Dry, Damaged and Brittle Hair - Why you have it and how to help

Dry, Damaged and Brittle Hair - Why you have it and how to help

This blog is part of a series, ‘Discover Your Roots’, that looks at hair challenges that are coded in our DNA. Understanding the difference between the things we can change (dryness and damage from heat styling, the environment or over-processing) and the things we have to accept (the speed at which our hair grows, the number of follicles in our scalp) brings a certain serenity, the confidence to do us, and the wisdom to know what is possible. We will be sharing strategies, tips and techniques for living with hair challenges that have their roots in our tribal origins and those that we create. We talk about 'ancestral hair tribes', which you can learn more about here.

Dry hair is not a hair type. All three ancestral hair tribes can struggle with dryness ranging from thirsty to parched: it describes the condition of your hair, not its type or texture. Understanding why your tribe predisposes you to certain kinds of dryness is the first step in knowing how to battle the drought and the damaged or brittle hair that can follow it.

Tribe of the Round Follicle (TRF)

Tribe of the Round Follicle

Members of this tribe have thicker cuticles made up of more layers of scales, so better armour for protecting the integrity of each shaft. Two things unique to the tribe influence the impact dryness can have:

  • TRF locks are very porous, absorbing moisture rapidly. The medulla at the core of the hair is unbroken and packed with dark pigment which scientists think contributes to TRF hair being able to have and retain high moisture content.
  • TRF manes have the longest cycle of growth, up to nine years compared to the two to seven of the other tribes

As a member of the Tribe of the Round Follicle, you might reasonably think based on the first point that dryness isn’t a battle you’ll be fighting. Unfortunately, that positive porosity works two ways. The environment and heat styling can conspire to suck that moisture out the way it came in. Add to that the fact that individual hairs in your mane are likely to be longer, so older, meaning splits and snaps are more likely. 

To tackle overall thirst, add To The Rescue Intense Moisture Treatment to your regime on a weekly basis to replenish lost moisture – your porous strands will absorb heaps of benefit from the moisturising actives. Tackle localised dryness with a targeted application of Thirst Aid Conditioning and Detangling Spray.

Tribe of the Oval Follicle (TOF)

Tribe of the Oval Follicle

Members of this tribe display the greatest diversity of hair appearance, and that influences the impact of dryness across the tribe: 

  • From the deepest black to the palest blonde and all the shades between, the rainbow of natural pigment is represented in TOF.
  • Follicle density, the number of strands on your head, is roughly related to hair colour. Redheads have the lowest follicle density, blondes the highest and brunettes somewhere in the middle.

So how does follicle density or the number of hairs on your head, affect the likelihood you’ll have to battle dryness? Each follicle is attached to a sebum gland, the well of your hair’s natural moisture protecting oils. The higher the number of follicles, the more oil you’re likely to produce and the less likely dryness is going to be an issue for you. So statistically, blonde members of the TOF are less likely to have thirsty manes, and redheads are most likely. As with any generalisation or stereotype, there are individuals who buck the trend. However, it’s enough to make you evaluate whether the thirst is something you’re predisposed to, or whether it’s how you’re treating your hair that’s sucking out moisture from your mane.

If you’re rich of follicles and experiencing dryness, focus treatments on the mid-lengths and ends of the mane, rather than close to your scalp where your natural oils have things covered. Consider a trim to remove the chance that the dryness is being caused by splits and snaps. And reach for a lightweight solution like Thirst Aid to replenish lost moisture and support the barrier-enhancing properties of your body’s own oils.

For those with fewer follicles, a more generous dose of moisture applied consistently will be required to battle dehydration. Indulging in a 20 minute mask with a product laden with thirst-quenching actives like To The Rescue Intense Moisture Treatment, will give strands the contact time needed to absorb benefits. If you cut your mane regularly and keep heat styling and processing to a minimum, this should be enough to bring back balance. For the wielders of wands, hair dye and processing, it may be necessary to top up the moisture with a leave-in conditioner, especially as the time for a trim approaches. Add all over moisture with Thirst Aid, or focus on the ends with Intensive Care. Blending and balancing the two gives you the tools to make your regime bespoke to your mane’s state and needs in the moment.

Tribe of the Elliptical Follicle (TEF)

Tribe of the Elliptical Follicle

The TEF is the tribe of the curl, coil, corkscrew and crimp. But this defining characteristic is just part of what impacts dryness:

  • The tendency to twist and curve means that the diameter of each hair varies at several points along its length – the diameter where a twist occurs is narrower. The narrower the diameter, the more prone to splits and snaps that spot is.
  • The TEF cuticle, that chemically-resistant armour made up of overlapping scales, is a thinner layer than in the other tribes.
  • On average, the number of follicles making up a TEF mane is fewer – ¾ of the density of a TOF mane.
  • Natural oil is a challenge for the Tribe of the Elliptical Follicle. Fewer sebum glands and a predisposition to be less active may mean less natural oils are produced.

So how can your hair be dry and your scalp oily if you’re producing less sebum overall? The tighter the curl, the harder it is for oils to be dispersed from scalp to tip. Each one of those turns reduces the rate of travel of the oil. The result? Oily scalp and dry fibre or general Sahara-like dryness. Add to that the challenge that hair can be prone to brittleness and breaking plus a thinner cuticle and you’ve got a recipe for dehydration. 

A product rich in plant oils like Intensive Care will provide the slip to enable you to work product evenly through those curls, without snap-inducing drag. This supplements the moisture-laden formulations in Wave Hello, ensuring thirsty curls are a thing of the past. Dry hair is weaker, more prone to brittleness and breakage. By keeping moisture levels high, the fragile pinch point at each twist is supported, making hair more resilient. Of course, if you’re heat styling or processing curls, they’ll need even more moisture to keep strength and balance.

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