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Here’s What Causes Hair Breakage And How To Stop It

If your hair is prone to breakage, it can make it that much harder to style it and feel good about the way it looks. To deal with severe hair breakage, it helps to take a closer look at what causes hair breakage in the first place. Learn about the signs of hair breakage, and what you can do about it, here.

First, A Quick Primer On The Structure Of Hair

To optimize your hair health, it helps to understand the structure of your hair. Each strand of hair is made up of a hair follicle and a hair shaft. The hair shaft has three layers:

  • Cuticle: The outer layer of your hair. It’s made of flat cells that overlap like shingles on a roof. The cuticle layer protects the inner layers of your hair.
  • Cortex: Under the cuticle, you have the cortex. This layer is made of long protein fibers called keratin. These keratin proteins are coiled together, like an old school phone cord. This layer determines the strength, color, and texture of your hair.
  • Medulla: The innermost layer of the shaft is called the medulla. This is a soft, spongy area of tissue. Not everyone has a medulla layer – typically those with coarse or curly hair will and those with fine hair may not.1

Your hair has a natural system for maintaining its health. It uses sebum, or oil, to fill in the gaps between cuticle cells. This is designed to naturally keep your hair shiny and flexible so it is less likely to break.2

What Are The Signs Of Hair Breakage?

Healthy hair depends on a strong cuticle layer that protects the hair shaft. With damaged hair, the cuticle layer may be cracked, weakened, or worn off. Without protection from the cuticle layer, the inner cortex fibers are also vulnerable to damage. This can lead to dry, damaged hair that breaks easily.3

Here are the signs that your hair may be vulnerable to hair breakage:

  • what causes hair breakage | KintsugiYour hair looks frizzy near the crown of your head. This is a sign that some hair has broken off in that area.
  • Your hair looks frizzy or coarse near the ends. Hair may have broken off or split here.
  • You can visibly see split ends where your hair is breaking.
  • Your hair feels brittle or rough. This may be a sign of cuticle damage, which may make it more likely that your hair could break.
  • Your hair looks dull. If your cuticle cells are lying flat as they should be, your hair should appear naturally shiny, not dull.
  • Your hair feels or looks dry. This could indicate dehydration or hair damage.
  • Your hair breaks if you pull on it lightly (when pulling it up in a ponytail or brushing it, for example). Healthy hair should be able to withstand light pulling.4,5

What Causes Hair Breakage?

If the signs of hair breakage sound all-too-familiar, you may be wondering why this is happening to you. Here are some possible causes of hair breakage.

Heat Styling

If you regularly use hot tools on their highest setting without any heat protectant, you may be damaging your hair cuticle. This can weaken your hair, making it more vulnerable to breakage.6

Hot Water

Scorching hot showers may feel great to some people, but they can do a number on your hair. Using hot water instead of warm or cool water may cause the fatty lipids in your cuticle layer to dissolve, which can weaken your hair shaft and cause breakage.7

what causes hair breakage | KintsugiTowel Drying

When your hair is wet after a shower, it’s in its most vulnerable state. If you rub wet hair vigorously with your towel to dry off, you may damage it. Blotting it with an absorbent microfiber towel is a more gentle way to dry your tresses.8

Chemical Processing

Chemical treatments, like perms, relaxers, chemical straightening, and coloring, may weaken your hair cuticle. Without the protection from your cuticle, your hair is susceptible to damage and breakage.9

Tight Hairstyles

If you often wear your hair up in a tight hairstyle, you may be stressing your hair out. Tight styles, like high ponytails and ballerina buns, tug on your hair and may make it more susceptible to breakage.10

Going Too Long Between Haircuts

Trimming your hair on a regular basis can help protect it from breakage caused by split ends. Some beauty experts recommend going in for a cut every 1-3 months. If you’re not sure if it’s time to get a cut, look at your ends. If they look split and your hair tangles easily, it may be time for a trim.11

Your Diet

Your hair needs certain nutrients to grow into the healthy, shiny mane we all dream of. Nutrients like vitamins A, C, D, and E, zinc, iron, biotin, folic acid, and protein are some of the important ones. If your hair seems dull or brittle, your diet may be something to look into.12


what causes hair breakage | Kintsugi

Stress can lead to severe hair breakage. A type of stress called telogen effluvium can cause your hair follicles to go dormant. This can stunt a normal growth cycle and cause hair to break off mid-cycle.13

Is Hair Breakage Permanent?

Is hair breakage permanent? Yes and no. If your hair has broken off, then yes, it is permanent and will not grow back in the area where it broke off. However, there are so many things you can do to prevent excessive hair breakage and reverse course if your hair is already damaged.14

How To Help Reduce Hair Breakage

Try A Cleansing Conditioner

what causes hair breakage | KintsugiIf your hair feels dry and tends to break easily, consider replacing your typical shampoo with a cleansing conditioner. A cleansing conditioner gently cleanses your scalp and hair without stripping it of natural oils like a conventional shampoo might. People with damaged hair may benefit from this rich boost of much-needed moisture. As a result, your hair may feel more lustrous and silky to the touch.15

Spritz On A Conditioning Spray

Hair that is prone to breakage is often dry, frizzy, and thirsty for moisture. If your hair is looking dull, a leave-in conditioner spray may be able to help. Some quality conditioning sprays work by smoothing down cuticle cells to provide better protection for your hair.16

Show Your Scalp Some Love

A dry, damaged scalp may lead to dry, damaged hair. For healthy-looking hair that is less prone to breakage, try a scalp treatment. A quality scalp treatment may support the natural oil on your scalp and help infuse moisture into your roots. This may result in healthier hair.17

Use Heat Styling Tools Carefully

You don’t have to quit your blow dryer cold turkey, but you may want to think about changing your hair routine. When using heat tools, always spritz on a heat protectant spray first. You can also use some leave-in conditioning sprays for this purpose.

Try turning down the heat setting on your hair dryer and pulling your arm away to make some space, too. It may take you a few more minutes to dry your hair, but it’s a more gentle way to style it that could lead to less breakage.18

what causes hair breakage | Kintsugi

Ensure You’re Getting The Nutrients You Need Through Your Diet

Your diet provides the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to support healthy hair. To prevent future hair breakage, consider eating more hair-healthy foods:

  • Eggs contain keratin-producing biotin.
  • Lean meat gives you the protein you need to grow healthy hair.
  • Fatty fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, a compound that supports hair growth.
  • Colorful fruits and veggies, like berries, contain antioxidants that can help protect your hair follicles.
  • Leafy greens contain sebum-producing vitamin A.
  • Avocados provide healthy fats and vitamin E that may help protect the hair from damage.19,20

Try A Hair Supplement

Overwhelmed by all of the nutrients you need to grow strong, healthy hair? A hair supplement may be an easy way to make sure you’re getting what you need. Look for ingredients like:

  • what causes hair breakage | KintsugiHyaluronic acid, which supports scalp moisture and hair health.21
  • Hydrolyzed collagen, which supports the protein fibers in the inner layer of your hair. This may help support stronger, healthier hair.22
  • Antioxidants, like quercetin and luteolin, which can support a healthy scalp that in turn supports healthy hair.23

Take A Deep Breath

If your hair seems to be breaking more than usual, try slowing down and taking the time to relax. Reducing stress can help with so many aspects of your life – including hair that is prone to hair breakage. Try some relaxation strategies, like mindfulness meditation, yoga, or going for a walk in nature. Reducing your stress can lower your cortisol levels, which may help with hair shedding and breakage.24

Stop Breakage Before It Starts

The best time to treat severe hair breakage is before it ever has a chance to happen. You can start today by trying a conditioning spray, a scalp treatment, or a cleansing conditioner. If you don’t already use a heat protectant spray, add that to your hair care routine. Add some hair-healthy nutrients to your diet – or pick up a hair supplement if you want to be sure you’re covered.

If you’re already seeing signs of hair breakage, don’t worry. Focus on hydration, get a trim, and start taking care of your hair as best as you can right now. The great thing about hair is that it generally continues to grow – especially if you treat it right.



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