When hair becomes over-processed from dying, chemical straightening, perms, or other chemical treatments, it can often become brittle, which leads to breakage. The scalp can even be affected, leading to hair loss. Plus, the hair itself just doesn't look too pretty (see Mischa Barton). With a little extra care and attention, you can avoid these negative effects and keep your hair looking shiny and healthy. Here are our top tips for restoring your hair after over-processing:
- Cut Down on Shampoo We hear it all the time: "my hair's too thin/fine/greasy to not shampoo every day!" The thing is, shampoos strip your hair of the natural oils that protect it, causing it to produce even more oils. Try to wean yourself off of every day shampooing slowly by using dry shampoo or baby powder to freshen your hair every other day. Shampooing less is often the key to healthier, fuller hair.
- Use a Protein Mask It's fine to buy a typical drugstore shampoo, but if you've colored your hair, you'll want to invest in a high-end protein treatment. You'll only need to use this once or twice a week so it'll last a long time. When you color your hair with permanent dye or bleach, the dye strips your hair of it's natural proteins which leads to brittle straw-like hair. You'll need to replace the lost protein on your own with a 15 minute protein treatment every week. Make sure to towel dry your hair before applying it as drier hair will allow the mask to penetrate more deeply.
- Use Coconut Oil Coconut oil is the only oil that's capable of actually penetrating the hair shaft. It can get into the holes and breaks in each strand and act almost like a glue to keep the hair from breaking, fraying, or splitting. You can use coconut oil as a 15 minute treatment before a shower, an overnight treatment in a shower cap, or just use a tiny bit on the dry ends of your hair when you feel like they need a little moisture. Less is more with Coconut Oil: a little goes a very long way.
- Use Demi Permanent Color If you must continue to color, try switching to a demi-permanent. Permanent color and bleach are the worst offenders for over-processing hair, leading to loss of protein. Demi-Permanent colors, which last 30 days, deposit color on top of the hair shaft rather than actually changing the hair's composition. If you must use a permanent (to cover grey, for instance) the darker the color the better. Darker colors have fewer harsh chemicals than lighter ones.
- Get Frequent Trims Or better yet, just chop off several inches. The truth is, once you've over-processed your hair, any treatments you might use are really like putting a bandage on an open wound. Most of the damage will be concentrated toward the bottom several inches of hair, because it's been exposed to the most dye over time. If you're willing to cut off these few inches (which, let's be honest, don't look that great anyway), your hair's appearance will most likely instantly improve. Otherwise, if you plan to continue coloring and processing, be sure to get a trim each time you color, or every 6-8 weeks. Your hair will thank you for it.