Hair is a remarkably strong fibre – a single healthy hair is actually stronger than a steel wire of the same diameter and can stretch up to 30% of its length when wet before breaking. However, this only applies if your hair is in good condition!
Hairs’ strength and elasticity (stretchability) comes from the presence of disulphide bonds (strong bonds which hold the keratin protein in your hairs’ cortex together) and is also dependent on your hair's moisture (water) content. This is because moisture allows the disulphide bonds in your hair to stretch and retract to normal again – without this, your hair would snap off every time you brushed, blow-dried or changed its style.
Things that reduce your hairs’ strength and elasticity, and cause it to break more easily include, chemical processing (such as bleaching and highlighting), keratin straightening treatments, UV, salt and chlorinated water exposure, perms and overuse of heated styling aids. Chemical processing might be the worst culprit, however, as it permanently raises the hair cuticle, allowing for continuous excess water evaporation from the hair cortex.
While you can never completely close the cuticle back to where it was, using the correct products and daily shampooing and conditioning can do a pretty good job of it. Pre-shampoo conditioning treatments can be especially helpful in restoring elasticity and shine and reducing breakage.
Our top tips to reduce hair breakage
- Apply a pre-shampoo conditioning treatment to your hair at least once a week
- Use a daily protective conditioning spray
- Gently remove tangles with a wide-tooth comb, starting at your ends and gradually working up towards the roots
- Blow dry your hair correctly and use a heat protective serum
- Don't pull your hair back too tightly when you style, or leave your hair under traction for too long
- Try not to wrap hair ties too tightly around your hair. This can cut into the hair shaft and cause breakage.
- Protect your hair from the sun in the summer
- Don't brush your hair too often just because it feels satisfying!
- Limit your use of hair straighteners to twice a week
- If you bleach your hair, try not to overlap previous applications
- Trim split ends - if you leave them they can break further up your hair shaft