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Is Refinery29 right about the worst things you do to damage your hair?

A recent post on one of our favorite beauty and fashion sites, Refinery29, listed the top 7 worst things you do to damage your hair. Let’s review their list to see if they’re based on beauty science.

1. Neglecting nourishment

The article says that not taking care of yourself can lead to weaker hair. It’s certainly true to some extent but studies have shown you have to be quite malnourished before that takes a toll on your hair. Still it’s hard to disagree with advice “you should take care of yourself.”

2. Tearing it up with your towel

This one is certainly true – the fiber to fiber friction caused by rough towel drying is very damaging to the cuticle. And once you lose a few layers of cuticle your hair will break much more easily.

3. Battling with your brush

It’s also true that brushing and combing can damage hair. As the article points out this is especially true when hair is wet. (Wet hair her will stretch farther but it will actually take less force to break.)

4. Blasting with your blow dryer.

The article claims that when you excessively blow dry your hair you pull out “intrinsic moisture” which damages your hair even more. (It’s also true that the heat can cause some structural disruption to the proteins in your hair.) Surprisingly though, here’s an article that talks about why air drying may be more damaging to your hair than blow drying!

5. Skipping shampoo

Not washing your hair often enough is one of the worst things you can do? This one is mystifying to us. Refinery29 says two things that are scientifically questionable: The first is that oil on your skin (or in this case on your scalp) does not provide hydration. That’s not really the case because oils do a great job of moisturizing by preventing water from evaporating from the deeper layers of skin. (This is called trans epidermal water loss.)

The second questionable statement is that if you don’t wash your hair the bad bacteria will grow out of control and cause itching and dryness. If you’re talking about microorganism-induced itching and dryness then you’re talking about some form of dandruff which is caused by the yeast Malassezia not bacteria. But if you don’t have dandruff you won’t develop the condition just because you don’t wash your hair. And if you DO have dandruff regular shampooing may not solve the problem; you need an active ingredient calm the flaking and itching.

6. Agonizing with accessories

The article states that you should be careful when using pins and elastic bands on wet hair. We agreed since, as noted above, wet hair is more susceptible to breakage. Anything you do to wet hair, whether it be brushing, adding hair extensions, or using pins and elastic, can cause more damage.

7. Causing cumulative damage

Refinery29 says that you should give your hair a break from constant stress of styling. In other words, this one is essentially the same as items 2, 3, and 4 above.

What’s missing?

Amazingly the article makes no mention of the two or three things that more damage to your hair than ANYTHING else on this list. Chemical processes like relaxing, perming, straightening, coloring, and highlighting all intensely and irreversibly damage your hair. These are the worst of the worst! And if we had to pick one more factor they missed we might add damage from over exposure to the sun. In reality it takes quite a bit of solar exposure to do significant damage to your hair but if frequently soak up the sun it is something you should be aware of.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

There’s some good advice in this Refinery29 article but don’t forget how much damage you’re doing to your hair with chemical processes.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Emma November 23, 2013, 2:19 am

    Thank you for that informative article!
    Just a quick update, though: the link you put about air drying isn’t working. Too bad, I really wanted to see what that’s about

    • admin November 23, 2013, 2:23 pm

      Thanks for the comment Emma. The reason the link doesn’t work is that our server crashed and we lost all our old articles. We’re trying to retire what we can but we’ve lost almost 8 years of work.

  • Lisa Timms December 28, 2013, 6:28 am

    Best products for damaged hair???

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