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8 Ways You're Damaging Your Hair

Perms, highlights, extensions: In our quest for beauty are we sacrificing the hair on our heads? Here’s a breakdown of the damage too much styling can wreak on our tresses.

Causes of Hair Damage continued...

"The less vigorous you are in washing your hair, the less damage you'll do to the cuticle," Mirmirani tells WebMD. "And find a frequency to washing your hair that works for you ... whether it's a few times a week or every day."

How do you know when you are overdoing it?

"I have African-American patients who wash their hair once a week to avoid drying it out," Mirmirani says. "You can tell when it's too much if it starts to get dull, which means it's time to scale back on the shampooing."

 8. Extensions and weaves -- Extensions and weaves are a lot like ponytails and braids. Over time, they can leave hair broken and brittle. The difference is the damage is at the roots where it is harder to cut out.

"If you have a discomfort or ache in the scalp, that indicates that what you've done to your hair is causing too much pressure at the roots," Mirmirani says.

Worse, traction alopecia is a serious hair loss condition caused by wearing tight hairstyles like extensions for too long a time period. So either keep it loose, or try growing your hair instead of going for instant length.

Hair Repair

"Whether it's heat, chemicals, dyes, or styling, it's all doing some degree of damage," Mirmirani says. "A good rule of thumb is, the less you do to your hair, the better."

The good news is today's products, including dyes, are much better suited to our hair than 20 years ago, with technology and research helping to make most styling products actually beneficial to our hair.

How can you undo some of the damage done through countless visits to the salon?

"There are two things you can do," Mirmirani says. "First, cut off the damaged ends and start fresh. And try reducing what you're doing. ... If you notice your hair looking dull and dry, cut back on your styling until you get your hair back."

Larry Baron, the owner and head stylist at Spa Christine in Boston, says the trick to keeping your hair healthy is to maintain its pH balance.

"In order to close the hair cuticle and bring it back to health, you need to keep its pH balance at 4.5 -- that's the level at which your hair will look its best," he tells WebMD. "When it starts to creep up, that's when it starts to look like straw."

Baron's recommendations for maximizing hair health:

  • Always put product on your hair before you style with heat. "By putting the product on before you style, you're heating the product, not the hair," Baron tells WebMD.
  • Use extensions and cornrows wisely. "If extensions or cornrows are too tight, it can damage your roots by causing too much tension," Baron says. "There's a new technique where you can have extensions glued in and then removed using baby oil, but whatever way you choose, don't overdo it -- hair is strong, but it does have a breaking point."
  • Cut your losses. "When your hair is really damaged and dry, amputate," Baron says. "Just cut it off and start over."
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