Rough treatment of any kind – whether shampooing, brushing, or something else entirely – can damage individual hairs permanently. Unfortunately, once a strand is damaged, it can’t be repaired. To keep the damage from moving up the strand and compromising more of the hair, a haircut is your only option. To keep hair shiny, and voluminous, you must be mindful of how you treat strands. Abuse them and you will be repaid in split ends, frayed shafts, and brittleness.
Styles to avoid
Each person’s hair has a different personality. Except for the area around my face, where it’s straight, my hair likes to wave in zigzags down my back. Perhaps your hair’s natural inclination is to hang stick-straight or to leap away from your head in crazy curlicues. Fight your hair’s disposition and you end up in a battle of wills for hairstyle dominance. Sure, you can make your ringlets straight, but you’re going to have to beat them into submission with a relaxer service, or blow-dry them every morning, and perhaps you’ll even need to use a straightening iron.
If you want to live peacefully with your hair, you’ve got to learn to accept it’s natural tendencies, which brings me to this rule of thumb: The more a finished hairdo differs from your God-given hair, the rougher you’ll need to be with your strands. For example, to look curly, straight hair must undergo permanent waves, curling irons, or being shaped by rollers. To look straight, curly locks must submit to relaxing services, the blow-dryer, or straightening irons. To look full, thin hair is often set on rollers and heavily backcombed. And so on. So when it comes to hairstyles, the least damaging looks (and the easiest to achieve) are those that go with your hair’s natural flow.
Using hair ornaments wisely
I grew up wearing barrettes. My sister always had ponytails. Every morning before school, I sat on my mother’s bed. She would stand next to me and run a fine-tooth comb through my long, wavy, very tangled hair. After parting my hair, my mother gathered the tresses above each ear and forced the strands into metal drugstore barrettes. Then she would go to work on my sister’s hair: pulling the strands tight for a neat, smooth finish, then winding the ponytail holder again and again and again around the blonde pigtails until my sister’s coif was secure enough to withstand tag, monkey bars, kickball and grade school boys. When we finally stumbled from the house and onto the sidewalk, we were joined by neighborhood girls wearing beribboned hair clips, plastic headbands, red or yellow rubber bands, baubled ponytail holders,or small barrettes shaped like bows or puppies. As we walked toward the elementary school, one of us, then another would move a hand toward our heads – but our strands were so tightly fixed in place that nothing ever moved.
The average non-damaged strand is strong enough to suspend 3/5 oz (100 grams) in weight.
During our childhoods, it seemed essential that hair stayed put. Today we know better. When hair ornaments pull tresses tautly in place, or when they clamp down tightly around strands, they stress the hair shaft and weaken its cuticle layer. (I won’t even go into the headaches that incorrectly worn hair ornaments can give.) When using hair ornaments, keep locks somewhat loose, do not overstuff the barrette, clip, or ponytail holder, and don’t wear the same style day after day – another way to stress certain portions of the strand and cause breakage. Furthermore, when shopping for hair ornaments, look for barrettes, clips, and headbands with smooth finishes. Ponytail holders should be soft with no visible metal that can catch hair – and don’t ever use rubber bands on hair. They are notorious cuticle-strippers.