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How To Repair Damaged Hair: The Complete Treatment And Identification Guide

Combat all kinds of damaged hair with our complete care guide, including the causes of damaged hair and repairing products you need in your routine.

To women with beautiful hair, the word damage is nothing short of a curse. Whether it manifests in split ends or dry texture, hair damage often sneaks up on us. Unfortunately, not everyone is equipped with the right information to keep their hair in tip-top shape. Don’t believe us? All you have to do is take a quick walk down the hair care aisle of your local beauty supply store, and you’ll find dozens of products lining the shelves claiming to repair damage.

When it comes to damaged hair, we think it’s just as important to understand how to prevent damage as it is to know how to repair damaged locks. Which is why we teamed up with Ruth Roche, Pureology artist, and Ashley Brown, Mizani artist, to teach you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about damaged hair. Whether you’re struggling with damaged strands or want to fortify your hair care routine against damage, you’ve come to the right place.

Continue reading to learn everything from what causes damaged hair, how to prevent it, and how to treat it.

Good hair day by @ericmichaelhair.

How can you tell if your hair is damaged? 

If you have hair damage, your strands will likely feel dry and brittle to the touch—and look like it too. You’ll notice more split ends and dullness, and it will get knotty easily, making it more difficult to brush your hair. 

Good hair day by @marissakayartistry.

How does hair become damaged?

The truth is that there are dozens of reasons your hair might be feeling especially frail. Hair strands are incredibly fragile, so it’s important to remember that everything you put them through will eventually take its toll. It’ll also encourage you to gently slide the hair band out of your ponytail instead of yanking it. Brown breaks down the most common causes of damage as follows:

Mechanical damage.

This can happen if you mishandle fragile hair by brushing too hard or pulling your hair too tight. Rough combing can break strands, leaving you with uneven or thin locks. That’s not to mention split ends, the enemy of all people.


If you’re not paying attention to your hair texture and major concerns (i.e., dryness or environmental changes) chances are good that your hair could experience damage.

Thermal damage.

This kind of damage can happen when hot tools are used too frequently, at too high of a temperature setting, or without the proper heat protection.

Chemical damage.

Whether you’re using hair dye, relaxers, or trying out a perm, all chemicals services can cause damage. Regular color changes can take their toll on fragile strands too, particularly if you’re trying to do it at home instead of a salon.

Overall health.

Sometimes medications and illnesses like cancer or alopecia can compromise the health and integrity of the hair. If you have additional questions about this, consult with your doctor.

Can damaged hair be repaired?

If addressed early enough, damaged hair can sometimes be repaired with the proper plan of action.

“If you see stress or feel dryness on your ends as a result of mechanical or thermal damage, trimming the ends more frequently, deep conditioning your hair on a more regular basis, using the proper tools, and heat protection products will vastly increase the likelihood that your damage can be [minimized],” Brown says.

However, you may need to take more drastic measures if a botched chemical treatment damages your hair.

“If your hair has chemical damage, evaluating the chemical services being done and deciding whether or not to take a break from them and step up your care routine by deep conditioning more frequently (and using a more intensive product) may allow you to begin to repair the damage,” the stylist continues.

Unfortunately, there is one kind of damage that can’t be repaired: split ends.

“Once the hair strand has begun to split, it can sometimes be temporarily mended. But ultimately, it just needs to be cut off,” Brown explains. “If the split ends are not cut off, they can and will continue to split up the hair shaft leading to more severe damage and breakage.”

If you’re struggling with frayed ends and don’t have time to make it to a salon, turn to a dedicated product like Pureology Strength Cure Split End Salve Treatment or Redken Extreme Anti-Snap Split End Hair Treatment to temporarily mask them.

Good hair day by @thenotoriouskia.

How to prevent damage before it happens.

The best way to avoid damaged hair is to prevent damage before it even happens. Brown insists the most important thing you can do is seek professional help.

“Consulting with [a hair professional], especially one who caters to a clientele with similar hair needs to yours, is very crucial,” the stylist says. “They will be able to give you the tools and the advice you need to maintain your look and stop damage from the start.”

Not only will a professional be able to help you achieve your hair goals with minimum damage, but also they will recommend against services that have the potential to wreak havoc to your strands. Not all hair services are created equal, so if your stylist advises against something believe them.

Furthermore, professionals have spent years learning and perfecting their craft. If you’re truly concerned about the health of your hair, skip the DIY treatments and find a stylist you trust.

“Always have a licensed professional perform any and all chemical, cutting, or styling services to ensure they are being done with a high level of integrity,” Brown says. “Be your own advocate and research the professional before you sit in their chair. Ask yourself, do they currently have guests who may be suffering from similar hair needs as myself?”

Combatting split ends before they start actually happens in the shower, according to Roche. She advises using a detangling conditioner that serves the needs of your hair. After you’re out of the shower, the actual detangling process can begin.

“Use a brush made to be used on wet hair to detangle, or a wide tooth comb...Always start at the ends and work your way up to the roots. This will prevent excess stress and breakage.”

Caring for your damaged hair at home.

After you’ve found a hair care professional you trust, it’s time to work on your hair care routine. Your stylist should be able to recommend the right products and routine for your hair, but there are some hair care basics everyone should follow.

“Industry standards suggest getting regular trims every four to six weeks (this may vary depending on the needs of your hair),” Brown says. “It is also important to use the proper system of professional shampoo, conditioner, and a treatment for your specific hair needs at home in between salon visits.”

Brown’s next tip for preventing damage before it happens is the easiest one yet: Pay attention to your hair!

“Be alert. It is so easy for us to be on autopilot and sometimes our hair can begin to show signs of damage before we truly realize it,” she explains. “Adjusting your routine to accommodate for small inconsistencies that arise with your hair can work wonders in the big picture.”

Everybody’s hair care routine should include shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, leave-in, and styling products. If you’re not sure where to start, Brown has a few suggestions.

“My go-to products...are those in the Mizani Thermasmooth line,” the stylist says. “With a balance of protein and moisture, the shampoo and conditioner set the hair up for success. The Mizani Thermasmooth Sleek Guard is another favorite of mine for heat styling.”

If you have color-treated hair, be sure to use a heat protectant product formulated to care for your color. Roche recommends Pureology’s Colour Fanatic Leave-In Hair Treatment Spray. The lightweight mist primes, protects, and perfects while providing 21 essential benefits for color-treated hair. Just mist on clean damp hair and comb through before styling.

If you’ve got your hair care routine down pat but are still looking for a product to give your hair a little extra TLC, look no further than Mizani’s 25 Miracle Milk. It’s one you’ll undoubtedly want to add to your product arsenal.

“The Mizani 25 Miracle Milk is a staple of mine to help detangle the hair and prepare it to be styled. With 25 different benefits, it does many things to ensure the smoothness of all hair textures—heat protection and strengthening are a couple of my favorite benefits.”

If you like to color your hair, Roche recommends incorporating products specially formulated for color-treated hair into your routine. To combat over-processing, invest in a treatment that enhances hair while simultaneously protecting your color. Roche’s favorite is Pureology’s Superfood Strength Cure Treatment, which repairs the look of damaged hair and features the exclusive AntiFadeComplex. Formulated with goji berry extract and olive oil, the treatment helps fortify and strengthen damaged hair.

Looking for more product recommendations? Here are some of our best products for damaged hair.

The Best Products For Damaged Hair

Acidic Bonding Concentrate Bundle


Acidic Bonding Concentrate Bundle

Acidic Bonding Concentrate bundle to strengthen hair & repair damage

Old price New price $90.00

Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate System

Formulated with citric acid and the brand’s acidic bonding complex, this shampoo, conditioner, and leave-in trio work to reinforce weakened bonds in damaged hair to help build back strength and resiliency. The acidic formulas also help rebalance hair’s pH levels, leaving it stronger, shinier, and with less visible split ends. 

Unbreak My Blonde Bundle


Unbreak My Blonde Bundle

A bundle to reinforce weakened bonds and revive sensitized hair.

Old price New price $68.00

Matrix Unbreak My Blonde System

Dealing with damaged blonde or highlighted hair? This three-step system is designed to revive all types of lightened hair from chemical damage. When used as a complete system, it can leave your hair three times stronger 

Extreme Strengthening Shampoo for Damaged Hair


Extreme Strengthening Shampoo for Damaged Hair

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

Old price New price $24.00

Free Gift!

Redken Extreme Strengthening Shampoo And Conditioner

Help your strands look and feel stronger with Redken’s best-selling shampoo and conditioner system for damaged hair. The strengthening formula featuring RCT complex repairs damaged hair and split ends, so strands look shiny and healthy.

Pureology Strength Cure Shampoo And Conditioner

If salon color is the root of your damage, you need this shampoo and conditioner system in your arsenal. This gentle-repair, sulfate-free system features Pureology’s exclusive Asta-Repair with Astaxanthin, a powerful nature-derived antioxidant, plus Keravis, Ceramide and Arginine to help heal and repair damaged, micro-scarred hair. The Strength Cure formula replaces the Cysteine bonds to restore strength and add softness, while the exclusive AntiFade Complex protects color vibrancy.

L’Oréal Professionnel Absolut Repair Instant Resurfacing Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner

This shampoo and conditioner system doesn’t just look good in your shower, it can help your hair look even better. The Absolut Shampoo and Conditioner system restructures damaged hair each time you use it, leaving strands with a lightweight touch. With continued use hair is smoother, shinier and more resistant, and the hair surface becomes less damaged.

Extreme CAT Anti-Damage Protein Reconstructing Rinse-Off Hair Treatment


Extreme CAT Anti-Damage Protein Reconstructing Rinse-Off Hair Treatment

A leave-in protein strengthening hairspray

Old price New price $27.00
One size available
6.7 fl oz

Free Gift!

Redken Extreme CAT Anti-Damage Protein Reconstruction Rinse-Out Hair Treatment

As part of the Redken Extreme line of hair care, Redken Extreme CAT will help prevent breakage and split ends while boosting shine and softness, and reconditioning parched strands.

Absolut Repair Resurfacing Golden Masque
L'Oréal Professionnel

Absolut Repair Resurfacing Golden Masque

A hydrating mask to instantly nourish damaged and weakened hair.

Old price New price $42.00
One size available
8.4 fl oz

Free Gift!

L’Oréal Professionnel Absolut Repair Resurfacing Golden Masque

This golden mask is so good, it works for every hair type—don’t believe us? Just check out what our editors had to say. Formulated with Gold Quinoa and protein, hair is left shinier and softer, resurfaced and less damaged, and light-to-the-touch—without any residue.

Searching for more damaged hair tips? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.