Consider this a strand-tervention.

By Melanie Rud
February 04, 2021
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You're likely well aware that things such as constantly coloring your hair, overzealous brushing, and repeated hot tool use can take a serious toll on your tresses. But there are some other, slightly sneakier, culprits responsible for damaging your hair. We're talking about common hairstyles, ones that you very well may be sporting daily. Ahead, experts explain why five different styles can potentially be problematic, and what you can do to minimize tress stress.

1

File under sad but true—your beloved pony may not be doing your hair any favors. All of the stylists we spoke with agree that it’s arguably the most problematic (and popular) style of the bunch. This holds especially true if you’re constantly placing your ponytail in the same spot on your head, which causes regular tension and pulling on the same parts of the hair. (To that point, a high pony is the worst, since it creates tension on the fine strands of hair around the hairline, explains stylist and salon owner Tracy Ftacek, founder and CEO of the app Pretty Convenient.) Also problematic? The fabric ponytail holders most of us use: “They cause a lot of friction, and with repeated use can lead to frizz and breakage,” says Michelle Pasterski Messen, a hairstylist in Houston, Texas. Especially if you have overly-lightened hair (which is more fragile and susceptible to begin with), consider changing where you place your pony daily, and switching to smooth, snag-free elastics, Messen advises. She likes Blax Clear Snag-Free Hair Elastics ($10; amazon.com).

2

It’s an easy, daily style for so many of us, but that ‘throw it up and go’ top knot can do a number to your hair. Similar to a high pony, the issue here is that the hair is pulled extremely tight in the same crown section of the hair, leading to stress and breakage, explains Messen. (She also adds that this is an especially big issue for finer-haired women.) The solution? Ideally, lower it so it’s not right on top of your head and pulling so much, and/or keep it as loose as possible. Also helpful: Make the bun itself not as tight, securing it with a soft scrunchie or a few pins rather than an overly taut hair tie, Messen suggests. We’re big fans of Slip Small Slipsilk Scrunchies ($39; sephora.com).

3

Theoretically, braids are a great protective style for ethnic or naturally textured hair, but done incorrectly, they can end up having the opposite effect. “Braids that are too tight can cause major damage to your hair and scalp. Your braids shouldn’t hurt after they’re installed. If you can’t sleep well because your scalp is too sore, that’s a red flag,” says stylist Brittany Johnson, senior content manager for Mayvenn. She suggests leaving out a bit of hair around the edges and making sure they’re not braided too tightly; Ftacek adds that popping on a silk sleeping cap is also a good idea, as it can help prevent any friction-induced damage that occurs overnight when the braids rub against the pillow. 

4

No matter whether they’re hand-tied, sewn-in, or tape-in, extensions that are improperly installed creates tension on too many points of the head, says Ftacek. Worst case scenario? You can even end up with traction alopecia,  many small points of balding along the scalp, she cautions. If they’re extensions that you plan on wearing for more than a few hours, make sure that you see a professional for application. And treat your hair with some extra TLC, too. Minimizing how often you handle extensions can be helpful; for example, Ftacek recommends limiting washing to only once or twice a week and relying on a dry shampoo in between.

5

OK, so not a hairstyle per se, creating any type of style while your hair is wet is a recipe for damage. We get it, you may be trying to minimize how much time you spend with your hot tools, because yes, those are problematic, too, but working with super wet hair is not the way to go. Hair is in its weakest state when it’s wet; it’s much less elastic and more likely to snap and break. “Consistently throwing your hair into a damp bun or ponytail puts stress on your stands while they are in this fragile state. Hello, breakage,” says Johnson. Try drying your hair with a microfiber towel, like Aquis Lisse Luxe Hair Turban ($30; sephora.com), and letting it air-dry almost all the way before you put it up. Or hit it with low heat for a few minutes (spray on a heat protectant first!) to help take out at least the majority of the moisture.