Damaged Hair vs. Healthy Hair

What is the state of your hair? Is it healthy? Dry? Or damaged? Can your hair be dry and damaged? Definitely. But it can also be one or the other. There are a few signs to look out for that will help you distinguish the differences:

Characteristics of healthy hair. Healthy hair will have an appropriate balance of the following properties:

  • Elasticity- the ability of the hair to be stretched or manipulated without breaking.
  • Porosity- the hairs’ ability to absorb moisture (can range from low to high)
  • Strength- the ability of the hair to resist breakage with manipulation

Healthy textured hair should:

  • Have minimal breakage
  • Feel soft to the touch
  • Appear shiny or possess some sheen
  • Have the ability to retain moisture properly
  • Have a reasonably uniform curl pattern from the base of the hair to the ends
  • Shrinkage- Return to its original position after being stretched


Ways to tell if your hair is damaged:

Damage can be defined as any condition where one or more of the hair structures – the cuticle, cortex, medulla, etc. – are physically or chemically altered so much that they are unable to return to their original state. The hair’s cuticles can become cracked and frayed, damaging the cortex and medulla, and the hair fiber can be exposed and unprotected in extreme cases. When hair is damaged, it is often because the protein bonds in the hair itself have become broken due to excessive chemical hair treatments, which result in the hair being weakened and in turn, breaking.

Common causes of hair damage: regular hair care practices such as mechanical manipulation (includes damage from friction and tension), heat styling, to chemical processes like permanent color, bleach, etc.

The question is, to what extent is your hair damaged?

Texture. Run your finger along a hair strand to find out how it feels; does it feel rough or bumpy? If there is a noticeable difference in smoothness on a single strand of hair from root to ends, chances are you have gaps in your hair strand, which is a significant sign of breakage. Protein treatments help to fill in the gaps/holes temporarily along the hair shaft.

Split ends. Split ends can easily be mistaken for frizz. Split ends are the damaged tips of the hair shaft that have split into two or three fragments. If your hair looks full and voluminous at the roots and much thinner at the ends, your ends are probably damaged.

Hair loss/Breakage. Normal daily shedding is anywhere from 50 to 150 hairs. If you notice excessive daily hair shedding for longer than three months, or you notice an increasingly significant amount of shedding, there could be an underlying medical condition or some other factor that needs to be addressed, consider consulting your doctor to find out if your hair loss is caused by illnesses, medications, thyroid conditions, or other serious causes of hair loss.

Possible external factors are- excessive heat, wrong products used, too much mechanical stress, buildup, chemical processes, too many split ends, etc.

Unruly tangles. Textured hair is more prone to damage than straight hair. If you are doing all the right things with your detangling session and are still wrestling with unruly tangles, your hair may be damaged. You know your hair best, and if it was soft and full before and now it’s dull, thinning, tangled, and will not hold a style, then you know something isn’t right. 

Elasticity. Hair is elastic, especially when wet, but one of the biggest problems with elasticity loss is that it can sometimes be hard to diagnose. Elasticity is what makes hair styling possible and is a telltale sign of hair health. To test if your hair has lost its elasticity, stretch a strand of hair while it’s wet. If the strand breaks with little to no stretching, it may need more moisture. If it stretches a bit and then returns to its natural state, then it’s normal elasticity. If it stretches more than usual and then breaks or feels limp and or mushy between your fingers, then it may need protein.

Dry hair. Dry hair does not equal damaged hair. Believe it or not, hair can get dehydrated. When your hair doesn’t maintain enough moisture, the result is dry and dull-looking. It can cause some hair types to become frizzy and others to fall flat.

What Does Dry Hair Look Like? Dry hair has a brittle texture to touch, and stray hairs may be visible. You may also notice an itchy scalp and dandruff. If you don’t take care of your hair properly, dry hair may become easily knotted and result in breakage, causing you to lose more hair than average.

Pillowcases and towels; two things we don’t think about concerning dry hair. The benefits of having a silk or satin pillowcase are that it creates less friction on the hair, allows the hair a gentle surface, helps prevents tangles, and protects hair from breakage and friction. Friction can disrupt the cuticle layer of the hair, which causes bed head and frizzy hair. Silk or satin fibers are also less absorbent than most other materials, keeping your hair and skin’s moisture intact.

One of the most important things that come after your shower is what you use to dry your hair. Chances are, you reach for a cotton bath towel and wrap your hair up in a turban, or perhaps you use it to pat or rub the excess water out of your hair. The problem lies with your towel of choice. The course, dry texture of cotton or terry cloth towels, can damage your delicate, wet hair and can worsen split ends. Microfiber towels are better for your hair because the material is softer and more gentle than cotton, making it ideal for drying without added friction or damage.

Common causes of dry hair:

  • Age
  • Environmental factors
  • Excessive hair habits (i.e., too much of shampooing, conditioning, coloring, etc.)
  • Chlorine
  • Improper diet
  • Lack of water
  • Low thread count cotton pillowcase

 What do we recommend for damaged hair?

Take our hair quiz to find out which products are best for your hair type. 

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