12 Reasons Your Hair Looks Totally Fried

Close up of a beautiful young woman smiling and doing a braid in her hair in winter outfit at home
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This article was originally published on Aug. 9, 2016. It has been updated and republished on Sept. 25, 2019.

If you’ve started to notice your hair texture has changed and wondered, why is my hair so dry and brittle or why is my hair so dry, chances are your tresses didn’t just become like that overnight. There could actually be a number of reasons why your hair looks fried, and it may be a result of things that you didn't even realize you do. Even though hair seems pretty fragile, it's not always just one thing done one time that causes dryness, breakage, and other damage. Usually, it's a habit or combination of common haircare mistakes that lead to your tresses looking and feeling like straw.

But fear not. You can get your hair back to the way it was. All it takes is a little patience. Just like your hair probably didn't get so fried overnight, it also won't likely become totally healthy overnight either. But that doesn't mean that a little effort and time can't heal your damaged strands. After switching out some of your unhealthy hair care habits, you may even be surprised just how shiny and smooth your strands can truly be. So your hair stays hydrated and healthy (and looks that way too!), here are 13 reasons your hair may be more brittle than it should, and what to do instead during your beauty routine.

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1. You Heat Style Too Frequently

The heat from using blow dryers, flat irons, and curling irons can really do a number on your strands. “Styling with tools that are too hot, too often will definitely do a number on your hair’s overall health,” says Guy Tang, celebrity colorist and founder of #mydentity haircare products. Try to keep track of how often you use hot tools, and air-dry your hair whenever you can.

2. You Use Too Much Heat

Even if you already use hot tools sparingly, the level of heat you set them to when you do could also be drying and damaging your hair. “If you’re using too much heat on your hair, it will cause damage,” says Laura Polko, celebrity stylist and T3 Micro ambassador. Although many tools can reach temperatures as high as 450 degrees, the heat you choose should be determined by your hair type. Those with fine hair should stay below 360 degrees, while medium and coarse hair should stay below 380 degrees and 410 degrees, respectively. Polko also recommends investing in a good hair dryer, like the T3 Cura Dryer. “The dryer has a technology called Digital Ion Air that delivers a precise heat and leaves hair with a very shiny finish. This way, there isn’t an overexposure to heat to the hair, and most times you don’t even need an iron to finish off the look,” she tells Bustle.

3. You Use Too Much Shampoo

Shampooing is one of those necessities that, if not done properly, can play a role in how dry and brittle your hair is. Washing your hair strips natural oils which is inherently drying. So try to refrain from washing your hair every single day, or using shampoos with drying and irritating ingredients like sulfates.

4. You Skimp On Moisture

We condition our hair to help replace moisture that was lost from shampooing. But if you don't let your conditioner sit in your hair long enough, or if you don't use the right formula, your hair could be missing out on some much-needed nourishment. “Just like your skin, your hair needs moisture (which can be lost during shampooing too often) so it’s important to find a nourishing conditioner,” says Tang. If you regularly get your hair colored, reach forTang’s #MyConfidant Conditioner, which was specifically made to maintain the health of color-treated hair. Every so often, you should also opt for a deep conditioner. Need some extra love? Try something a little more hydrating. “Do hair masks more regularly,” says Polko.

5. You're Too Close With Your Colorist

If you like dabbling in hair dye, you probably already know that it can be pretty damaging. And even though there are recommended amounts of time to wait between touchups and dye jobs to prevent as much of this damage as possible, stretching that time out as much as you can only helps. But whether or not you can go a month-and-a-half between visits instead of just one month, Bustle writer Marlen Komar reports that thoroughly conditioning your locks before and after a coloring will help prevent your hair from becoming so dry and brittle.

6. You Don't Pay Attention To Purse Straps

You may do it without thinking, but throwing your purse on so the strap sits over your hair, and pulling your hair out from under that strap can cause some breakage. Especially if you do this on a regular basis, and tend to wear your purse exclusively on one side, you may even notice that the hair on one side of your head is thinner than the other. To prevent purse-strap damage, try to make sure your hair is out of the way before hanging your purse from your shoulder. If you happen to drop it on your locks anyway, lift up the strap before pulling your hair out from under it so as to avoid any damage caused by friction.

7. You Aggressively Detangle

Your hair is most fragile and prone to damage when it's wet. So if the first thing you do out of the shower is try to run a brush through your hair or towel-dry it, you're likely causing some breakage. Instead, gently squeeze out excess water, spritz in a detangling spray or leave-in conditioner to help protect your hair, and use a wide-tooth comb to straighten out your locks. Consider buying a brush that's gentle enough to be used on wet hair, like brushes from Tangle Teezer or a Wet Brush.

8. You Skip Protectants

If you heat-style or spend a lot of time in the sun, it's important to take measures to protect your hair from their damaging effects. “Whenever you are heat styling, it’s important to use a heat protectant spray to help keep breakage at bay,” says Tang. And if you foresee being in the sun for a few hours, try a UV-protectant spray or wear a hat to prevent your hair from drying out.

9. You Skip Trims

If you're trying to grow your hair out, it could be tempting to let it just do its thing while foregoing your usual trips to get it trimmed. However, it only takes about six weeks for your ends to start to break and fray. Because too many split ends can cause your hair to look dry and frizzy from all of the damage, try to trim your hair every two months to keep it looking healthy.

10. You're Lacking Nutrients

Sometimes, your appearance is a result of what's going on inside your body. So if your hair looks particularly fried but you don't practice any outwardly damaging habits like coloring and heat styling, it could be your diet. “Another thing that affects your hair is how you eat. As the season’s change, people often move into heavier food. But you have to remember, what you put in your body comes out in your hair skin and nails,” Polko suggests. “Make sure you are getting your vitamins every day by drinking a daily green juice through the colder months.” Not sure what you're missing? Here are some pretty tasty foods to incorporate into your diet to make sure your hair stays healthy and strong.

11. It’s Fall Or Winter

“Fall and winter months can be super hard on hair- especially if you live in cold, dry places. Harsh weather and all that comes with it ( dryness, static, frizz etc.) can leave your hair super dehydrated and more prone to breakage and it can even cause scalp dryness,” says Tang. Polko agrees, telling Bustle, “With the change of weather, there is less moisture in the air. We feel this change of moisture in both our skin and in our hair.”

The answer? Moisturizing your locks. “Just as you switch to a heavier moisturizer when your skin is dry, it’s time to switch to a heavier haircare routine, including hair masks and heavier conditioners that are made to combat dryness,” Polko suggests. Looking for a simple, at-home alternative? Tang suggests reaching for coconut oil.

While none of these guarantee your hair will suddenly reach shampoo commercial-status, switching up your habits can have you well on your way to shinier strands.

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