Pressing: Pressing with a hot comb can cause all sorts of damage. The combs are generally heated to at least 150 degrees, which can cause bubble hair, a condition in which the water in the hair actually boils, forming bubbles inside the shaft. The bubbles make the hair prone to severe breakage. If you prefer pressing, it’s best to leave it to a professional who has experience controlling heated combs. To minimize damage, don’t press your hair more than once a week.
Bobby pins: Super-cute—and super-terrible for your hair. Bobby pins grip the hair tightly and cut into the hair shaft; use them repeatedly in the same spot and you’ll notice breakage. Scale back on your bobby-pin usage, or move them around so you’re not hitting the same areas every time.
Elastic bands: The nature of elastic bands is to grip the hair tightly so it will stay in place, but that gripping cuts into the hair shaft and causes fraying. If you wear your hair in a ponytail every day, you might notice breakage near where you put the elastic band. Minimize damage by using thick, fabric-coated bands (never use rubbery elastics!) and give your ponytail a break, or consider a shorter haircut.
Brush: For all the women who don’t have a pixie cut, brushes are kind of a necessary evil. We say “evil” because brushing causes wear and tear on the hair’s cuticle (the outer layer that seals in shine). Brush with a gentle touch! Vigorously brushing your hair Marcia Brady–style can cause all sorts of damage. Avoid metal brushes at all costs—they can actually lacerate the hair. Stick with smooth plastic or natural bristle, neither of which will snag the cuticle as much.
Comb: If you use a comb to detangle your hair, for best results, start from the bottom and gently work your way up. Vigorously pulling a comb through your hair from the top down can snap strands like a rubber band. A wide-tooth comb made from plastic or wood is best—always avoid metal combs, because metal can lacerate the hair.
Whether you’re trying to disguise gray strands or want smooth, straight hair that behaves in bad weather, chemical processing such as coloring and straightening can harm your hair. Here’s how to minimize the damage to your mane.
Semi-permanent Color: All coloring processes reduce elasticity to some degree (less elasticity means more breakage). Semi-permanent color is less damaging than permanent color or lifting (colorists’ fancy word for bleaching). That’s because the dyes used have small molecules, so they get into the hair shaft easily, without damaging the outer layer. For the same reason, they also wash out quickly. Leave-in conditioners can help smooth the cuticle, which increases shine and helps your hair hold on to color for longer.
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