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Thin Hair Problems

Q: Hi. I have had thin hair all my life but lots of it so it was really kind of thick. However, in the last year it is getting thinner and thinner everyday. I have my hair done with highlights every 4 weeks and ask the stylist to leave it on so it will be very, very blonde. The hair on my right side is becoming thinner than the left side (so that's why I don't know if it is the bleach). It also, when I wake up in the morning, feels like straw, but, only on my right side, which is the side I sleep on. I don't know what to do or who to see. Do you know what kind of doctor to go to? Will my hair heal and come back like it used to be? Maybe, I should stop bleaching it. Who do you see for damaged hair? It looks like it is breaking off. As you can see, I'm desperate. Thank you for any help you can give me.
 
A: I’m glad you decided to seek advice before the situation gets any worse. I want to take this question a step at a time so that I can explain what has happened (or is happening) with your hair.
 
      I have my hair done with highlights every 4 weeks and ask the stylist to leave it on so it will be very, very blonde. Having your highlights done every four weeks seems a little excessive, particularly when you are encouraging the stylist to leave the bleaching agent on longer to get very, very light effects. The bleaching process disperses the melanin molecules in the hair and the lighter you make the hair, the more of these molecules get dispersed. This can also make the hair structurally weaker. The peroxide raises the cuticle layer to facilitate the melanin dispersal, but this also means that you end up with hair that feels rough and dry. Conditioning can help to smooth the cuticle, but you still end up with more porosity, depending on how much you’ve damaged the hair in lightening it.
 
      The hair on my right side is becoming thinner than the left side (so that's why I don't know if it is the bleach). It also, when I wake up in the morning, feels like straw, but, only on my right side, which is the side I sleep on. This is a related problem to the lightening - and subsequent rising - of the cuticle. What happens is that while you sleep your hair is being rubbed by the pillow, and the cuticle is being roughed – and the moisture is being leeched by the pillow fabric – which is why your hair feels so dry and straw-like and is probably being broken off. The fact that it’s occurring on the right side (which you sleep on) is what makes me think this is the case.
 
      Do you know what kind of doctor to go to? Will my hair heal and come back like it used to be? Maybe, I should stop bleaching it. Who do you see for damaged hair? If your hair were showing signs of “falling out” as opposed to breaking, you would need to see your doctor – specifically a dermatologist – to find out what is causing the hair loss. But because you are dealing with hair damage, a professional stylist should be able to help. I tend to recommend you find different stylist than the one you’ve been using since your hair has obviously been damaged for some time, and the stylist has still been performing the services on you without discouraging you.
 
      The good news is, unless your follicles have been damaged by the frequent bleaching, your new growth should come in healthy. As for the damaged hair now on your head, you can condition it and treat it to give it some better manageability and softness, but it won’t “heal”. (It can’t, since it isn’t living tissue.) You simply have to do the best you can while the hair grows out.
 
      Finally, my advice is to STOP bleaching your hair. When you begin to notice that the bleached sections of the hair are breaking off, feel like straw, and are overly-dry, it is time to stop bleaching the hair and let new growth come in.
 
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