There are lots of ways that we damage our hair every day. Nearly anything that you do to style your hair can cause damage, and the key is finding the right balance to keep your hair looking healthy.
Things we all do every day:
• Brushing and back-combing
• Curling or flat-ironing
• Exposing hair to humidity
• Altering structure or color of the hair through perms and coloring/bleaching
• Poor nutrition
• Sun and Chlorine exposure
Within the hair shaft itself, damage really affects the cuticle first. As the cuticle is damaged and pulls away from the other layers, the shaft breaks easily. The cuticle also won't lie flat, which creates hiding places for water (hair is harder to dry), and doesn't reflect light as well so you lose shine. In addition to the changes within the cuticle, the keratin throughout the hair shaft (which is also held together by many types of chemical and charge-based bonds) starts to pull apart as these bonds are broken.
Now that we know how the hair is damaged, what can be done to prevent hair from being damaged?
• Avoid heat such as hair dryers, curling irons and such. If you must use them (like I do), then use the lowest heat setting that you can and use them as infrequently as you can. Is it really that important to have perfectly blown out hair while you work in the garden on Saturday morning?
• Avoid stretching the hair shaft by only using wide tooth combs on your wet hair
• Avoid chemically altering your hair through perms and coloring (though honestly, who can do that?)
• Avoid chemicals such as chlorine, salt water, etc.
• Use UV protection for prolonged sun exposure (My favorite product for the hair is by Frederic Fekkai and I reviewed it back in May
• Get regular trims. Cutting off those split ends will help to prevent them from splitting further up the hair shaft
I'm not sure that anything truly "fixes" these trouble spots, short of cutting them off. While that isn't always possible, there are some temporary fixes such as those "deep" conditioners, look for ones with proteins (I describe this all in my description of shampoo and conditioner), as the proteins can fill in the gaps in the cuticle and improve the strength of the hair.
When all else fails, Fake it!
Faking healthy hair is incredibly easy! You can hide damaged hair with a hair style (a pony tail, updo, etc) or with product. A shine product, especially one with silicone will create the illusion of healthy, shiny hair. My favorite shine product is the Frederic Fekkai Glossing Sheer Shine Mist, because it is so incredibly easy to use. Simply spritz on this mist with a few pumps, run your hands over your hair and the application is perfect!
Image: Electron Micrograph of Damaged Hair