The grass is always greener on the other side, right? If you have curly hair, you might covet sleek straight hair. Or, if you have short hair, you might be counting down the days until your hair grows out.
But one hair goal shared pretty much across the board is strength. No one likes brittle, wispy, weak hair. Read on to find out how to spot weak hair — plus, find out what you can do to optimize hair wellness and encourage strong, healthy and thick-looking hair ASAP.
How to Spot Weak vs. Strong Hair
What constitutes weak hair, exactly? Is it split ends? Frizz? Flyaways?
When hair weakens, you might see all these things and more. According to Dr. Cynthia Bailey, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Bailey Skin Care, hair strength depends on the integrity of the hair follicle and the hair shaft’s structure.
Each strand of hair, also called a hair shaft, is made up of at least two layers called the cuticle and cortex. Thick hairs will also have a core called a medulla. Hair shafts are weakened when the cuticle, the outermost layer, is damaged or not getting all it needs to be healthy.
“The hair cuticle is made of overlapping cells mortared together with lipids,” Dr. Bailey said. "These overlapping cells are kind of like shingles on a roof, offering protection to the inner shaft.
“When you look at an individual hair shaft, you may see splits and irregularities along the shaft. This happens when the overlapping cells of the hair cuticle covering are damaged, lifted and irregular."
So hair becomes weak when the proactive outer cuticle layer is not functioning at its best. “Weak hair is fine, thin, dry and prone to cracks, breakage and split ends,” Dr. Bailey explained. “The texture may be rough and the shaft lusterless and dry-looking,” she added.
In general, some common signs of weak hair include:
- Increased hair breakage
- Split ends
- Dull-looking hair
- Rough hair texture
- Tangled hair
- Frizzy hair
- Brittle hair
- Dry hair
Gabrielle White, a master cosmetologist with Dash Stylists, offered a way to test your hair’s strength at home. “One simple way to identify if your hair is weak or strong is to gently pull a hair strand at both ends,” she said. “If the hair breaks easily, it is considered weak; if it’s more difficult to break, the hair is strong.”
The Game Plan: How to Strengthen Hair
How can you reinforce your hair’s structure so that it can be strong and resilient? The good news is that there are a variety of tools you can add to your hair wellness toolkit to boost both hair strength and strengthen weak hair.
Here are some ways to build stronger hair, from the inside and out.
“Strengthen hair by caring for it gently,” advised Dr. Bailey. Being gentle will mean taking a good look at your hair care routine and practices.
First off, minimize tight hairstyles that can put pressure on follicles, which will weaken them over time and might even cause hair loss. Tight buns, ponytails, braids and weaves can put a lot of stress on follicles and lead to weaker strands over time.
“Some of the most damaging processes we can do to our hair are color processing, applying relaxers and heat styling,” said Vanessa Thomas, a cosmetic chemist and founder of Freelance Formulations. “All of these are chemical processes that can literally break the bonds in hair, resulting in split ends and hair breakage."
When it comes to heat styling, like blow-drying and straightening, never skimp on protection. “Always use these heat protectant products on your hair to minimize damage and use the lowest heat setting that will deliver the desired results,” advised Dr. Kemunto Mokaya, a board-certified dermatologist based in Texas.
Focus On Hair-Friendly Nutrition
Part of the holistic approach to hair care that we think is oh-so-important here at VEGAMOUR is a balanced diet. Your healthiest and most gorgeous hair happens from the inside out. So be sure to give your hair follicles all they need to boost hair growth and build strong strands.
“Boosting your vitamin intake can help straighten hair from the inside,” said Gabrielle White. “Like the rest of your body, your hair needs specific vitamins and minerals to be healthy and strong."
A healthy diet with a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and protein-rich foods is key to hair health and strength. To ensure you’re getting all that your follicles need to thrive, consider hair supplements like our GRO Biotin Gummies or GRO+ Advanced Gummies. These all-natural, vegan gummies are formulated with hair-friendly vitamins and minerals like biotin and folic acid, as well as vitamins B-5, -6 and -12.
Tweak Your Cleansing Game
Unless you have an oily scalp, try to avoid daily cleansing because overwashing can strip essential oils from your hair and weaken it. Consider, too, the products you’re using when washing.
“Use products that infuse the hair with keratin and proteins,” said Thomas. Keratin is the protein that your hair follicles produce to make your hair shafts, and it’s what gives your hair its strength and resilience.
All of VEGAMOUR’s shampoos and conditioners, whether from our GRO, GRO+ Advanced or ENSO lines, contain our patented vegan protein, Karmatin™, to help fortify each and every strand, leaving it silky smooth and better equipped to stand up to external stressors like weather, pollutants and hair styling.
And when it comes to washing and water temperature, Dr. Kemmy suggests using cool water to wash the hair. This will minimize how much natural moisture is stripped from your hair. Also, you should avoid being too aggressive on wet hair when drying. For example, instead of rubbing your hair with a towel, blot it instead.
Massage Your Scalp
Scalp massage is an easy way to promote healthy hair growth while also acting as a stress-busting form of self-care.
Our follicles receive the vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need via our blood flow. Regular scalp massage has been shown to help “improve blood circulation and benefit the health of hair,” said Jod Kapilakan, wellness coach at Abundance No Limits.
But there’s an added bonus to scalp massage, and it could benefit your overall health and mental wellness, to boot. One small study, looking at female office workers, suggested that even a short 15-minute scalp massage might help reduce blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones.
Add Hair Masks to the Mix
A key component of hair strength is moisture. Having the right balance of moisture in the strand becomes difficult if the cuticle is damaged, but deep conditioning hair masks can restore moisture to dry and/or weak hair. They can also help alleviate the visible signs of damaged hair like frizz, dryness, dullness and tangles.
“Keratin is essential to strengthening hair,” said Thomas. “I recommend using a deep hair mask that contains coconut oil since it has been shown to penetrate the shaft."
Keratin? Coconut oil? We’ve got that covered! Meet the ENSO Overnight Restoring Mask, a deeply hydrating overnight hair mask powered by our proprietary vegan keratin. The mask does contain coconut oil and also contains deeply moisturizing and nourishing marula oil, ximenia oil and murumuru butter. This mask works all night to hydrate, reduce frizz, enhance color and shine and restore hair's healthy appearance.
DIY Deep Conditioning: 5 Hair Masks to Try At Home
Get Regular Trims
Split ends are a clear sign that hair has weakened, particularly at the ends where they happen. And while they appear at the ends of hair, they can work their way up the rest of the strand, causing further hair damage and breakage.
“Remember, the ends of your hair are the most treated and manipulated and will often split and break much more easily than the rest of your hair — your ends are the oldest part of your hair strands,” explained trichologist Abolore Adekoya with the Trichologist Nurse Suite.
Regular trims or cuts will get rid of less than attractive split ends while also protecting hair. Win-win!
Healthier hair takes work! While you have to care for your mane with good hair care practices, quality hair products and regular trims, you also have to think about caring for your hair from the inside, too. Diet, exercise, stress management and a healthy lifestyle will all help follicles grow their very best strands.
If you notice your hair thinning or if it's suddenly become noticeably weaker, consider the steps outlined here and consult with a doctor to make sure there aren’t any underlying health conditions that could be causing your hair to weaken.
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Photo credit: Joshua Rawson-Harris/Unsplash