With so many products and tools to choose from for hair "care" and styling it is hard to find a place to begin. So it seems only fitting to start with the content and structure of hair to more easily see how it can be damaged. As we all know our hair is very fragile, even more so when we begin our daily routine of washing, drying, brushing, and styling.
Hair consists of three layers; the medulla, the cortex, and the cuticle. The inner most fibers make up the medulla which is surrounded by the cortex; and the cuticle is the outer layer that protects the inner more sensitive parts. Hair is made from proteins which are held together by bonds. They grow from follicles in the scalp.
Looking at the obvious, if the cuticle is damaged, then the more sensitive inner fibers are exposed and hair becomes dry and easily broken. Washing our hair is a daily event, which strips our hair of its natural ability to protect itself if not done properly. Although countless hours of research have gone into making shampoos beneficial for our hair, too much of a good thing can have a negative effect. Over-shampooing causes the hair to lose its natural moisture that keeps hair looking healthy and shiny.
Blow drying and straightening and/or curling hair without protecting it can cause severe damage to your hair if not done correctly and periodically. This "heat styling" is literally frying your hair. It may look great for a while but as we continue to do it over time it destroys the hair and can cause permanent damage. It will become dry, brittle, and damaged.
Many would look at this and think; well I guess I will just stick to using chemical products to style my hair instead of "frying" it with a blow dryer. This couldn't be further from the truth. Hair is made up of proteins which are held together with bonds. Chemicals break down the bonds and proteins and make them weaker. If this process is continued over and over again the hair will become so brittle it will actually just break off. This can be avoided if the correct processes, products and techniques are used.
Just the environment can damage hair also. The sun, water and wind can inflict mayhem on hair, drying and causing frizzing.
The worst thing we can do to our hair is bleaching. Bleaching the hair penetrates the outer protective cuticle layer with chemicals and erases the natural pigment. In doing this the structure of the hair is changed making it more susceptible to damage. Couple this with heat styling and blow drying and you could have that dull look with split ends in no time.
Perming is another good way to destroy hair. Once again chemicals are used to either create curl or create straight hair. This chemical styling procedure breaks the inner structure of your hair. Basically it takes healthy straight hair and breaks and weakens the structure to create unhealthy curls, and vice versa for curly hair to make it straight.
Even if you don't use anything and just brush your hair and wear it in braids or a ponytail can cause damage. Over brushing can break hair and cause split ends. Pulling and wearing hair tightly like in a braid or ponytail can break hair. If this is worn everyday it can cause permanent damage.
It looks as though like nothing we do to our hair actually helps it any. But, with all this done in moderation with help from professionals and utilizing the correct techniques and products; we can mitigate the negative effects all this styling has on our hair. But every once in awhile we need to just give our hair a break and let it go.