Dry hair vs damaged hair: how to diagnose and treat poor condition

You know your hair isn't in top condition, but you're not sure why. With healthy hair sitting firmly atop the list of trends for 2022, you're probably feeling tempted to scour the internet for a quick fix to get yourself back on track. If this sounds familiar, we'd recommend reading this article first!

Paul is here to troubleshoot two of the most common hair problems: damage and dryness. He reveals the signs and causes, and his go-to treatments for getting hair into great shape again.

Do I have dry hair?

Do I have dry hair?

Dryness and loss of hair moisture can be caused by any number of factors. Although hair can be naturally dry, Paul says that the environment is one of the most common culprits.

"There are lots of factors, but the biggest ones are natural — sun, swimming, and wind. Wind is a major factor. Most people think about the sun, but wind is an oxidant, so it can really pull moisture from hair. Central heating is another big factor in hair dryness, as it saps the cuticle of moisture."

Dry hair signs to look out for

According to Paul, dry hair has a particular texture. It also behaves in a way that makes it relatively simple to identify. He says:

"Dry hair has a coarse texture between your fingers. It won't be pliable, so you'll notice stiffness when you try to style it."

Dry hair treatment options

Paul's first recommendation is to aim for a shampoo and conditioner combo formulated to moisturise hair. Anything with 'moisture' or 'elasticity' on the label is a great option.

"Shu Uemura Essence Absolue Nourishing Cleansing Milk is brilliant for anyone with really, really dehydrated hair that wants a moisture boost but still wants effortless styling," says Paul.

There's a fallacy that washing dry hair too much will make it dryer, but Paul points out that this isn't always true. By switching to a 'co-wash' (washing with just conditioner and no shampoo), you can inject moisture into extremely dry hair while keeping it fresh and pliable. You could also try swapping your conditioner for a treatment mask. Paul says:

"Shu Uemura Urban Moisture Treatment Masks are brilliant in place of a conditioner on very dry hair that needs moisture fast. You could also opt for a leave-in conditioner to smooth the cuticle and increase your hair's pliability. My favourite is Shu Uemura Overnight Serum because it adds moisture and protein."

Finally, Paul recommends styling with Shu Uemura Essence Absolue to add moisture while keeping the cuticle smooth and supple. Hair loses hydration throughout the day, so Paul recommends implementing moisture-boosting products into your daily styling and cleansing routine to keep dryness at bay. 

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Do I have Damaged Hair?

Do I have damaged hair?

Hair damage has many different causes, but Paul and the salon team see some more than others. In fact, some of the biggest causes of hair damage might surprise you!

"The main causes are over colouring, bleaching, and UV exposure from the sun," says Paul. "Every year, as soon as the summer holidays are over, I see dozens of clients with sun-damaged hair."

Surprisingly enough, keratin treatments are another common cause of damage. Although the treatment is designed to strengthen hair by rebuilding weak bonds, overuse can lead to severe damage.

"The only problem with protein-based treatments is that people use them too often. If you layer keratin over keratin, you end up pushing moisture out of the hair. It becomes brittle, dry, and can snap right off. I'd still recommend it as a treatment, just not too often."

Signs of damaged hair

It's easy to mistake the signs of dryness with damage, but weak or compromised hair has a very specific set of characteristics that are easy to identify when you know how.

"If your hair's damaged, it'll be very brittle and will break easily," Paul says. "You'll also normally see the hair lighten — the cuticle layer can't hold onto the colour molecules properly, so your hair will turn lighter."

Damaged hair treatment options

Damaged hair treatment options

Paul's top product recommendations for your home routine are Shu Uemura Instant Replenisher Revitalising Serum, Shu Uemura Ultimate Reset, and Shu Uemura Slik Bloom. Although these treatments are brilliant for getting your hair condition back on track, Paul advises you to use them sparingly and with caution. 

"Protein-based products like Olaplex and Kérastase Force Architecte are amazing at rebuilding and restructuring the hair but need to be balanced with moisture-based treatments like Shu Uemura Urban Moisture Hydro-Nourishing Treatment."

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You can also choose to add a treatment to your salon appointment. Your stylist or colourist will assess your hair and make a bespoke recommendation. Paul suggests the Signature Smooth Treatment as a super effective way to get nourishment deep into the hair.

"It goes on the inside of the hair rather than the outside. The treatment uses nanoparticles to penetrate the hair and change the internal structure, so you won't get the same kind of damage as you might get with straight protein. We follow it with a heavy moisturising treatment to restore the hair's balance."

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The golden rule for treating dryness or damage

The golden rule for treating dryness or damage

Paul has one key takeaway for anyone looking to treat dry or damaged hair at home — balance is best! Too much moisture, and the hair becomes floppy and won't hold a style. Too much protein, and the hair will snap or become dry. 

"In gaining ultimate condition, there's a fine balance between moisture and protein-based conditioners and treatments. Strength and pliability are both key," he says.

Paul suggests only using your problem-solving hair range and treatments until they run out. After that, he recommends changing to a balancing product. 

"These treatment ranges are only made to be used for a certain amount of time," Paul says. "Keep talking to your stylist or colourist to make sure you're striking that balance — you don't need the same product range every time. You need to change and adapt it as your hair changes."

Book a consultation with our experts to get a hair diagnosis and bespoke treatment plan. Already diagnosed your hair? Shop for problem-solving products in our online shop or book a treatment with our team.