7 Ways to Restore Damaged Hair

We’ll be honest; sometimes we don’t take the best care of our hair. With straighteners, curling irons and blow dryers, not to mention the sun, surf and chlorine, we put our hair through hell. If you’re anything like us, your strands might be looking a little worse for wear and are definitely in need of some serious TLC. If this sounds like you, read on to find HC’s best recommendations for getting your locks back in tip-top shape.

1. Get a trim regularly

If you have super-damaged hair, you should consider chopping it off. No, we’re not talking an Emma Watson pixie cut (though that would be super cute, if you’re feeling adventurous!). Her Campus spoke with Ilonce Kopacsi, hair stylist at Spa Mosaic in Wakefield, Rhode Island, about the benefits of trimming your hair.

“If you trim your hair every eight to nine weeks, even just what’s splitting at the ends, it’s going to make your hair so much healthier,” Kopacsi says. “You’ll avoid having to cut your hair more than you’d want to later on.” We’ve all been there, and it’s not a place we want to revisit.

If you have long hair, try a style that hits you at your collarbone. Your strands are most damaged at the ends, so getting a trim will get rid of the bulk of the problem, make it much easier to deal with the rest of your hair and instantly make your locks look and feel healthier.

2. Clarify and remove any buildup

If your hair is limp, lifeless and dull, there’s a good chance you have product buildup, especially if you style your hair frequently. Try to incorporate a clarifying shampoo, like Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo ($5.99), into your shower routine once a week to remove buildup and keep it from weighing your hair down. The main difference between normal shampoo and a clarifying shampoo is that a clarifier isn’t designed to moisturize your hair or smooth it down. Since clarifying shampoos are specifically designed to remove buildup, you may need to use a bit more conditioner afterwards to add moisture back into your strands.

3. Wait a day between washes

You’ve probably been told time and time again that washing your hair every day isn’t good for it, but if you’re anything like us, you’ve ignored that particular piece of advice in favor of freshly washed locks. The reason experts say to wait a day or two between washes is because over-washing your hair can strip it of its natural oils, causing it to become frizzy and brittle.

It’s not quite as dramatic as it sounds, however, as Kopacsi points out. “Some people produce more oil than others and they feel like they need to wash more often to keep their hair clean,” she says. “You do want your hair to produce the natural oils that keep it healthy, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing to wash it every day.”

If your strands are already damaged, you definitely want to prevent any further distress by allowing your hair to produce oils naturally. Try washing your hair every other day (or three to four times a week) and using a dry shampoo, like Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak Refreshing Dry Shampoo ($5.99), to control any excess shine between washes. A dry shampoo is basically an aerosol spray that you can spray into the roots of your hair to absorb oil and give the appearance of freshly washed hair, which is great for the collegiette on the go. “If you can push your hair a few days between washes, do it!”  Kopacsi says.

4. Switch to gentler styling tools and methods

If you really can’t part with pin-straight strands or bouncy curls, you should at least consider switching to gentler heat-styling products to reduce damage to your locks. Check out ionic hairdryers, which use negative ions to neutralize positive ions (which damage hair) and also speed up the drying process by breaking up H2O molecules more quickly.

Another tip to remember is to “always use a heat protectant spray that coats your hair to protect it from the heat,” Kopacsi says. Before you touch your hair with any sort of heat tool, make sure you’re using a heat protecting spray to coat your hair and create a barrier (and also reduce frizz!).

Another thing to note is the heat of your tools; try to use the lowest possible heat that will still get the job done to avoid stressing your hair out more than necessary.

5. Use a deep-conditioning hair mask

Think of hair masks as a giant gulp of water for parched and frazzled hair. They restore shine and moisture to your locks. They also soften strands to prevent future breakage and make frizzy hair much more manageable. You can pick up a deep-conditioning mask, like L’Oreal Paris Advanced Haircare Total Repair 5 Damage Erasing Balm ($5.99), at the drugstore. Massage the mask into your hair after you shampoo and let it sit for three to five minutes before rinsing.

While a regular conditioner is also designed to moisturize your strands, a deep conditioner is left on much longer than a regular conditioner and has more heavy-duty moisturizing properties. Deep-conditioning masks tend to contain richer ingredients, making them too heavy to use on a regular basis (they will weigh down your hair), but they’re the perfect weekly treatment for dry locks. For a complete hair-care overhaul, you might want to replace your shampoo and normal conditioners as well. “Using a nice mask once or twice a week will give you that extra moisture,” Kopacsi says. “But finding shampoos and conditioners that give you added moisture or are designed for coarse or damaged hair will also help.”

If you’re more of a DIY gal, try a homemade hair mask. Generously coat wet hair with oil and comb it through—you can use olive oil, coconut oil or Moroccan argan oil, like this one from Organix ($7.99). Once you’ve applied the oil, tuck your hair into a shower cap and wrap a warm towel (fresh from the dryer!) around your head. Let everything sit for at least 10 minutes. You can also use a hairdryer to warm up the oil in the shower cap or sit outside if it’s a sunny day. After 10 to 15 minutes, remove the cap and thoroughly rinse out your hair for revitalized locks.

6. Use a protective spray at the beach

We’re so diligent about protecting our skin from the sun, but we often forget that a day at the beach can damage our hair, too. Not only can the sun bleach and fade your hair color, but it can also dry out your ends, especially if you’re taking a dip in the ocean or a pool. The chlorine in a pool can have a chemically bleaching effect on your hair, causing your hair’s natural oils to dissolve and causing friction and breakage, while the salt in the ocean dries out your strands the same way it dries out your skin.

Kopacsi explains that hair follicles absorb moisture, so before you hit the beach, apply a protective leave-in conditioner or spray, like Rene Furterer Sun Care Protective Summer Oil ($24). This waterproof spray contains a UV-blocking sunscreen and nourishing oils to help condition your hair as it protects. If you don’t have a leave-in conditioner on hand, Kopacsi recommends wetting your hair with tap water so that your hair will be too saturated to absorb any damaging salt or chlorine.

7. Restore shine with a gloss treatment

If you’re looking for instant gratification (or your cousin’s wedding is coming up and you refuse to have hair that looks like straw), a gloss treatment can work wonders on hair that’s been damaged by heat styling. Unlike normal hair dye, a gloss changes the tone rather than the color of your hair. “You can do a gloss treatment with a semi-permanent color or just a clear gloss,” Kopacsi says. “The gloss will not necessarily restore moisture, but it will add shine and brighten up dull hair and make your color more balanced with your roots.” Think of a gloss as a way to add instant life back into your locks!

The process involves coating the strands with a silicone-based gloss to penetrate strands and restore shine. After combing the gloss through the hair, the treatment is left on for 15 to 20 minutes to allow for maximum penetration. The entire process takes about 30 minutes and costs around $20 to $40. Your treatment can last up to two months, and it not only adds glossy shine, but even strengthens your hair follicles and reduces the risk of split ends. Gorgeous color and silky-soft strands? Sign us up!

While we’re definitely not asking our collegiettes to swear off straighteners and curling irons forever, giving our strands a little TLC will do wonders in the long run. Let’s all make a pact to be a little kinder to our hair and start implementing some of these practices to help our locks grow long and strong!