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8 Ways You’re Unknowingly Destroying Your Hair

by Martha Adams

You buy color-safe shampoo to keep your highlights rich; you use heat protectant before powering up a straightener; and you’ve even stopped washing your hair daily to avoid drying and breakage. You've done everything to ensure the health and appearance of your strands. Right? Unfortunately, there are a number of hidden troublemakers and daily habits that could still harm your hair. The damage might not be obvious at first, but these eight saboteurs are secretly destroying your locks.

Although your first instinct post-shampoo might be to run a brush through your wet strands, you’d be wise not to. “When hair is wet, it loses elasticity—its ability to stretch and bounce back into place,” explains Bosley Professional Strength Specialist, J.B. Shelton. She recommends using a Wet brush and a detangling spray for smooth, break-free brushing. Because hair is most vulnerable when wet, Theresa Adams, Master Stylist at Dop Dop Salon in NYC also advises against pulling hair back too tightly when wet. “Clients have come in with ponytail line of breakage in their hair,” she warns.

Believe it or not, the temperature in which you wash your hair matters. “Shampooing and conditioning your hair in super hot water can leave your hair cuticle open and exposed to the elements,” says Sarah Potempa, celebrity hairstylist and inventor of the Beachwaver . Do a final rinse with cool water to close the cuticle and protect hair from damage and breakage.

We’re all about time-saving hacks, but using 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioners is actually a haircare no-no. According to Shelton, shampoo and conditioner hybrids are great for occasional use—especially if you have curly or coarse hair—but using them exclusively may cause hair loss due to a lack of dirt and oil removal. “When your scalp has a build up of residue, it prevents the hair strand from pushing through the scalp and growing to fruition,” she says. “When hair is in its ‘baby stage,’ it is very weak and vulnerable, which makes detoxification of the scalp critical for hair growth.”

If you’ve ever wondered whether the expensive blow-dryer or flatiron was actually worth the price tag, it turns out it just might be. According to Adams, quality hair tools maintain heat better, so you end up using the tool for less time and receive an equal distribution of heat throughout each strand. This means no more going over the same section over and over and practically watching your hair fry. The less time heat is touching your hair, the better.

Although many of us simply ignore the attachments that come with a dryer, remember: They’re there for a reason. “Blow-drying your hair without the nozzle will leave your hair frizzy and open to damage,” says Potempa. Position the nozzle parallel to each section to help close the cuticle. If you have curly hair, reach for the diffuser attachment to cut down on styling time and maintain the hair’s natural coil. And as always, use a heat protector like TRESemmé Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Spray , which defends hair against heat and friction.

Just as SPF is crucial for proper skincare, sunblock is essential for strong, healthy hair. Sun protection reduces the risk of fading color and keeps hair from drying out, says PHYTO National Educator, Christyn Nawrot. For daily use, select an invisible sunscreen spray that provides weightless and greaseless protection. She recommends Phyto Plage Protective Sun Veil .

We know what you’re thinking, “I didn’t even know that was a thing.” A dirty vent is actually a disaster waiting to happen. “When the vent is clogged with dust and hair, the air circulation is depleted,” explains Shelton. Not only will this fail to effectively blow-dry your hair, in some cases, the clogged tool may actually damage hair strands and cause breakage. In worst cases the dryer could snap, pop, and burn the hair (yikes)!

Finding the correct brush for your hair type is key, says Nawrot. When hair is wet, reach for a wet brush or wide-tooth carbon comb, which reduces static electricity and holds up to repeated use. For fine hair, Nawrot suggests using a 100 percent boar hair brush, which gently stimulates the scalp, assists with healthy blood circulation, and aids in the distribution of the scalp's natural sebum. “Boar bristles are porous, just like our own hair,” says Nawrot. “The brushing action helps move the oil down the hair shaft while closing the cuticle for a brilliant, lasting shine.” Sebaceous oil is hair's natural protection and is the best thing to prevent breakage, especially if hair is shoulder length or longer. Lastly for coarse, thick hair, Nawrot suggests using a combination boar and nylon tool or a synthetic fiber brush to allow for detangling and styling.

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