Although hair seems like it can withstand a lot of pressure and stress, it can actually be quite delicate and prone to breaking. Styling your hair in certain ways may be putting unnecessary stress on your strands, making it more susceptible to damage that may even lead to hair loss.
And, if you suffer from hair loss already—whether caused by age, stress or a health condition—you’ll want to do everything possible to keep your hair as healthy and strong as you can. In order to do this, you should take extra precautions while styling to limit damage and loss over time.
Here are some top tips for styling hair without causing damage or further hair loss.
- Avoid handling hair while it is wet: Hair is at its most delicate state when it is wet. After you shower or bathe, take care to handle your hair as little as possible until it dries. Avoid brushing or combing wet hair to prevent breakage. Additionally, avoid aggressively drying your hair with a towel, as this can make more hairs fall out or break. If you need to detangle hair, wait until it is only damp and use a wide-toothed comb to gently tame your strands. Wait to actually style your hair until it is mostly dried.
- Don’t pull hair too tight: When styling your hair in ponytails, buns or braids, avoid pulling the hair extremely tight, especially at the hairline. Over time, tight styling can both damage strands and cause hair loss, because the strands get pulled out at the scalp. This is called traction alopecia. Consistent tension-related hair loss can even be permanent if the hair follicles are damaged. Try to switch up your styles over time so your hair isn’t being pulled in the same spot repeatedly.
- Be cautious of your hair ties: Some hair ties are known to cause hair damage. Hair can get stuck in ties with metal clasps or thin elastic bands, breaking or pulling hair out when you try to remove them. Instead, use soft elastic hair ties or things like scrunchies, which provide extra fabric layers for protection. Scrunchies also have less tension, so they won’t hold your hair as tightly.
- Keep heat to a minimum: Heat styling every day can be a recipe for disaster for your hair. Too much heat from hair dryers, flat irons and curling irons can weaken the hair and cause it to break and fall out. Give your hair a break from heat styling by using no-heat styling methods and always use a heat protectant when you do heat style.
- Avoid over processing: Coloring your hair can be a lot of fun, but if you do it too often or use the wrong kinds of products or methods, you can easily damage your hair and scalp. This can lead to dry, brittle hair or even damage that causes or exacerbates hair loss. Avoid using harsh chemicals to dye hair too often so your hair has the opportunity to grow healthily. If you do color your hair often, ask your stylist about dye alternatives that contain fewer chemicals and are not as harsh.
- Don’t sleep with styles in: You may want to keep your style in from one day to the next, but going to bed with your hair in a tight ponytail, braid or bun can put unnecessary stress on the strands as you sleep. This could lead to breakage or even hair loss, since the tension can pull strands out. Instead, sleep with a low, loose bun or ponytail in or let your hair down completely. Using a satin or silk pillowcase or hair cap can also reduce tension on the strands overnight.
Know the difference between styling- and health-related hair loss
No matter how much care you take while styling, you won’t be able to prevent all hairs from falling out. Hair naturally sheds each day—we actually lose up to 100 hairs per day on average due to hair’s natural life cycle.
However, if you notice more and more hair falling out on your pillowcase, on your brush or when simply touching your hair, you might be facing a larger problem. Incorporate these styling tips into your daily routine to see if they help solve the issue. If they don’t, you may need to consult a doctor about your growing hair loss problem.
Whether your hair is just thinning due to aging or you have a condition like androgenic alopecia, styling appropriately can help minimize future hair loss and make the hair you have left look and feel great.