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Heat Styling and Lack of Hair Growth

Q: I have a couple of questions about my wife’s hair and would love to hear “neutral” advice. Her hairdresser’s advice can never be neutral since she might lose some business (i.e., the weekly visits).
      It seems to be impossible to grow her hair long and healthy-looking as it used to be (about 5 years ago). The ends always look thin after a while and the only option to make it look healthy again is with a haircut (which means that the saved length is gone again).
      She is having a color treatment about every 6 weeks. What worries me more though is that she is having it straightened with a straightening iron every weekend at the hair salon (this has been going on for about 2 years). Even when the right protection products are being used and when the straightening is done properly, could this weekly straightening be a cause for the ends (about the last 4 inches) of the hair that always end up looking so thin and dull?
      Would permanent straightening be a better option (e.g. L’Oreal Extenso)?
      Hair extensions might also be an option but we are a bit worried about the maintenance. Do you have clients with hair extensions and what are their experiences? What would you advice?
      To make a long question short: what is the best procedure to get long healthy looking hair as fast as possible when you want it to be straight and need to get it colored about every 6 weeks.
      Your opinion would be greatly appreciated since I know it will be 100% objective since there’s nothing you can sell us.

 
A: It is entirely possible that the regular heat styling is responsible for the lack of lengthy growth in your wife’s hair. People seldom realize that damage done to the hair is cumulative. Even minor damage done to the hair adds up in time. This is especially true when dealing with hair that is regularly subjected to chemical processing like hair color as chemical processing can leave the hair more porous and more easily damaged.
 
      Another thing to consider is damage caused by other styling methods. If the hair is already weakened by chemical services and heat styling, then additional brushing every day can result in breakage which will leave the ends of the hair sparser and wispy-looking. It is best to remember that you should only brush your hair enough to ensure that there are no tangles, and no more. For regular styling a wide-tooth comb is healthier.
 
      Longer-term straightening solutions can be less damaging to the hair in the long-term since they can alleviate the need for added heat styling. Just remember that systems like L’Oreal Extenso aren’t meant to give perfectly straight results although they can reduce the amount of volume and smooth the hair significantly. Still, they are effective and are less costly than the Thermal Reconditioning services.
 
      As for extensions, they can be a great way to get instantly longer hair, but they do come with their own care requirements depending on what type you choose. (And be aware that the cost will vary dramatically with the quality of the hair used.) I have some clients who LOVE their extensions and are adept at dealing with the maintenance and care routine necessary. Others have tried them and given up after only a week. Where you will fit in depends on specifically which extension method you choose and the skill of the stylist.
 
      You simply have to make sure to do your homework on the extension front and be honest with yourself about how much extra care and responsibility you want to undertake with hair extensions. You shouldn’t opt for extensions unless you are very sure you can do as required to keep them looking good.
 
      My gut instinct is that your wife’s thinner ends are a result of styling damage, both from the repeated straightening and daily styling. At the very least, I suggest using a lightweight leave-in conditioner daily to smooth the hair and make it easier to comb through.
 
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Related post: How badly will straightening damage my hair?
 
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