The shelves are filled with hair products that claim to “heal” your hair. There’s no doubt that these products can improve the appearance of your hair, but can they really heal it? Take a closer look to find out if the marketing meets the facts.
FACT #1: HAIR ISN’T ALIVE
Much like your fingernails, your hair is made mainly from a type of protein called keratin. The only part of your hair that is actually living is found in the follicle. The part of your hair that is visible is called the hair shaft, and it is considered dead.1 Unlike skin, the hair shaft can’t regenerate or heal. So there’s no “ointment” available that’s going to heal your hair.2
FACT #2: DAMAGE IS PERMANENT
When you break a nail, you have to wait for the new one to grow back, the same is true for hair. Once the damage is done, it’s done. Hair is made of three layers, the inner fiber is called the medulla, the middle layer is called the cortex and the outer layer is called the cuticle.3 When you damage your hair it raises and chips the cuticle revealing the cortex and the medulla. If you looked at damaged hair under a microscope it would look like splintered wood with many jagged edges.4 That’s why damaged hair appears dull. A smoother, flat cuticle that hasn’t been damaged appears to shine. Eventually damaged hair will start to split and create two strands creating the dreaded “split end.”
FACT #3: DAMAGE COMES FROM A NUMBER OF SOURCES
Your hair never gets a break. Weather, sunlight, pool water, salt water, coloring, and bleaching all contribute to the damage your hair suffers. There’s a layer of protective lipids, a type of fat, that keeps your hair hydrated and prevents some damage.5 When this layer of oil is removed by harsh chemicals or aggressive treatment, your hair is left exposed and at risk for damage.
FACT #4: PRODUCTS CAN CONCEAL, NOT HEAL
Most products that claim to heal damaged hair are most likely helping the hair look smoother and shinier. In a 2015 blog post, Josh Rosebrook said, “You can use oils, conditioners, or hydrolyzed proteins to disguise the issues temporarily, but it’s akin to using make-up, products improve the appearance but they will wash out and you are back to the original problem.”3 According to Hairmomentum.com hair products that claim to “heal” use polymers that fill the gaps in damaged hair to give it a smooth surface that feels repaired and looks great, but it’s not actually healed.6
FACT #5: SPLIT ENDS CAN’T BE REPAIRED
There is one product on the market that can fix split ends and it’s called scissors. Trimming your hair to remove split ends prevents the entire shaft of hair from splitting and will help your hair look healthier longer. Treating your hair with products like hair butters or oils can conceal split ends and help your hair to look great, but they won’t permanently fix them. A regular trim is the best way to stay on top of split ends.7
FACT #6: CONDITIONERS PROTECT HAIR
You may not be able to “heal” your hair, but the good news is you can treat damaged hair and return its shine and resilience. Shampooing your hair with gentle shampoos and conditioning it daily will help your hair remain hydrated. High quality conditioners and treatments contain oils that will reduce the friction and tangles that can cause damage to occur and will maximize shine.
FACT #7: WATCH THOSE SETTINGS CURLING IRONS OR FLAT IRONS
Different hair types need require different settings for the best results. Make sure your settings are in line with your hair texture! But there is hope for damaged hair. Choosing high-quality hair products that nourish your hair and protect it from further damage will make it look radiant again. High-quality tools such as flat irons and curlers that offer temperature control will also give you the best results for your hair type, while avoiding heat damage. If you keep a routine that protects your hair and treats damage, your hair can, and will, look gorgeous again.