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Dry Brittle Hair Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments 


Is your hair so dry and brittle that there is more of it in the shower drain than on your actual scalp? Is it lackluster, frizzy, shedding and full of split ends? These are all symptoms of dry hair.

If it is dry, you understand the struggle of trying everything you can and not succeeding. Firstly, trying everything you can is probably the problem. Overuse of products and neglect can cause this problem. Sometimes, however, there are other causes for the drying and breaking. These can be medical conditions beyond your control.

Dry brittle hair
Why is my hair dry and brittle?

However, remember this problem can be dealt with or can be treated. Discovering the cause is the first step to recovery.

Causes of dry brittle hair

Lack of moisture

This is the core cause. It is literally a lack of moisture.

“Your scalp isn’t making enough moisture. Hair has no natural lubrication. It relies on oils made in the hair root to keep your hair moisturized and looking lustrous.” Web MD

When the roots are unable to make enough oil to maintain, then it becomes dry and brittle and vice versa if it makes too much, then it becomes oily

“Each strand of healthy hair has a protective layer called the cuticle…. In a healthy cuticle, the layers lie tightly together and keep moisture in.”

When this doesn’t happen, the moisture escapes leaving the hair dry and frizzy as “cotton candy.”


Yes, this is a factor too. Obviously one would expect that as the sun dries out the entire earth, so will it dry our skin and our hair. There’s more to it, however;

“Summer includes overexposure to the sun, swimming, and products with alcohol, which can all dehydrate hair,” Remington celebrity stylist Richard Marin

Not just summer, winter comes with its own drying agents caused by the extreme cold. Any harsh exposure to the elements works against it and keeps it moistureless.


Using the wrong shampoo or shampooing it too often is detrimental. It strips off its natural oils, leaving it dry and brittle.

Heating agents

Using heat treatments consistently is disastrous. Flatirons, curling irons, dryers and other heating tools may be great for styling it, but it also strips it of all the moisture, leaving it parched and withered with split ends.

Brushing and toweling it

Brushing it when it’s wet makes it more open to breakage.

“This won't necessarily dry the hair but it will leave the ends brittle and lead to breakage down the entire strand.” Sylvia Vaught

Towelling it vigorously after washing can also cause friction which dries it out making it more brittle and breakable.

Treatments and bleaching

Treatments are great for the hair but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Constantly treating causes a buildup of protein which then makes it become brittle. This especially happens when treatments are done too close together without giving it time to recover.

Bleach is a strong chemical with properties that destroy it, if overused. We all know someone who bleached their hair and it went horribly wrong. Consistent coloring and bleaching it to feel, look and be dry. 


Add Moisture

To add moisture to your hair, you need to first soften the strands. You can do this by using a deep conditioner once a week at the very least.

Apply the deep conditioning mask and comb through to ensure that it is evenly distributed. Hold it up for 20-30 minutes and then rinse and style. This type of conditioning keeps the cuticles flat and allows them to lock in more moisture.

To prevent even further drying, use cold water instead of hot water as it helps to seal in all the nutrients.


Although you can’t change the weather, you can protect it while in harsh weather conditions. In the summer, avoid swimming and sunbathing right after. Or rather, wear a swimming cap to protect it.

“If you do go swimming without a cap, wash the chlorine out right away with a gentle shampoo.” Matrix Blog

After shampooing, you may happily sit and sunbathe knowing there will be minimal damage to your hair. Use treatments that are hydrating, especially during the summer months.

In winter, cover it to protect it from the harsh wind. Also, use hydrating treatments to prevent it from becoming dry and brittle.


Avoid shampooing it every day. The longer you can make it, the better- but only up to about a week. We don’t want you walking around with grimy hair. Dry powder and shampoo can be used in the interim to keep it clean.

If you feel you really must wash it a little more often than that then limit it to every two days or so. Even then, try washing it with conditioner instead, to protect it from the harshness of the shampoo.

Also, choose a mild shampoo for regular use. Avoid shampoos with too many drying elements and opt for a gentler one. These are usually the ones created for daily cleansing. 
After shampooing, add conditioner to restore some moisture.


If you can, avoid heating materials altogether. If you cannot, keep it to a minimum and reduce the heat. Very little damages hair the way excessive heat does.

Should you need to style it, let it naturally dry first. Use a heat protection serum prior to straightening it to minimize risk. And use the cold setting for your dryer.

Brushing, toweling dry

Over detangling promotes breakage. Try not to brush it more than two times in a single day.

“It is recommended to use a boar bristles brush, and only brush when hair has fully dried. On wet hair, use a wide-tooth comb to gently detangle” Kerastase Paris

When toweling it, be gentle and try to pat it dry to prevent causing too much friction. Also, change your towel to a less abrasive material.

Extra tip; Use silk pillowcases instead of regular ones for the same reason.


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