6 Common Hair Problems—and the Expert-Approved Ways to Treat Them
The expert-approved solutions for troubled tresses.
Whether you've been spending too much time with your flat iron or you're shampooing more than usual, hair has a unique way of telling us when something is not right. Every head comes with its own unique set of problems, but no matter what the issue, the ultimate goal is healthy hair. We talked to Trey Gillen, hairstylist and artistic director for Sachajuan in New York City, to find out how to tackle the toughest hair woes. Here are some of the most common hair problems and the best ways to counteract them.
One of the biggest beauty myths is that you can “reverse” split ends. Unfortunately, the only way to fix a split end is to cut it off, says Gillen. However, you can keep them from getting worse or prevent them from happening in the first place. A finishing serum with keratin or a high-grade silicon oil will help seal the ends together and prevent it from climbing further up the hair strand. The ghD Advanced Split End Therapy ($28; nordstrom.com) acts like a cast for split ends, temporarily uniting broken hair fibers to make them less noticeable.
To prevent more breakage from happening, blow-dry your hair on cool, and use a fine-toothed comb instead of a brush to detangle (brushing can drag the knots and result in breakage). If you use heat styling tools daily, invest in a quality heat protectant and avoid placing heat directly on to the ends of hair.
From hormonal changes to poor diet, there are many reasons why your hair is getting greasy. But the biggest culprit? Overwashing. “It’s the classic 'chicken or the egg' syndrome," says Gillen. “Is your scalp oily because you wash your hair too much, or are you washing your hair too much because your scalp is oily? The first question I ask a client with this issue is how often they’re washing their hair. If it’s more than 2 to 3 times a week, you’re probably drying out your scalp. This causes the scalp to produce more oil to compensate.”
According to Gillen, the key lies in pH-balancing hair care, which uses ingredients like lactic acid to regulate how your skin produces oil. It might take a month or two to fully regulate the oil production, so in the meantime try to cut back on hair-washing and opt for dry shampoo between washes.
Frizz happens when hair’s outermost layer, the cuticle, isn't sealed all the way, causing moisture to seep in. This could be from a number of reasons, including dryness, damage, sun exposure, or a bad blowout. In order to manage frizz and keep hair sleek, the cuticle must lay flat. Look for styling products, like Sachajuan Styling Cream ($32; dermstore.com), that lightly coat hair to keep out moisture from the elements. Leave-in products that contain protein—like wheat, yogurt, collagen, vegetable, or silk—can also help strengthen porous cuticles.
Limpness is often caused by a buildup of oil and products, which can weigh hair down at the roots. Solution: Apply a clarifying shampoo to your scalp to clear up any residue. Then, use conditioner only from the mid-shaft to ends, and hit your roots with a volumizing leave-in after styling to pump up the volume—we love R+Co Balloon Dry Volume Spray ($32; dermstore.com).
Hair thinning and hair loss can be due to a number of reasons, including stress, hormonal imbalance, and using the wrong hair products. If you’ve switched over to a new product recently, try using cross elimination to pinpoint the culprit. Vitamins like vitamin B5, manganese, and magnesium, whether ingested or applied topically, can also help to strengthen and support hair follicles, says Gillen. Look for OTC-shampoos that contain amino acids and antioxidants to feed your scalp.
For worse cases, ask your dermatologist about a prescription shampoo like ketoconazole, which prevents two hormones associated with hair loss—testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). If you continue to notice a lack of hair on your head, see a doctor. It could be a symptom of a greater problem (like thyroid problems, iron deficiency anemia, and more).
Dandruff, while harmless, can be a serious nuisance to manage. Try exfoliating your scalp with salicylic acid to gently lift the top layer of dry skin, and pair it with an exfoliating brush, like the Briogeo Scalp Revival Stimulating Therapy Massager ($16; sephora.com). This will break down the dead skin cells that accumulate on the scalp and lead to white flakes. Special dandruff shampoos containing zinc or sulfur can also help. Modern formulas no longer smell repellent, and are gentle enough to be used every day. In need of a quick fix? Apple-cider vinegar, which has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties to lower levels of yeast on the skin, has also been touted as an effective home remedy against dandruff.