You wash, you condition, you brush and you style, and most of the time, you think your hair is in pretty good shape. But then, if you're anything like us, you start to notice those pesky split ends and dry strands emerging, and wonder where on earth you went wrong.
Well, wonder no more, because we've done some digging and found some really common causes of hair and scalp damage that most of us don't even realise are impacting our locks. It's not as simple as expensive shampoo or electronics - in fact, sometimes it's the most expensive products that cause the most harm (we're looking at you, searingly-hot £100 straighteners...)
Want to fix your hair care problems? From the products you use to your drying technique, here are 8 ways you could be damaging your hair without even realising...
Using dry shampoo
Dry shampoo is a lifesaver when you're in a hurry, but you shouldn't use it as a regular solution. Trichologist Ian Sallis explains to the Daily Mail, 'If you put make-up on every day but never washed your face, your skin would soon start to suffer. It would feel dry and irritated, and look horrible. The same is true of using dry shampoo on your scalp and hair.' Overuse of the spray can lead to flaky, sore skin, blocked pores and scaling, and in extreme cases can cause seborrheic dermatitis, so only use it when your hair is unfeasibly greasy and you really don't have time to wash.
You know it, we know it, so why are we all still doing it?! Straightening, curling and blow-drying your hair adds excessive heat and can lead to dryness, split ends, breakage, and a wealth of other woes that make it look like it needs a stint in hair rehab. If you're going to heat style your hair, always use a heat protection spray and use the lowest heat setting available on your chosen tool. This applies particularly to people with fine hair - your hair is more fragile and susceptible to damage, but because it's thinner, a lower temperature should still achieve the result you want.
You might think drying your hair with your towel is kinder to it than blow drying, and in some ways, you're right. However, it turns out this still isn't the most ideal method of scrunching the water out of your locks. Vigorously rubbing your hair with this type of material can rough up the cuticle, causing frizz and long-term, damage to the strand. Instead, either blot your hair gently with the towel to minimise friction, or switch to a microfibre towel or cotton t-shirt instead.
Sitting in the sun
It's not just your skin that needs SPF! Prolonged exposure to the sun's UVA and UVB rays can cause a surprising amount of damage to your hair's structure, making it brittle, dry and prone to breakage. You can buy sprays that are essentially sunscreen for hair, or cover up with a wide-brimmed hat and get a similar effect. This will also protect the delicate skin on your scalp that's exposed by your parting - it's often forgotten about, but so important to take care of!
Scraping it back
Lovers of tight ponytails and stuck-to-your-scalp topknots may want to rethink their go-to hairstyles after reading this... Pulling your hair back can not only make your strands more likely to snap, it can actually lead to a condition called traction alopecia, where tension causes damage to the hair follicle, eventually leading to hair loss. Give your hair a break from braids, buns and the like at least every other day, and be careful with extensions, as they can cause this kind of damage too.
How often you should wash your hair is a personal thing, but one thing is for sure - over washing can be just as bad for your hair as not washing it at all! It strips out the natural oils that your hair and scalp need and can bring on sensitivity and breakage. Side note: once your hair is wet, don't brush it to get the tangles out - dampness weakens hair and makes it more likely to break, so work on knots gently with a wide-tooth comb, rather than ripping through with your closest-set bristles.
Eating the wrong foods
Eating well is one thing, but eating for good hair brings a whole other set of quandaries into the mix! Because its basic structure is comprised of protein, healthy hair needs meat and oily fish (or the healthy fats of eggs, dairy or pulses and nuts if you're veggie or vegan), as well as the vitamins that leafy greens like spinach provide. Cutting out sugar is also said to boost the look of your locks, so if you can bear to cut out your daily biscuit allowance, your mane will benefit as much as your waistline.
Feel like your hair is falling out more than normal? Stress could be to blame. Sara G Allison, a Harley Street Trichologist and an expert in hair loss, says, 'Try to cut down on stress to minimise damage. Practice breathing exercises when you feel life is getting on top of you. This can really help calm and relax you ensuring you can deal with the situation in a more rational way. If you do this regularly you can halt the stress before it takes over.'