Dry Hair vs. Damaged: A tell all


When it comes to hair care, we are all going through an endless battle. Split ends, humidity induced frizz, and winter dryness are just a few of the hair stressors that cause your tresses to look less than regal. If you find that your hair is duller than normal, there may be more at stake than you previously thought. There are a few ways to tell the difference between dry and damaged hair, and different ways to treat each. Grab a snack and a cozy corner babe, this is a long one and I have all the deets you need on proper hair care.

What is the difference between dry hair and damaged hair?

Dryness is usually from roots to ends, while damage is typically concentrated in a designated area of your hair. Dry hair is static and dull looking. Damaged hair is dull too, but also very brittle. When damaged hair is wet it feels like mush and snaps off easily.

Can’t tell if your hair is dry or damaged?  Pluck out a precious strand (don’t worry it will grow back) and stretch it out tight. If the strand snaps right away it’s damaged. If it bounces back a little, you’re in luck – it’s just dry.

What are some causes of dryness?

The weather conditions

Winter is rough on hair – Not only does the temperature provide less moisture, but the beautiful wool coat you wear can also tear at your ends and suck up the extra moisture in your hair. Summer isn’t any better – laying in the hot sun too long can also damage your hair. Make sure to don your super cute sun hats and pull your hair up when lounging on the beach this year.


Sulfates are aggressive detergents made of mineral salts. They’re the foaming agent in most cleaning products that cause the products to suds up, and are found in most household cleaning agents, soaps, shampoos, and face products. They’re cheap and easy to attain, but harmful to your body. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is the most common sulfate found in hair products. In order to guarantee no damage to your hair and skin, there must be a concentration of lower than 1% sulfates in a product (there are typically around 15% in most cheap shampoos and conditioners). Sulfates strip your hair of the natural oils and proteins your scalp produces to stay healthy and hydrated and have also previously been rumored to be carcinogenic. When you apply hair products containing sulfates, the product coats your hair cuticle in a wax like consistency and when heat or hair color is applied to your hair, the wax melts into your hair cuticle causing not only dry hair, but also damage. Opt for sulfate and paraben free shampoos and conditioners, your hair will thank you.

Chlorine & Salt water

What happens almost immediately after you eat a salty snack? You’re thirsty. Same thing with your hair. Chlorine and salt are both dehydrators that dry out your hair and roughen up the cuticle if you spend a little too much time in it. I once spent 3 whole days lounging in The Dead Sea in Jordan, which has a salt content 10x higher than the average body of water. While it was beautiful for my skin, my hair dried out so much that I swapped out my regular conditioner for treatments for a solid month.

Hot Water

If you’re one of those “shower in boiling hot water” people, I don’t understand you, but I have something to tell you. Please stop. If the water in your shower is burning your skin, it is most likely burning your hair. If you can’t stop, at least limit the heat with a cool rinse on your hair at the end of your shower.

What are some causes of damage?

Too much heat styling

Using a flat iron or curling iron everyday causes an irreversible amount of damage. If you bake a pizza at about 450 degrees, and straighten your hair 7 days a week at 420 degrees, I’m sure you could imagine how bad your hair is suffering. Weekly blowouts help reduce the amount of direct heat going on your hair to restyle every day. When your hair goes from wet to dry, the cuticle forms into the shape it is dried in, which helps your style last. Be sure to preserve your blowout from Detroit Blows, by wearing silk turbans, sleeping on silk pillowcases and avoiding moisture by wearing a shower cap when showering.

Your pillowcase

Always use a silk or satin pillowcase when sleeping- it keeps your hair from drying out, and breaking off when you toss and turn.  

Constantly bleaching your hair

Bleaching your hair strips away nutrients, color, and moisture. While done in moderation, it’s okay, but don’t ask your stylist to take you from black to blonde in 1 day and expect to leave with all the hair you walked in with. Trust your stylist when they tell you it’s a slow process, and that giving your hair bleach breaks is what’s best. In the end, I’m sure you’d rather cough up the cash and time than lose your hair to permanent damage.

Tight ponytails

We all love a snatched Ariana Grande or Beyonce style pony, but keep in mind the amount of breakage that comes with tight hair ties. At Detroit Blows we use Bobbles and Scrunchies, they don’t cause breakage and are more gentle on the hair than a typical hair tie. Be sure to switch up the way you wear your hair – applying the same stressors day after day leads to breakage in that area.

Over keratinization; AKA too much protein

We all LOVE a good protein treatment, but there is a limit to how much you can add to your hair. Keratin is a protein used to strengthen damaged hair – it is often added to hair products or used straight away as a treatment on the hair. Too much protein actually has the power to further damage your hair and can cause extreme amounts of breakage. This is called over keratinization. Don’t overdo these types of treatments and products or you will find yourself hurting your hair instead of healing it.

How can I remedy dry hair?

-Moisturizing hair treatments
-Sulfate Free/Paraben Free Non-Toxic Shampoos and Conditioners:
At Detroit Blows we use all Non-Toxic brands including Number 4 Hair Care, Loma,  Neuma, Playa, Rahua, Reverie.
-Wash your hair with cool water

How can I remedy my damaged hair?

Sorry honey, give it up because the only real solution is cutting off the damaged portion so that your hair can grow back healthy and strong. Once it’s damaged, the hair cuticle will not put itself back together no matter how much coconut oil and conditioning treatments you slap on it!

But I don’t want to cut my hair because I want it to grow!

Another hard pill to swallow ladies 🙂 Your hair is always growing so when you get to the stage where you’re saying “I haven’t cut my hair in a year and it’s not growing but I’m trying to grow it out” that’s actually not true! If you don’t get consistent trims and maintain a healthy hair routine your damaged hair is always breaking off, therefore, you will never see the length that’s coming from the top of your head because it’s constantly breaking off at the ends. The only way to keep hair length is to keep your hair healthy, get trims often, and listen to your stylist when they tell you to throw out your drug store hair products.  

In the end it’s pretty simple – If you want healthy hair, you have to take the extra steps to take care of it. The more educated you are about the products you put on your body and your hair, the cleaner and more beautiful the life you are leading. Always ask your stylist for advice – take it, take caution, and take care ladies!

Nina Nafal is a Detroit based Hairstylist, and Makeup Artist, with a creative eye towards business and social media. She spends her extra time focusing on ways to feel your best mentally and physically, and promotes living a positive and impactful life.

Photos: Nina Nafal