How can I stop my hair from breaking?

Alessandra asks…I hope you can help me with a hair dilemma. I am a 44-year old woman with hair that tends to split mid-shaft, about 1 or more inch from the ends. I don’t color my hair, which is baby-fine but abundant, and I don’t style it with hot tools, except for blow drying only the the roots and sometimes the top layer with a soft brush and a blow dryer set on medium heat.

The Beauty Brains respond:

In her original email, Alessandra asked several specific questions which I’ve attempted to answer below.

Q: I started wondering if it’s possible that my hair stiffens up with topical protein and becomes glass-like and brittle.

A: No, proteins should not have that kind of effect on your hair. However, if you’re using heavy styling products you may be over stressing your hair if they are hard to wash off.

Q: I also find that dimethicone and other silicones ruin my hair. Is this possible? However, I’m not sure not sure if I should not use them at all or only in small amounts. It’s hard, because they are in almost every hair product.

A: This is surprising since silicones tend to me among the most effective conditioning agents. I can’t think of any reason they should “ruin” your hair unless you’re using so much of them that you have to scrub your hair to remove them.

Q: Is it possible that my hair is so fine and delicate that washing every other day with regular shampoo (diluted) strips it too much? Even if I apply moisturizing treatment, I am not sure if I can replaced what’s been stripped out.

A: Daily washing doesn’t seem to be a likely cause of the problem to me. I doubt that “stripping” is the problem but it could be all the mechanical abrasion that occurs everytime you wash and dry your hair. It may be worth ruling out this factor by reducing the frequency of shampooing.

Q: What do you think of washing once a week with a more delicate low-foaming shampoo (I checked ingredients and it seems to me that Aveeno Baby Shampoo and Sebamed Baby are gentler… and they foam much less), and for the other two weekly washes (needed for my greasy roots) trying “co-washing” with a no-silicone conditioner such as suave naturals or trader joe’s?

A: Using a mild baby shampoo certainly won’t HURT your hair any more than a regular shampoo but I’m not very optimistic that it will help much either. That’s because even with baby shampoo you still have wet your hair (which weakens it), then you “scrub” it and THEN you have to dry it. This washing process can cause a lot of cumulative damage.

Q: Can root volumizers or/and dry shampoos damage hair because of their alcohol or protein content? what about using corn starch instead of dry shampoo?

A: Using a dry shampoo is an excellent way to reduce damage caused by the washing and drying process. The alcohol used in aerosol products evaporates very quickly and is not likely to cause any harm. Protein won’t help much but neither will it hurt. (Root volumizers are styling products which may be problematic if they are difficult to remove.)

There is one other approach that you should consider trying: deep conditioning with coconut oil. As our long time readers already know, coconut oil is one of the few materials that has been proven to penetrate into the cortex of hair where it has a water proofing effect which strengthens hair from within. I don’t know for a fact that this oil treatment will counteract your breakage but it’s certainly an inexpensive suggestion to try.

Do you have any suggestions for Alessandra? Leave a comment if you can help her out.