What Does Damaged Hair Look Like?

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When you think of damaged hair, what comes to mind? For most, we think of frizzy, dried, or tangled messes. But damage goes much deeper than that. In fact, damage can occur at any stage of the hair growth cycle.

So, what does damaged hair look like? In its simplest form, damage appears as a change in the appearance or texture of your hair. This could be anything from split ends and breakage to dullness and frizz.

However, damage can also cause more serious problems, such as thinning hair, bald spots, or even complete hair loss. While damage can happen to anyone, its most common in those who have processed or chemically treated hair.

If you’re concerned about the health of your hair, here are some of the things you should look for.

Signs Of Hair Damage

What Does Damaged Hair Look Like (1)

Gummy Hair

This is one of the most extreme forms of hair damage, which can be a sign that your hair structure has been compromised.

Some level of elasticity is healthy, but hair that’s been frequently treated with chemicals -relaxants, perm solutions, bleach, or hair dye – can have severe consequences. 

Hair that’s gummy in texture is overly elastic and pulls apart easily. This means that the internal structure of the hair is damaged, which can be much harder to fix. 

Split Ends

Dry, broken ends are a common indicator of damaged hair that is somewhat drier than usual. This can happen naturally when your hair is in need of a trim but is often more noticeable after heat styling. 

Split ends become problematic when they are left alone because they can begin to separate the hair strand further up towards the scalp. It’s a good idea to get your hair trimmed when you start to notice split ends to prevent further damage.


While some thinning is normal, it is commonly seen in damaged hair. If your hair is longer, you’ll notice it thinning quicker since ponytails will appear narrower than you’re used to. 

More severe cases of thinning can lead to a thicker parting line or excessive shedding. This could be a sign that your hair is damaged if you are experiencing this all of a sudden. 

Lack Of Vitality And Shine

One of the main signs that your hair needs more care is a lack of vitality and shine. Dull, lifeless hair is often a sign of damage, especially if it’s accompanied by other symptoms on this list.

Healthy hair usually has a slight shine when light bounces off it, without looking greasy or oily. 

Hair that doesn’t gleam like it used to is usually not in great condition. 

Change In Texture

Finally, a sudden change in texture is a key indicator that your hair has been damaged. This could be anything from frizziness and tangles to stickiness or straw-like texture. 

If you’ve noticed a change in the way your hair feels, it’s worth investigating the cause. It could be a sign that your hair is damaged and in need of some extra TLC.

Causes Of Hair Damage

woman holding long hair out with one hand

Though chemical processing is generally the biggest offender, you don’t have to dye your hair frequently in order to damage your hair. There are many things that can lead to damage, often from a combination of issues.

Here are some of the biggest culprits:

Coloring Your Hair

It’s no surprise to anyone that dyeing your hair (whether it’s changing your natural color or covering up gray) is incredibly harmful to hair health.

The harsh chemicals in hair dye can damage the cuticles, leading to frizz, tangles, and split ends. It can also cause the hair shaft to swell and break, resulting in thinning hair.

Repeated coloring of the same areas builds up over time and can permanently impact your hair’s protein structure. Even if you are using the most natural or gentle coloring products, excessive use can lead to damaged hair. 

Chemical Treatments

Just like coloring your hair, other types of chemical processing – such as straightening, perming, or relaxing – can cause damage.

This is because these treatments use harsh chemicals to change the structure of your hair in order to change its texture and appearance.

There is a reason why many salons will do a deep condition after bleaching or relaxing your hair, as it can prevent some dryness and subsequent damage over time. When every strand is regularly chemically-treated, the structure of your hair can actually change. 

Heat Styling

Besides chemicals, heat styling also changes the shape of hair’s keratin strands. This can cause your tresses to become brittle, dry, and more prone to breakage.

Heat styling includes using hot tools such as curling irons, straighteners, and blow dryers. If you do flat iron or curl your hair, always remember to apply a heat protectant before styling to minimize damage.

It’s also a good idea to give your hair a break from heat appliances whenever possible, or ideally, only heat style for special occasions.

Poor Hair Care Routine

Maybe you don’t color or heat style your hair, but still find that it becomes damaged easily. Well guess what? Your hair care routine might be the problem.

For example, if you regularly brush your hair when it’s wet, this can cause breakage since strands are more fragile wet than dry. And if you rub your hair too hard when towel-drying, you’ll often end up with frizz and split ends.

It’s important to be gentle with your hair at all times, especially when it’s wet. Use a wide-toothed comb to detangle wet hair, and towel-dry with a microfiber towel for more gentleness on delicate strands.

Additionally, using the wrong shampoo and conditioner for your hair type can also cause damage. If your scalp is dry but your strands are oily, using a clarifying shampoo too often can strip away natural oils and lead to dryness.

On the other hand, if your scalp is oily but your hair is dry, using a hydrating shampoo and conditioner can help to replenish moisture and prevent damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is There A Way To Repair Damaged Hair?

It mostly depends on the type of damage and how severe it is, but there are many ways of repairing damaged hair.

While some cases are deemed unfixable and need to be cut off to start fresh, hairstylists will try everything they can to save your hair. 

Deep conditioning treatments such as Olaplex are highly popular and can do wonders for chemically treated hair.

Applying a hair mask is another good way of repairing dry, damaged hair. Also, examine the list of ingredients in your preferred brand of shampoo and conditioner as there may be ingredients that actually contribute to further damage.

For example, sulfates are a common ingredient in many shampoos that strip away natural oils and can cause irritation. Look for products that are sulfate-free and more gentle on the scalp if you have damaged hair.

How Should I Protect My Hair?

A good starting point is using the right products for your hair type, being gentle when brushing and styling, and avoiding heat and chemical treatments whenever possible.

It’s also a good idea to get regular trims to get rid of split ends and prevent further damage.

If you do color or chemically treat your hair, be sure to use a deep conditioner regularly and give your hair a break in between treatments.

Is There A Way Of Improving The Health Of My Hair?

Yes, there are certainly things you can do to improve your hair health.

One of the biggest things you can do is to avoid heat and chemical treatments as much as possible. Wearing a scarf or hat over your head helps protect your hair from harmful UV rays (yes hair is also affected by the sun just like your skin).

Another good way to improve hair health is to eat a healthy diet and take supplements that are specific for hair health.

Lastly, making sure you’re well-hydrated also helps as water is essential for all bodily functions, including hair growth.


Damaged hair is more common than you might think. Many people don’t realize the damage they’re causing to their hair before it’s too late.

It’s worth speaking with your hairstylist when you want to check for signs of damage and change your hair care routine. 

But with the right products and some TLC, you can definitely improve the health of your hair before it’s too late.

Emma Lee
As long as she can remember, Emma has been obsessed with beautiful hair. Her favorite look is pin-straight, sleek glass hair. She's had multiple styles from short and permed to long and natural throughout her life, and knows full well that how your hair looks can make or break your day.

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