Damaged hair treatment: how to save your hair

Is it possible to repair damaged hair? Can you fix dry damaged hair without cutting it?

All you need to know about damaged hair treatment

Learn what professionals and product descriptions mean when they describe dry damaged hair concerns and find the best damaged hair treatment using the most adapted haircare products.


What makes a good damaged hair treatment?

Is it possible to repair damaged hair? All hair growing from our head is dead hair. It might sound unpleasant, but it’s true. The structure of this dead hair can become damaged for the reasons explained below. And, because it is dead hair, it can’t repair itself.

That said, a good damaged hair treatment can help restore the quality of the hair by filling in its structure, strengthening the fiber and adding a thin layer of protective gloss to prevent further weakening and to boost shine. A good damaged hair treatment does this without weighing down the hair or making it look oily.

How can you tell if your hair is damaged?

Damaged hair treatment isn’t the same as dealing with dry hair. A common mistake made when it comes to hair concerns is confusing dry and damaged hair, which should actually be treated differently.

First you need to understand about the structure of the hair itself. At the heart of the fibre is the hair's cortex, which contains the haircolor (melanin). This core is protected by overlapping scales called cuticles which, on normal healthy hair, lie flat against one-another to strengthen the hair and give it a uniform, shiny appearance. When these cuticles are damaged or weakened, the core is exposed and vulnerable to snapping. When dead hair snaps off or breaks into split ends, the hair looks frizzy and dull.

They may have similar symptoms (dullness, frizz, coarse texture) but dry and damaged hair are not the same. Dry hair is due to a lack (or the removal of) natural oils that act as lubricants all along the hair fibre. Too much, and the hair looks oily, but too little and the hair dries out. A professional hair stylist will be able to diagnose your hair's condition in more detail, but in general, damaged hair breaks easily when pulled and has visible split ends (due to fragile bonds), while dry hair is often accompanied by white flakes of skin and a coarse, rough texture.

Causes of damaged hair

Hair can become damaged for multiple reasons. Everyday environmental phenomena are a common cause: the wind can tangle hair around itself and cause the cuticles to scrape off; the sun's UV rays can burn the fibre; heated tools can weaken the bonds that make up the structure of the hair; pollution can build up on the fibre and cause it to snap; and over-coloring (or incorrect coloring) can leave the cuticles permanently open. Finding how to make hair cuticle lay flat is part of the damaged hair treatment process.

How to repair damaged hair: learn your level in-salon

Level 1: With this level of damage, hair scales/cuticles are jagged, with some of them lifted or broken; but the hair's internal cortex is not yet fully exposed. The hair is slightly dry with less shine, duller color and thinner ends.

Level 2 hair damage sees cuticle abrasion, which means that the external layer is scraped off and the internal cortex could be unprotected and vulnerable to damage in some areas of the hair fiber. At this hair damage level the number of cuticle layers decreases, with a large number of scales jagged and lifted and possibly an exposed cortex. Hair will have a rough texture, with a dull appearance, an uneven color balance and the development of split ends.
This level of damage is sometimes seen after over-coloring or at-home coloring. How to repair hair damage from hair dye is through a haircolor service to remove unwanted undertones, and a regular toner shampoo to keep hair looking fresh.

Level 3: This is the highest level of hair damage. The cuticle is very damaged, with parts of it withered away completely. The cortex is exposed and can be weakened. At this level the hair's surface texture is very coarse and deconstructed with no shine, faded color and split ends. This is often seen with excessive styling, and is the answer to “what does heat damaged hair look like?”
How to treat damaged hair from flat iron over-use is through the best damaged hair treatment…

What is the best damaged hair treatment?

What is the best hair treatment for damaged hair? Aside from preventing hair damage in the first place, there are haircare collections formulated specifically for damaged hair.

If you color your hair (or are going to), damage protection starts in-salon. Ask your L'Oréal Professionnel stylist about SmartBond, a multi-step treatment applied during the coloring process that strengthens the bonds of the hair and seals in the color to prevent cuticle damage.

The next step is to use regular damaged hair treatment. The Absolut Repair haircare range was created to support the hair's fibre from root to tip, infusing nourishment and a weightless protective layer. Once or twice a week, leave the Absolut Repair Golden Masque on for 3-5 minutes then rinse out thoroughly to repair damaged hair.

For hair that has already been damaged, or showing signs of fragility, Pro Fiber has been formulated specifically to treat damaged hair and protect against further aggressions.

Image credits: Getty Images - Moments - Andrea Volpi