How to Tell If Those Flyaways Are Baby Hairs, Breakage, or New Growth

Plus, how to take care of them.

woman with updo and baby hairs
Photo: Getty Images

I've always assumed that the sight of flyaways meant damaged and broken hair. Then one day, I asked my stylist what I could do about my breakage, and she told me that my flyaways weren't breakage at all, but in fact, they were signs of new hair growth.

You can imagine how stunned I was to figure out that all of those small hairs I've been demonizing were actually just new hairs trying to make their way. This eye-opening realization made me question the difference between breakage, new growth, and baby hairs altogether. So to find out, I tapped several hair experts to answer my questions about the signs of each, and how to take care of them.

How can I tell the difference between breakage, new growth, and baby hair?

The best way to identify the difference between breakage, new growth, and baby hairs is by appearance and location. "Baby hairs are usually found around the hairline and the lower part of the hair," says Nikki Lee, professional hairstylist, and co-founder of InCommon Beauty. "They usually don't grow more than a few inches."

"Breakage can be found anywhere on the hair, especially where blonde dye was overprocessed, where hot tools are used repetitively, or where your hair is up in a ponytail or bun constantly," adds Riawna Capri, professional hairstylist, and co-founder of InCommon Beauty.

According to Leo Izquierdo, hairstylist and co-founder of IGK Hair Care, breakage also varies in appearance. "It can appear as split ends, the tip of the hair can be very thin compared to the root, or the ends may be frayed and not smooth," he says. "Baby hair is fine and uniform, all the way from root to tip."

You can distinguish the difference between breakage and new growth because the new growth will be all the same length and all over the head, explains Capri. "If the flyaways are in just one section, it's most likely breakage."

"New growth may stick out, but the hair is easier to tame and will cooperate with the style you are trying to achieve," says Izquierdo. "Flyaways that are breakage can have frayed ends that are a different texture than the hair growing from the root."

How do I take care of breakage?

If you're someone who frequently colors or heat styles their hair and suspect that the smaller hairs are due to breakage, then it's best to treat your hair with moisturizing products and take a break from heat styling as much as possible.

Izquierdo recommends applying hair oil to help protect and control flyaways so that they lay flat and go in the same direction as your other hair. He recommends IGK Best Life 100% Plant-Powered Nourishing Hair Oil ($32, because it's lightweight and supports healthy-looking hair.

Another styling tip that can help smooth the look of breakage and give your hair a break from the heat is to do a sleek hairstyle, says Adam Federico, professional hairstylist and R+Co director of content. "When taming breakage, I like to spray a boar bristle brush liberally with R+Co Vicious Strong Hold Hairspray ($32,, which is a strong yet flexible hairspray," he says. "Then, I lightly brush over the breakage, which helps for tamping down what you're viewing as flyaways."

Ultimately, Lee says she recommends little to not heat as much as possible, but if you must, you need to use a heat protectant, like InCommon Beauty Magic Myst Universal Hair Elixir ($35,, which also works to hydrate and repair damaged hair.

How do I take care of new growth and baby hair?

"The only tip for new hair growth is to leave it alone," says Capri. The same goes with baby hairs. "Because baby hairs are so delicate and we want to encourage their healthy growth, I don't recommend doing a whole lot to style them regularly," says Federico.

All of the professionals we spoke with say it's best to be gentle with new growth and your baby hairs, and invest in a hair care routine with moisturizing products that nourish the hair to promote healthy growth. "Apply moisturizing products to seal and protect hair, and try not to apply too much heat, if possible," adds Izquierdo.

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