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Brittle Hair: Causes, Treatments, And Best Products In 2021

Wondering what brittle hair is and, more importantly, if your strands are brittle? Our expert breaks down a complete guide to brittle hair.

Aw, snap! Dry, brittle hair is the absolute worst, but you don’t have to live a life full of split ends , thinning hair, and breakage. The key is figuring out what’s causing your brittle hair—such as styling mistakes, too much chemical processing, or damage from your environment—and addressing them ASAP. From there, you can give your hair the TLC it so desperately needs.

Leveraging professional hairstylist insight, we’re giving you the full rundown on all the above. That means you’re that much closer to experiencing the healthiest, shiniest, strongest hair of your dreams!

What is brittle hair?

If the last time you ran your fingers through your hair you wondered to yourself, “Why is my hair so dry and brittle?!” then you’re in the right place. Brittle simply refers to unhealthy hair that looks and feels dry and fried. Dullness is another giveaway: Brittle hair often looks like it has an overall lackluster appearance with none of that glorious bounce and shine we all covet.   

“Everybody's hair is made up of mostly protein. With the stress of heat tools and chemicals on our hair, those proteins start to break down and become weaker, causing your hair to look and feel damaged," explains Karla Valenzuela, a Redken hair artist. “One of the most obvious ways to know if you need protein in your hair is [when] you brush your hair. If you see little, tiny pieces of short hairs on your shoulders ,on your shirt, or on your bathroom sink, that's an indication that your hair is breaking off.”

She adds that another way to know your hair needs TLC is if it feels unmanageable and won’t grow past a certain length.

Good hair day by @biancas_hair_pro.

What causes brittle hair?

Now that you know what brittle hair looks and feels like, let’s discuss why it happens.

As Valenzuela mentioned above, two of the biggest culprits are chemical procedures—including bleaching, balayaging, and highlighting—and excessive use of hot tools like straighteners and hair dryers. External agents, such as sun exposure, water, chlorine, and pollution, are another major cause of brittle hair. If you have fine hair, it can seem more prone to brittleness since the individual hair fibers may not be as strong and resilient as someone with thick hair.

Good hair day by @tialambourn_hair.

How To Treat And Care For Brittle Hair

Helping minimize the look and feel of dry, brittle hair means taking it easy on chemical processing and styling tools and protecting your hair from the elements. It also means adopting a high-quality hair care routine and sticking with it.

Valenzuela recommends incorporating a protein-infused shampoo and conditioner to help strengthen your hair and restore its brilliancy. You’ll also want to incorporate a deep conditioning treatment to help hydrate your strands. It sounds counter-intuitive, but too much protein in your hair routine without enough moisture can lead to a “straw-like” feeling.

“What can happen is the hair starts to get really, really strong and it becomes a bit stiff and starts to feel brittle,” Valenzuela says. “If your hair gets to this point, don't stress out. It doesn't mean your hair is damaged. All it means is that now your hair is asking for moisture.”

Her advice for keeping a healthy balance between moisture and protein is to keep a deep conditioning moisturizing mask in your shower.

“Do that once a week or once a month as needed, that way your hair feels healthy, strong, and manageable,” she says.

Our 15 Best Products For Brittle Hair

Ready to discover some of the best dry, brittle hair treatments and other products that’ll nourish your tresses? We’ve rounded up our 15 top choices.


Extreme Strengthening Shampoo for Damaged Hair
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Best Seller

Redken

Extreme Strengthening Shampoo for Damaged Hair

A rich hair-strengthening shampoo for damaged hair and split ends.

Old price $23.00 New price $18.40

Redken Extreme Strengthening Shampoo

Valenzuela tells us that her recommended best shampoo for dry, brittle hair is Redken’s Extreme Strengthening Shampoo. 

“This has protein and it's going to help reduce breakage and split ends up to 73 percent,” she says. 


Extreme Strengthening Conditioner for Damaged Hair
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Best Seller

Redken

Extreme Strengthening Conditioner for Damaged Hair

A strengthening, detangling conditioner for damaged hair and split ends.

Old price $23.00 New price $18.40

Redken Extreme Strengthening Conditioner

Pair your Extreme Strengthening Shampoo with the matching conditioner. This bestselling conditioner helps nourish and smooth hair while detangling and strengthening.


Advanced Fiberstrong Shampoo for Fragile Hair
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Biolage

Advanced Fiberstrong Shampoo for Fragile Hair

A restoring shampoo that strengthens fragile hair.

Old price $23.00 New price $18.40
13.5 fl oz

Biolage Advanced Fiberstrong Shampoo

Biolage's strengthening shampoo helps fortify the hair fiber with ingredients such as bamboo and ceramides. It also helps fill gaps in the hair cuticle, leaving fragile hair healthier and more resistant to damage.


Advanced Fiberstrong Intra-Cylane Fortifying Leave-In Cream
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Biolage

Advanced Fiberstrong Intra-Cylane Fortifying Leave-In Cream

A strengthening hair cream for fragile hair.

Old price $23.00 New price $18.40
6.7 fl oz

Biolage Advanced Fiberstrong Intra-Cylane Fortifying Leave-In Cream

After shampooing and conditioning, towel dry your hair and apply this cream throughout your strands. It helps smooth frizz, fill gaps in damaged cuticles, and prevent breakage and split ends.


Soleil Nourishing After-Sun Shampoo
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new

Kérastase

Soleil Nourishing After-Sun Shampoo

Nourishing after-sun shampoo to remove chlorine, salt, and sand residue

Old price $35.00 New price $28.00
8.5 fl oz

Kérastase Soleil Nourishing After-Sun Shampoo

Just as you change up your wardrobe in the summer and winter, changing up your hair care is a great way to guard your hair against environmental aggressors. During the summer months, the Kérastase Soleil Nourishing After-Sun Shampoo helps remove damaging chlorine, salt, and sand residue from your tresses.


Soleil Revitalizing Masque
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new

Kérastase

Soleil Revitalizing Masque

A nourishing mask that restores hydration to sun-exposed hair

Old price $62.00 New price $49.60
6.7 fl oz

Kérastase Soleil Revitalizing Masque

Follow up your After-Sun Shampoo with the Soleil Revitalizing Masque. In addition to providing sun protection, this nourishing, luxurious mask helps improve shine, reconstructs and smooths hair fibers, and rebalances via vital nutrients.


Soleil Beach Bi-Phase Oil Mist
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new

Kérastase

Soleil Beach Bi-Phase Oil Mist

Texturizing spray and a hair oil to creates soft beach waves with zero crunch.

Old price $30.00 New price $24.00
5 fl oz

Kérastase Soleil Beach Bi-Phase Oil Mist

While you're at it, work the Soleil Beach Bi-Phase Oil Mist into your summer hair care round up. It helps define and add texture, creates beautiful beachy waves, makes hair feel softer, and protects from the sun while boosting shine.


Scrub Energisant Deep Cleaning Fusio Dose Scrub
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Kérastase

Scrub Energisant Deep Cleaning Fusio Dose Scrub

An energizing sea salt scalp scrub to remove impurities

Old price $51.00 New price $40.80
8.5 fl oz

Kérastase Scrub Energisant Deep Cleaning Fusio Dose Scrub

It’s important to look after your scalp, too. This scrub cleanses and purifies to help deliver stronger, healthier-looking hair. You just need a little bit, and a once-weekly (or bi-weekly) treatment is plenty. A bonus is that it helps create lift and volume


Acidic Bonding Concentrate Sulfate Free Shampoo for Damaged Hair
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new Best Seller

Redken

Acidic Bonding Concentrate Sulfate Free Shampoo for Damaged Hair

All-in-one concentrated shampoo for damaged hair

$30.00

Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate Sulfate Free Shampoo

Another excellent hair care system for damaged, dry, brittle hair is Redken’s Acidic Bonding Concentrate. This three-part system begins with the shampoo to help fortify weakened bonds, add strength, and repair.


Acidic Bonding Concentrate Sulfate Free Conditioner for Damaged Hair
Discover

new Best Seller

Redken

Acidic Bonding Concentrate Sulfate Free Conditioner for Damaged Hair

All-in-one concentrated conditioner for damaged hair

$30.00

Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate Sulfate Free Conditioner

After shampooing with the Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate, apply a dime-sized amount of the matching conditioner to your strands and then rinse well.


Acidic Perfecting Concentrate Leave In Conditioner for Damaged Hair
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new Best Seller

Redken

Acidic Perfecting Concentrate Leave In Conditioner for Damaged Hair

Intense leave-in conditioner that provides strength repair to damaged hair

$30.00

Redken Acidic Perfecting Concentrate Leave-In Conditioner

Following the Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate Shampoo and Conditioner, apply the Acidic Bonding Leave-In Treatment. It’s important to use all three products together to maximize their hair repairing, strengthening benefits.


All Soft Heavy Cream Deep Conditioning Treatment Mask
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Best Seller

Redken

All Soft Heavy Cream Deep Conditioning Treatment Mask

An anti-frizz moisturizing hair mask for dry and brittle hair.

Old price $25.00 New price $20.00
8.45 fl oz

Redken All Soft Heavy Cream Deep Conditioning Treatment Mask

Remember how Valenzuela said it’s important to add moisture to your hair in addition to using protein-infused products? Doing so will prevent your hair from getting too much protein. She recommends using a deep conditioner, such as Redken’s All Soft Heavy Cream Deep Conditioning Treatment Mask, once a week or as needed.  


Inforcer Anti-Breakage Masque
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Stylist Pick

L'Oréal Professionnel

Inforcer Anti-Breakage Masque

A hair strengthening mask to protect hair prone to breakage.

Old price $40.00 New price $32.00
8.4 fl oz

L'Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Inforcer Anti-Breakage Masque

Another great deep conditioning mask to try is L'Oréal Professionnel’s Serie Expert Inforcer Anti-Breakage Masque. Formulated specifically for damaged hair, it uses vitamin B6 and biotin to help promote hair growth, thickness, and strength.


Nutritive Nectar Thermique Blow Dry Primer
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Stylist Pick

Kérastase

Nutritive Nectar Thermique Blow Dry Primer

A leave-in thermal protectant for dry hair that supports up to 85 percent less breakage from styling tools.

Old price $39.00 New price $31.20
5 fl oz

Kérastase Nutritive Nectar Thermique Blow Dry Primer

Don’t forget to protect your strands when using blow dryers, flat irons, and curlers. The Kérastase Nutritive Nectar Thermique Blow Dry Primer is a thermo-seal glaze that's formulated for dry hair to smooth, add shine, and make hair easier to style.


Discipline Keratine Thermique Blow Dry Primer
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Stylist Pick

Kérastase

Discipline Keratine Thermique Blow Dry Primer

A leave-in treatment that protects against external aggressors, revitalizes frizzy hair, and prevents further damage.

Old price $39.00 New price $31.20
5 fl oz

Kérastase Discipline Keratine Thermique Blow Dry Primer

If you have unruly hair, we recommend the Keratine Thermique Blow Dry Primer instead. It’s a taming milk that helps smooth frizzy hair while protecting your hair fiber from damage.

If you're concerned about brittle hair, reach out to your stylist via text or book a consultation. He or she can help you identify the culprits and set you up with a bespoke product routine suited for your hair type.

Searching for more hair products? Shop the best salon-quality products at Hair.com.