Stasha Mabatano-Harris, owner and stylist at MagicFingersStudio, in Brooklyn has an easy way to identify breakage: “Blow-dry your hair as straight as you can, then comb the hair out and up at a 90-degree angle. Check for the end of hair where it begins to look shallow. Those shallow areas should be trimmed to prevent further breakage.” Regular hair trims — meaning once every three months, not “whenever you remember” — are key to stopping breakage.
Depending on the severity of the damage, it may be time for a haircut. “Nothing, and I mean nothing, can repair the hair after the cortex has been damaged. There are various products and ingredients on the market that can help give the appearance of mending split ends, for example, but nothing can revive a damaged cortex,” Kerry E. Yates, CEO of Colour Collective in Dallas, explained. Green confirms this, sharing that, “the cortex of the hair is the inner layer of the hair, [and] hair that is damaged within the cortex cannot be restored. Hair can only be restored from the follicles. Hair that is damaged beyond the follicle needs to be cut to prevent further damage.”
Yates says that when you do cut, do so about an inch above where the hair is broken. “Thankfully, there are some great layering techniques so only you and your hairdresser will know that you had to adjust your hairstyle to eliminate the broken bits,” she says.
While there may not be any official treatments for already-broken hair, making sure your hair is at its healthiest is the best move you can make. Every stylist interviewed for this piece was clear to reiterate that fact: Prevention is key. “It’s important to remember and approach your hair regime from the perspective that your hair strands are actually dead. So, any product you apply topically to your strands is simply there to cover or coat dead hair strands. Nothing you apply can ‘regenerate’ your hair strands because they are not living,” Maeva Heim, owner of Bread Beauty Supply shared.
Green expands on that point, explaining that “hair grows from the scalp, but it is not a living tissue. Damaged hair can be treated with several ingredients which can make the hair look less damaged but it cannot restore spilt ends or damage to the cortex.”
In clinical research, Neil Sadick, a dermatologist in New York City, found that stress can really damage your hair. Everything from a big moving day to grieving a loss can lead to micro-inflammation of hair follicles that makes hair weaker as it grows out and even causes you to shed more than usual. “Increased levels of stress hormones — mainly cortisol — disrupt the hair cycle,” says Sadick.