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Hair is amazing. It can be dyed any color under the sun, twisted, braided, pulled back or styled with heat tools. However, our hair is quite delicate, and not all hair is created the same. No matter how nice we might think we are to it, there are some bad habits out there that are ruining the health and luster of our tresses, good hair day or not.

So we talked to Katie Bailey, a hair stylist at Serendipity Salon in Geneva, Illinois, as well as a few college students to discuss the seven bad habits you should scratch to maintain the health of your lovely strands!

1. Using your heat tools on the wrong setting

Heat tools have the magical ability to make our hair as big and curly or pin-straight as we please, but you may want to think twice before clamping down. Just ask Dania De La Hoya, a sophomore at Illinois State University, who shared her horror story on the damage of our heat tool habits. “I completely fried my hair two years ago by straightening it all the time on the highest setting,” Dania says. “I got an expensive new straightener and was obsessed until I realized even protective sprays didn’t offer full protection against that level of heat.”

Although heat tools usually come with instructions on what temperature setting you should use on your hair, it’s tempting to crank it all the way up in order to get the job done faster. “I ended up having to chop most of my hair off and it’s grown back much healthier now that I’ve cut down on the heat!” Dania explains.

Stylist Katie Bailey stresses the importance of using the right heat setting. “If you have fine, damaged or bleached-out hair, you’ll want to use a lower heat setting for sure,” Bailey explains. “Always use a thermal protectant before styling with heat. Ladies with curly or coarse hair should definitely protect their hair, considering that they usually have to apply heat for longer. It’s OK for those with a thicker type of hair to use a higher heat setting to get the job done, just remember to use protectant!”

If you’re in the habit of not only using heat tools daily, but also having them on the highest setting when you really shouldn’t, you’ll definitely want to kick that to the curb. It’s getting hot in here, so turn down your heat tools!

2. Forgetting to use heat protectant products

As Bailey suggests, once you’ve finally nailed the proper temperature setting on your heat tools, you’ll want to grab for a protective spray next. Lena Gilmour, a sophomore at Queen’s University, points out that “forgetting to use a protective spray before using heated styling tools” is a major no-no!

So with so many heat-protectant sprays and creams out there, which one should you choose? “Anything water-soluble is best because it’s not going to dry your hair out,” says Bailey. “A thermal lotion is probably the best option because it has conditioning benefits as well. At my salon, I use serums and lotion because they’re not only protecting your hair but they’re also conditioning it. Sprays don’t have that conditioning element,” Bailey explains.

Although it may be tempting to skip that step in order to cut down on time and save money on product, your hair will end up paying for it. Heat protectants coat hair and create a protective barrier, so just imagine what’s happening to your hair when nothing is standing in the way between your delicate strands and triple-digit temps from your blow dryers and hair straighteners.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

3. Sleeping with your hair in a wet bun

Sleeping with your hair pulled up tight or in a bun is nice for staying cool and keeping strands off your face (especially when it’s not shampoo day), but it may be doing more harm than good—especially if it is shampoo day. “I have a really bad habit of falling asleep with my wet hair up in a messy bun,” says Molly Crum, a senior at James Madison University, “but this really damages my hair. The tight elastic band leaves a mark and I always wake up with my hair in a huge tangled mess.”

Keeping your hair up at night and away from your face is said to be good for your skin, but not so much for your hair, Bailey explains. “Anytime you put your hair back, especially when it’s wet, can cause breakage because your hair bonds are really weak when your hair is wet.”

As a busy student it’s easy to fall into the habit of tying-up your wet hair and hitting the sheets, but we must urge you to resist.

4. Not brushing properly

A lot more goes into brushing your hair than you may think. If you find yourself always reaching for a regular paddle brush and getting rough with tangles, through wet or dry hair, you may be in for some major breakage. Norris Goldflies, a junior at The University of Illinois at Chicago admits that her bad habits include brushing her hair when it’s wet and “finger combing it and basically ripping it if I hit a tangle.” Yikes!

If you have a lot of tangles, yanking a brush through them is obviously not good. A wide toothed comb for wet or dry hair and a wet brush for just-washed hair is good,” says Bailey. “Paddle brushes aren’t good because they have way more bristles that are stiff and create tension. They rip through the tangles as opposed to just getting through the tangles. They’re just going to break your hair.” If you find yourself cleaning clumps of hair out of your paddle brush often, now you know why.

5. Wrapping your hair up in a towel

Wrapping up your hair after a shower seems like a quick fix to getting rid of the moisture, but curly-haired beauties should especially be wary of this, Bailey explains.

“Wrapping your hair in a towel can cause a lot of frizz, particularly for people with curly hair,” says Bailey. “I tell my curly-haired clients not to put their hair up, as the towel pulls out the curls and at the scalp and causes the hair to become frizzy. Gently scrunch your hair with a towel instead of wrapping it to remove moisture without disrupting your curls.” The extra effort will be so worth it!

6. Not using a clarifying shampoo

If you style your hair often and frequently use product, you may notice that your hair seems limp and dry after a while. If you’re not in the habit of thoroughly shampooing your hair and using a clarifying shampoo, then your hair might be in for a bad time.

“If you use a lot of product in your hair, it’s important to use a clarifying shampoo maybe twice a month,” says Bailey. “Product can create a layer on your hair that doesn’t allow for moisture and can dry your hair out, causing breakage and brittle hair (even the serums, creams and sprays!). A lot of product creates buildup in your hair, especially if you aren’t shampooing that well.” Get in the habit of using a clarifying shampoo to ensure that you’re getting all the gunk out.

7. Picking split ends

Have you ever played around with your hair after not getting it trimmed for a while, only to find that you’ve got split ends? And maybe even some of your split ends have split ends? And all you want to do is mess with them even further? Yup. That may be the worst habit of them all.

“You know when a strand of hair gets that white dot before it breaks?” Norris asks. “I love breaking that piece of hair off.” Although messing with split ends does sometimes bring some weird sort of satisfaction, you are your hair’s worst enemy here. “Just don’t do it!” says Bailey. All your hair wants to do is love you (except on those evil, frizzy bad hair days), so we should give it all the love we have back.

These seven habits may sound really hard to break at first, but to quote High School Musical, “we’re all in this together.” It will all be worth it in the end knowing that you’re doing everything you can do keep your hair looking gorgeous and healthy.

Amanda graduated from Carthage College with a Bachelor's degree in both Communications and Public Relations. She also proudly served as the Editor in Chief of her college's Her Campus chapter, and as a Her Campus Editorial Intern. She is from Chicago, Illinois, which she can confirm is indeed a windy city. Today she can still be found furiously tapping away at her laptop keys and producing content for the internet. In her spare time she enjoys reading books (before watching their Netflix or movie adaptions), running for fun (yes, it can be fun) and spending time with her friends and family.