close up on brunette hair women holding ends of her hair
Hair ThinningHair Care

What is Hair Breakage?

Professionally reviewed by
Lorraine Turvey MITThe Institute of TrichologistsDirector

Hair breakage is a common problem that many of us struggle with, and if left unaddressed this can lead to extensive hair loss.

Long, fine hair can be more prone to breakage; however, no hair type or hair length is protected from breaking. Damaged hair can present in different forms: split ends, frizz, brittle texture and lack of shine.

What Causes Hair Breakage?

There are multiple reasons why hair can break, but there are a few culprits that can damage the hair more than others. One common cause is excessive use of extremely hot styling tools. When using tools such as blow-dryers, curling irons or straighteners, the high heat temporarily changes the structure and shape of the hair. Over time, this high heat will make the hair weaker and dehydrated, leaving it more prone to breakage. Another cause of hair breakage can be excessive chemically treatments. Having your hair colored, bleached, permed or chemically straightened alters the composition of the hair, breaking its bonds and leaving it weaker over time. Rubbing your hair in a towel when dripping wet can also lead to hair breakage, because wet hair breaks more easily. Applying pressure to the hair by styling it in tight ponytails or braids can damage it overtime as well. A diet lacking in necessary nutrients for the hair, such as protein, biotin, zinc or omega 3, will leave the hair lackluster, weak and prone to breakage.

What Are The Signs Of Hair Breakage?

There are a few signs to help you identify if you’re dealing with hair breakage. For those with longer hair, the breakage can appear in different areas, not just the ends. Pay attention to the hairline, the back of the head, the crown or the nape of the neck. Here’s what to look for:

  • Losing shorter, broken pieces of hair: damaged hair is weaker and can break more easily

  • Split ends: one of the easiest way to identify hair breakage

  • Excessive tangling when the hair is wet: if the hair suffers from breakage it will become more difficult to comb when it’s wet because it will start knotting

  • Hair is lacking shine: when hair is damaged it will look dull and its rough surface will lack shine and pliability

  • Hair is feeling rough: check different areas of your hair. Longer hair is more likely to have breakage and be more prone to have split ends and feel rough, brittle and not as smooth as the rest of the hair.

How Can You Treat Hair Breakage?

Once the hair is broken you cannot fix it but you can prevent it from breaking even further. Split ends need cutting to stop the hair from splitting even further up the length. Getting a regular trim on your ends will prevent frayed hair, keeping it healthy and fresh. Reduce heat styling as much as possible by letting your hair air dry from time to time. If you need to reach for the blow dryer, hair straightener or curling iron, make sure to use heat protectants. If your tools have various heat settings, it’s also better to not use it on the highest heat level.

Keep your hair hydrated by using deep conditioning products like hair masks, oils or leave-in treatments. If you’re coloring your hair regularly, you should also use treatments and products created specifically to protect the hair during these processes. For example, salons now offer treatments that help rebuild hair bonds during the coloring or bleaching process. Once the hair is colored, use products that deeply condition it such as Nioxin Deep Protect Density Mask, a mask that strengthens the hair shaft against damage. Add Density Defend to your routine, a lightweight leave-in foam that not only improves the vibrancy of your hair color, but also reduces hair breakage. Healthy hair comes from within, so discover our tips on how to have a hair-friendly diet. If you’re struggling with hair problems, use the Nioxin consultation tool to help get the care you need.