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Healthy Hair Tips: 9 Shocking Things That Ruin Your Hair

The average woman will spend more than $20,000 on her hair between ages 18 and 50, according to Toni & Guy research. Don’t let these common hair saboteurs make it all for nothing—we have the healthy hair tips to prevent and fight the damage.

Your Diet

“If you’re not eating red meat and a well-balanced diet, you could be iron deficient, which is associated with thinning hair,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, dermatologist and director of cosmetic research at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. An easy fix? Talk to your doctor about iron supplements. And be sure you’re getting plenty of vitamin D: “Low levels of D are associated with thinning hair, too,” says Zeichner. Drink fortified milk and orange juice, and get your levels tested next time you’re at the doc’s.

Washing Every Day

“American culture associates a really good lather with cleanliness,” says Benjamin Mohapi of the Benjamin with Negin Zand Salon. “But too much shampooing can strip your hair of its natural oils, leaving strands brittle.” Shampoo every other day and use dry shampoo if needed.

Sleeping on Wet Hair

Your hair is at its weakest when it’s wet, so treat it delicately when you step out of the shower or pool. “Improperly combing out your hair or using the wrong tools while it’s wet can cause breakage,” says Ky Smith, a trichologist in Los Angeles. “Be sure to use a wide-tooth comb when combing out your hair, and always start from ends to scalp to avoid any breakage.” And always go to bed with dry hair: “Sleeping on it can pull and strain hair, causing breakage and frizz,” says Nicole Brown, owner of San Francisco’s Tailored Salon.

Hot Water

And while we’re at it, try not to wash your hair with hot water. “It can strip your hair of its natural oils and can cause the hair to be dry and brittle,” says Sadah Saltzman, hairstylist at Salon AKS in New York City. Stick to lukewarm, not scalding, water.

Your Headband

You may think you’ve found the perfect accessory—or the perfect way to hide a bad hair day. But continually wearing headbands or scarves can cause breakage around your hairline. If you must, go for satin or silk scarves.

Too Much (or Too Little) Heat

You know blow-drying isn’t the greatest thing ever in terms of hair health, but get this: Air-drying isn’t necessarily the fix. A Korean study found that blow-drying damages the surface of your strands, but—and here’s the crazy part—air-drying may compromise the interior of your strands, since water makes your hair swell. The solution: “Get in the habit of using a warm or cool setting on your hair dryer,” says Pirooz Sarshar, founder of Przman Grooming Products.

Too Much Drama

Be careful when life gets stressful. We’re talking big changes: drama at work, a major breakup or financial woes. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons found that women who experienced stressful events, like divorce, were more likely to experience hair loss than their twins who didn’t. We know you can’t always control these things, but you can learn how to meditate and master these stress tips.

Your Towel

You don’t need to ditch the towel—just be careful how you use it. “Rubbing your hair with a towel or wrapping your hair in a towel can cause breakage and frizz,” says Saltzman. Blot your hair with a towel instead of rubbing.

Beach and Pool Days

“Swimming in the ocean or pool, particularly if your hair is bleached or highlighted, can literally cause your hair to snap off over time,” says Mohapi. “The buildup of salt from the ocean hardens the hair and creates a rough and abrasive coating. In the pool, over-chlorination and other chemicals make the hair brittle.” What to do? Apply a hair oil (we like using argan oil) or soak hair with non-chlorinated water before swimming.