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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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