully, the answer is simple: You have to find out the cause of your hair breakage and address it there.
And since the infatuation with hot tools, dye jobs, and chemical processing is constantly on the rise, don't fret; you're not alone in dealing with your hair breakage. It's actually more common than we think.
That's why we tapped two hair experts to get the scoop on hair breakage, what it is, why it happens, and how to stop it ASAP.
What is hair breakage & why does it happen?
According to celebrity hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimmons, hair breakage is a term used to describe the breakdown of an inner cuticle with overlapping scales that works to help the hair be bonded together.
"When the scales fall apart, the hairs become dry and separate from one another, which can result in split ends and shortened hair strands," Fitzsimmons says. He continues that if this type of damage isn't addressed, it can lead to full-blown hair breakage where strands fall out altogether. And we can guarantee, that's not on anyone's hair goals wish list.
Physical & chemical damage.
Fitzsimmons says there are two main reasons for hair breakage: physical damage or chemical damage. Physical damage of the hair can include overuse of hot tools, over-washing, or even unhealthy habits like improper towel drying, tension, or over-pulling.
As far as chemical damage goes, that's likely caused by treatments and dye jobs that push the hair past its limit. "When the hair is overprocessed, past its breaking point, the hair's bonds can be easily damaged and become extremely dried out," Fitzsimmons says.
Which leads us to another main cause of breakage: dryness. Celebrity hairstylist Annagjid "Kee" Taylor says not getting enough moisture on your strands will make them brittle and susceptible to breaking. This is one of the reasons keeping moisture levels balanced in the hair and scalp is key to healthy hair and proper hair growth.
And since those with naturally curly or textured strands tend to experience dryness more than straight, fine-haired folks, these hair types can be more prone to hair breakage. But Fitzsimmons says fine and thinner hair types should keep an eye out for excessive tangling and split ends, which can cause brittleness in texture and lead to further damage all around.
How do I know if I'm experiencing breakage?
Taylor says the quick and easy test to knowing if you're dealing with hair breakage is to examine the strands of hair that are falling out. "If the strands falling out are not as long as your hair's length and are much shorter, brittle, and broken into several pieces or split, your hair is breaking," she says.
Fitzsimmons says other signs of hair breakage are lack of sheen, split ends, and visible texture differences. These can all easily stem from a lack of hydration in the hair, which, as previously noted, is a main factor when it comes to hair breakage.
If you're not sure if you're dealing with shedding or breakage, Fitzsimmons recommends looking at the hair lost to determine the cause. "When you shed hair, you will often see a small bulb-like attachment on the bottom of your hair strand that you won't see with hair breakage," he says. "That little bulb usually indicates that it has come directly from the scalp, having essentially been shed off."
So, how do I stop hair breakage?
If your hair is at the point where it's breaking, that means damage has already been done. Hair, unlike skin which is living, is much harder to tend to. However, you can address the breakage that's occurring right now so it doesn't get any worse. This can be done with a one-two punch of two treatments: moisture and protein.
Fitzsimmons and Taylor agree, moisture is the key to stopping hair breakage in its tracks. "The most needed properties for stronger hair are hydration and protein," Fitzsimmons says. Try a dense, deep treatment (like Virtue Restorative Treatment Mask) or a daily moisturizing spray (like Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Aloe + Oat Milk Ultra Soothing Spray).
If you want additional tips on hydrating hair, check out the full guide.
It's also a good idea to reach for hair products that are rich in proteins and ingredients that address reconstructing the hair bonds so they are stronger and have more ability to withstand physical and chemical stressors. For a natural protein source in hair care, look for hydrolyzed quinoa or soy proteins. (Here's a favorite from the team: Aveda Damage Remedy Intensive Restructuring Treatment, which has jojoba oil and quinoa proteins.)
But Fitzsimmons does note that it is imperative that you combine hydration with any protein treatment for best results. "Hydration is needed to work with protein because too much protein can easily make the hair brittle."
Can I prevent future breakage?
The short answer is yes. The long answer is that taking care of your hair thoughtfully will prevent breakage from occurring anyway. Adopting healthy habits in your hair care routine can not only help eliminate breakage, but it can prevent it from occurring in the first place, too.
- If you like to heat style your hair, use a heat protectant. "Not only does this help protect hair from the damaging effects of heat, but these products can also provide nourishing vitamins and nutrients to the hair to make it stronger," Fitzsimmons says.
- Maintaining consistent trims is key to preventing breakage, too. Most pros recommend trimming your ends every six to eight weeks to keep split and damaged ends to a minimum. (See our guide to getting your hair cut by length.)
- If you're a supplement kinda gal or guy, consider collagen supplementation. "Since collagen delivers essential building blocks (i.e., amino acids) for keratin, the major hair protein, taking collagen in supplement form will support the hair from the inside out,*" Taylor says. Collagen peptide powders contain a variety of amino acids—including many of the primary amino acids that make up your hair follicle and the actual strains of hair too.*
Hair breakage is common but can be avoided and improved upon if the right measures are taken. If you think you're dealing with hair breakage, protein and moisture are your best friends.* And it may not be a bad idea to lay off the hot tools and color jobs for a while. And of course, adopting a healthy and consistent hair care routine is always key to having healthy, strong strands from root to tip.
Andrea Jordan is a beauty and lifestyle freelance writer covering topics from hair and skincare to family and home. She received her bachelor's in Magazine Journalism from Temple University and you can find her work at top publications like InStyle, PopSugar, StyleCaster, Business Insider, PureWow and OprahMag. When she's not writing, you can find Andrea tackling new recipes in the kitchen or babysitting one of her many nieces and nephews. She currently resides in New Jersey with her husband and cat, Silas.