Help! Why Is My Hair So Dry and How Can I Fix It?
Split ends, a tendency to tangle and overall dullness: Ah, the woes of having dry hair. Before we dive headfirst into a vat of conditioner, we must first consider what’s causing the dryness. To help us are six board-certified dermatologists (because we take your hair seriously, y’all) on the most common culprits, as well as their advice on how to smooth things over for good.
Let’s start with the most common cause. According to Dr. Tina Kinsley, a dermatologist in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that would be "everything we do to it to get the style we want." So any heat (like blow-drying, curling and flatironing) and chemical processing (perms, coloring) can damage hair and dry it out. Luckily, the fix here is simple: Lay off the heat as much as possible and start using masks and deep conditioners that add moisture back in and seal the cuticle, which will make your hair look and feel better.
Another culprit? Over-washing it. "Skipping a day or two in between shampoos is ideal for certain hair types and textures, which can help retain natural oils to combat dryness," advises Dr. Mariana Atanasovski of Allure Medical.
It could be an overgrowth of fungus called malassezia furfur (what a name). Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali explains: "This yeast grows best in dry environments (hence why you see it more often during the winter) and can cause your scalp and certain areas of your face (around your brows, eyelids and nasolabial folds) to flake." Luckily, it’s easily treated over the counter (Dr. Bhanusali recommends Dove’s dandruff shampoo) or through a prescription ketoconazole shampoo.
It might be hormonal. "Birth control pills, pregnancy, and menopause are all times of physiological shifts within the body that can have an adverse effect on the hair, including dryness and brittleness," says Dr. Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand.
You might be overdoing the smoothing treatments. "Too many smoothing treatments done close together can leave your hair dehydrated. These treatments work to smooth hair, but if they are done too frequently, the buildup of proteins like keratin on the hair causes it to become brittle and dry. Try to limit your treatments to no more than twice per year," advises Dr. Houshmand.
It could be too much sun. "UV exposure leads to dry, brittle hair. Options for protection include wearing a hat, avoiding peak sun hours (between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.) and using a hair SPF spray or cream. This will not only help protect and keep your hair in great shape, but it will also protect your scalp," says Dr. Jennifer S. Kitchin of the Dermatology Associates of New York.
Are you brushing straight out of the shower? “Hair is most susceptible to breakage when it is wet. This won’t necessarily dry the hair, but it will leave the ends brittle and lead to breakage down the entire strand. Instead of brushing wet hair, use a comb with a bit of leave-in conditioner on it,” says Dr. Houshmand.
And finally, though dry hair is most often caused by environmental factors (i.e., chemical treatments, heat styling, etc), it’s also important to rule out any internal causes such hypothyroidism or vitamin deficiencies,” says Dr. Susan Bard of Vive dermatology in Brooklyn, New York. Your derm can (ahem) help get to the root of the issue and prescribe treatments as needed.