Causes and solutions for dry hair

Woman with dry hair
Young woman with dry hair - Photo: Shutterstock
Dry hair is a common hair problem for men and women. You have dry hair when the sebaceous glands don’t produce enough oil to moisturize it. Dry hair is brittle, dull and frizzy (with flyaways). The causes of dry hair and the way to cure it are different for everyone depending on different factors.
Chemical styling, hair coloring and bleaching
Hair coloring, bleaching and chemical styling such as perming and chemically straightening, are processes that alter the structure of our hair using chemicals. The chemical processes can lead to dry hair.
Chemical hair treatments are very effective due to the potency of the chemicals used to change the hair color or texture. Unfortunately, the harsh chemicals can also cause some hair issues beyond the color change or texture change. Chemical treatments can cause hair to feel and look dry and brittle. The chemicals can dissolve the protective layer of your hair, causing damage to the hair cuticle. Stripped hair cuticles are less able to retain moisture, and this can result in dry hair.
Limiting these treatments is actually the best way to avoid dryness. That’s the reason why hair professionals recommend spacing out chemical treatments.
Environmental factors / The weather
The weather is often the most forgotten factor. There are different seasons and during fall and winter the temperatures drop. The colder the weather, the drier the air. The dry cold air strips the hair of moisture and makes it fragile, dull and more prone to split ends.
In the winter months, it's important to cover your hair to protect it from dry air and wind. Don’t worry about messy hat hair and take the necessary precautions to shield your locks with a hat or scarf. Wool hats and scarfs can wick moisture away from your hair. Wear silk or satin between your wool hat and/or scarf and your hair to protect your strands.
The reduced humidity in cold air also causes static electricity. The hair is charged with electricity and sticks to clothing and accessories such as wool scarves, hats and coats. You can avoid static hair by wearing cotton instead of wool. You could also apply an anti-static spray before you put on your hat.
Too much exposure to the sun and intense heat can affect the condition of your hair and make it dry and brittle. To reduce the risk of hair damage, wear a hat or scarf on your hair on a sunny day or avoid prolonged exposure to the sun.
When you swim in a pool with chlorine or in salt water, protect your hair with a swim cap and rinse your hair immediately afterward. Salt water and chlorine are harsh and can cause your hair to become dry. In addition, rinse your hair before swimming in a chlorinated pool to prevent it from sucking up the chlorine.
Causes of dry hair
Dry hair can be hereditary. If your parents or siblings are prone to dry hair, chances are you are or will be too.
Dry hair can be genetically caused by reduced sebum production. Sebum is a natural oil produced by the sebaceous glands and it protects the hair by moisturizing it. Hormonal causes can suppress sebum production, which causes dry hair.
Hair type and wave pattern
The wave pattern is also an important factor as far as the dryness of hair is concerned. Curly hair is more prone to dryness because of the bends in the locks. The sebum or natural hair oil has a harder time to make its way down the hair shaft to hydrate the entire length of the hair. As a result, especially the ends of curly hair are dry.
Health, age & menopause
Sometimes dry hair is the result of an underlying health problem that affects the hair's ability to retain moisture. Talk to your doctor or dermatologist when you suspect your dry hair is caused by a medical problem.
Hormonal changes as we age can lead to changes in the sebaceous glands of our hair. With a lower sebum production, the hair feels drier.
During menopause, estrogen and progesterone levels drop, which affects the hair. The oil glands produce less oil, making the hair drier.
Dry hair can be caused by medications you are taking. Some alternative medicines do not cause the dryness. Talk to your doctor if you are taking a new type of medicine and noticing sudden dryness in your hair. There may be alternative medicines that do not cause the dryness.
Use of heat styling tools
Thermal styling tools affect the health of our hair and heat styling strips hair of its natural moisture. The best and actually the only fool proof way to protect your hair against dryness from heat styling is to limit thermal styling as much as possible. Do not use heat styling on a daily basis since frequent use will make your hair dry and brittle.
Whether you are using a flat iron, curling iron or a hair dryer, your hair should never be exposed to heat without proper protection. Use a heat protection cream, mousse or spray. Heat protection products coat the hair shaft and prevent it from drying out. And don’t forget: rolling your hair with old-fashioned rollers is much healthier than a curling iron or heated rollers.
When blow drying your hair, it is best to brush it from root to tip and hold the nozzle of the hair dryer about 30 cm or 12 inches away.
Washing your hair too often
Dry hair is caused by lack of moisture, and many try to solve this by washing it more frequently. This is a big mistake. Excessive washing actually removes natural oils and makes the hair and scalp even drier. Wash your hair only as often as absolutely necessary. Washing it twice a week should be sufficient for most people.
Do not wash your hair with too hot water. Hot water contributes to dry hair and must be avoided. Wash your hair with lukewarm water or even better, with cold water. Cold water seals the hair cuticle and this makes your locks look shinier.
Wrong hair care products
Using hair care products that are not designed for your hair type can cause problems and one of them is dryness. For example, dry hair and damaged hair are not the same. Dry hair lacks natural oils. Damaged hair is affected by things like too rough handling, styling, coloring and bleaching.
When choosing a hair product, always check the label and ingredients before purchasing. Avoid products that contain alcohol. Alcohol can strip natural oils and moisture from your hair. Use hair care products specially designed for dry hair and look for products that moisturize. Choose products with natural oils: argan oil, avocado and/or coconut oil.
Factors that can cause dry hair
Images via Canva
See also:
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Natural Hair Care