5 Hair Care Habits to Break Immediately (and What to Do Instead)
We’re all experts on our own hair. Whether you’re all about the products, a styling whiz or a natural girl through and through, by now, you probably know what works best for you—and plan on sticking to it.
But everyone’s guilty of a few bad hair habits, and in some cases what works today might be harming your hair in the long-term. Here are five haircare “don’ts” to quit cold turkey, and what experts suggest you do instead.
The Habit: Brushing from the roots to the end:
It’s probably second nature to run the brush through your hair in a flash. But when was the last time you really thought about how you brush your hair?
According to the American Hair Loss Association, aggressive brushing, teasing and general roughness on your hair can weaken and strip away the cuticle, causing breakage. Plus, pulling hard on long strands can damage the hair even more. So be gentle, and avoid teasing and over-brushing.
The best way to be more mindful? Switch the direction of your brushing technique, starting from ends to roots (rather than the other way around). Hold a small section of hair toward the ends, and carefully brush below your hand. Then, move up the strands until you reach the roots—and repeat depending on the thickness of your hair. That way, you’re forced to have a softer touch.
The Habit: Daily touch-ups with your straightener.
When it comes to extending a good hair day, a quick five minutes of ironing seems harmless enough. But the truth is, any time you apply heat to dry hair, you’re causing damage. Put simply, straighteners and curlers suck the natural moisture out of your hair, making it less elastic (and a lot more breakable).
In a perfect world, we’d all give up heat tools—but in ours, we don’t expect you to drop them altogether. We do recommend limiting yourself to once or twice a week, however, to keep damage to a minimum. Also important: always apply a heat protectant and make sure you’re using tools with temperature gauges (set to low, please!).
The Habit: Rubbing your hair with a towel.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
If you’ve mastered the art of giving yourself a full week-day morning blowout and getting to work on time, you’re more skilled than we are. What’s more realistic? Jumping out of the shower, giving our hair the quick towel treatment and heading out the door.
But while saving time is great, rubbing hair with a rough cotton towel can cause serious damage. (In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology named it a top ten hair “don’t”). It may seem harmless, but hair is much more susceptible to breakage when it’s wet. And friction from a towel wreaks havoc on those fragile strands.
The solution: try not to brush wet hair after the shower, and use wide-tooth, seamless combs if you must detangle. Then, wrap it in an ultra-fine, quick-drying hair towel or turban and let it dry gently while you work on your makeup or sip a cup of tea.
The Habit: Skipping your brush cleaning.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
We all know how important it is to clean our makeup brushes, but rarely pay the same attention to hair tools. As the world-renowned trichologists at Philip Kingsley explain, brushes and combs can be a breeding ground for dirt—and if we don’t clean them often enough, we wind up brushing it all back into our hair. Lovely.
Make cleaning your brushes regularly a part of your monthly routine. Beauty blogger Michelle Phan recommends removing all of the hair collected in the bristles first, then soaking the brush in a bowl of warm water and a couple of drops of shampoo. Remove any other hair that might’ve loosened, and lay it flat to dry.
The Habit: Over-relying on the messy bun.
It’s a timeless style for a reason: the messy bun is classic, easy and works for many of hair types. But buns and their updo counterparts (the ponytail and the braid) can tug on the hair and create tension, leading to breakage, says the AAD. And, if the tension continues, it can cause permanent hair loss down the line. Man buns are, sadly, no exception.
We’ll always be fans of these tried-and-true favorites, but to keep your hair safe, try lowering their height to release tension around the hairline. And whenever possible, go au natural and leave it loose—there’s no better feeling than letting your hair do its thing.