Even if you have a history of healthy, thick, and well-moisturized hair, something as seemingly mundane as spending the summer in the pool can make your tresses frizzy, brittle, and prone to breakage. 

You don’t have to live with hair you want to hide away. With the proper precautions and a little help from your dermatologist, you can heal your hair from root to end. 

Hair Basics

Before we look at some of the most common causes of dry hair and methods to improve its appearance, it’s essential to understand the basic structure of your tresses.

Each strand grows deep in the dermis and hypodermis from a follicle or bulb. It receives nutrients and oxygen via the blood vessels connected to it and sebum from the surrounding sebaceous glands. 

The actual structure of the hair consists of three parts: the medulla, the cuticle, and the cortex.

The innermost layer is the medulla, an oily substance only present in large, thick hairs like those on your head. 

Wrapped around the medulla is the cortex, which determines the color, texture, and overall strength of your hair. The cortex is made of living, healthy keratin. As these cells die, they harden and are pushed outwards towards the surface of the shaft. 

Finally, the cuticle is a protective, overlapping layer of dead keratin cells. These cells lay flat, similar to fish scales, and make the hair shaft appear smooth. They also help the cortex retain its moisture and nutrients. 

When exposed to friction, chemicals, or excessive products, these “scales” stand up, causing flyaway hairs and split ends. They also leave the cortex more susceptible to damage and dehydration. 

Common Causes of Dry Hair

  • Age significantly impacts how much natural oil your scalp produces, affecting hair moisture. 
  • Environmental factors like exposure to UV light, low humidity, wind, salty or chlorinated water, hard water minerals, and pollutants can leach moisture out of your hair and skin. 
  • Hair care products and routines can strip hair of its oils, such as shampooing too often, using heat tools, coloring or bleaching and applying chemical relaxers. 
  • Those living with eating disorders often experience hair loss, as the lack of nutrients– specifically protein– depletes the keratin that makes up the hair shaft. 
  • Some health conditions, including hypothyroidism, Cockayne syndrome, Cushing’s syndrome and keratosis plantaris, include dry, brittle hair in their list of symptoms. 
  • Sleeping on roughly textured bedding or towel-drying creates excessive friction and frays the outer protective coating on hair strands. 
  • Curly hair doesn’t distribute scalp oils as efficiently as straight hair and requires additional conditioning treatments to compensate. 
  • Hard water – 85-90% of American homes have hard water.

How to Fix the Frizz & Healthy Hair Habits

In many cases, dry hair is easy to fix at home with the right combination of products, a nutrient-rich diet, and proper protection. 

  1. Trim away your split ends. Once the hair shaft splits, it’s impossible to mend and it causes more problems like frizz, further breakage, and tangling. 
  2. Limit the number of times you shampoo per week, especially if you have curly hair. Hair washing products contain surfactants, which work to attract oils, dirt, and pollutant off of the hair shaft. Unfortunately, that means it also pulls away the protective coating of sebum that prevents further damage and dryness. 
  3. Turn down the temperature on your styling tools. Blow dryers, straighteners, and curling irons suck natural moisture out of the hair and damage keratin. It would be best to allow your hair to air dry as often as possible. 
  4. Switch your products. We recommend Elon Moisture Therapy Shampoo and Conditioner. Both are paraben-free, sulfate-free, and contain nourishing ingredients like argan oil, jojoba oil, pro-vitamin B5, sunflower seed extract, silica, oat protein, and rice protein. 
  5. Invest in high-quality, potent supplements that contain hair care superheroes. Elon’s R3 Extra-StrengthMatrix 5,000, and Matrix 5,000 Complete promote natural growth and healthier hair thanks to key ingredients like biotin, silicon dioxide, L-cysteine, niacinamide, and vitamin C. 
  6. Protect your hair from the elements by wearing hats when you plan to spend your day outside. AST carries a variety of Wallaroo Hats that provide the SPF protect your hair and face need. 
  7. Pre-rinse your hair before swimming in the ocean or a chlorinated swimming pool to reduce the amount of water your strands absorb, then rinse again once you’re done to wash away chemicals. 
  8. Switch to silk pillowcases. The softer material reduces friction. 
  9. Sleep in a braid.
  10. Use a filter in the shower to soften hard water.
  11. Ensure you eat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin A, iron, folate, beta carotene, and vitamin C. 

The most critical step in addressing your hair issues is scheduling an appointment with your dermatologist. As skin, hair, and nail experts, they can help evaluate recent changes, identify possible underlying conditions, and suggest treatments and products that can help heal, manage or correct the issue.