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How to strengthen hair

Dyed hair can be damaged, weakening it and resulting in it being more prone to breakages and a rough and frizzy texture. This can have a drastic effect on your hair style and even lead to color fading more rapidly. It is possible to restore your hair to close to its former condition most of the time however, and you can discover how to strengthen hair with the right products and care.

What causes damage?

In order to understand how to strengthen hair, it is important to understand what is actually happening to your hair when it becomes damaged.

Hair is made out of a protein called keratin, and it is this protein that gives your hair its structure, strength, and texture. Proteins like keratin are themselves comprised of smaller molecules called amino acids, which are the building blocks for all protein and it is the cysteine amino acid in your hair that provides much of its strength through disulfide bonding.

Chemical treatments and heat styling have the unwanted effect of damaging these bonds by breaking down cysteine in your hair. In the case of dye and bleach, it is the oxidation that lightens hair and develops dye which attacks and denatures cysteine. This means that whenever you use bleach or permanent dye, there will always be the side effect of damage occurring simultaneously with the effects you do want.

Other treatments like relaxers and perms damage your hair and reduce its strength in a slightly different way. These products intentionally break and reset bonds to change the texture of your hair because the same disulfide bonds that give your hair its strength also play a significant role in causing it to be straight, wavy, or curly.

Reversing damage to strengthen hair

With an understanding of how damage to your hair occurs, you can see that it is the protein in your hair that is affected. This means that in order to effectively strengthen hair, you need to repair this damaged protein.

This happens over time to some extent as nutrients in the form of natural oil are constantly being produced by your scalp to benefit your hair. In hair that is only slightly damaged, letting it rest can be adequate treatment. For hair that is showing signs of more serious damage and especially breakage, no amount of rest is going to resolve the condition. In this situation, you will need to use a protein treatment.

Protein treatments contain protein in the form of keratin, hydrolyzed proteins, and individual amino acids. These ingredients have a direct effect on the strength of your hair as they will bond to damaged areas of the hair shaft, reinforcing it in the short term, and repairing it over the long term. As such, they are the best products to use to strengthen hair.

Hair strengthening regime

Protein treatments are effective products and can drastically change the condition of your hair by improving its strength and reducing breakages and split ends, but to do this they need to be used for a few weeks at least in order to have an optimal effect. Applying a treatment once will strengthen your hair, but a care regime is needed over a longer period to properly strengthen and repair damaged hair.

Step 1 - Initial treatment (1 - 2 weeks)

The first stage of a hair strengthening regime will require you to use your treatment a few times a week when washing your hair to initiate the repair. This step is kind of like a loading phase where you will be applying the product more regularly in order to quickly build up strength and prevent any further breakages.

If your hair isn't very damaged and breakage is fairly minimal, this step can be skipped however, as it is most important for those who have very damaged and fragile hair. For less serious conditions, commence the regime at step 2 instead.

To treat very weak hair, start using a protein treatment 2 - 3 times a week. Your treatment should be applied after shampooing your hair and left for about 5 minutes depending on brand. In an emergency, apply the treatment twice, up to 3 times in the first week to quickly arrest breakage in hair that has been heavily over-processed with bleach or strong dyes.

Step 2 - Continuing treatment (2- 4 weeks)

After the initial repair period, protein treatments should be cut back to once a week. This is because too much protein can cause the hair to become more brittle and won't benefit further strengthening at this point.

This step can be continued for up to 4 weeks or longer if necessary. The best way to tell when it is time to move to the next step is by assessing the strength and appearance of your hair. If it's still not exactly where you want it to be, continue with this phase of the regime until it is.

In cases where hair is very damaged though, it is not always possible to get it as strong as you hope. Protein treatments will always improve your hair and reverse much of the damage, but sometimes results will stall at some point and you will need to make do with that until your hair grows out before you can get back to coloring it without risk again.

Protein treatments have both a temporary and lasting effect on your hair. Ingredients like ceramide and arginine fortify weak areas in the short term, whilst other ingredients repair the damaged protein to strengthen hair over the long term.

For this reason, it can be a good idea to continue using a protein treatment once a month or so as necessary to maintain strength; especially if you continue to keep coloring it. This ensures that the more temporary benefits are replenished and continues to improve repair over time.

More information:
  • How to get healthier hair - Want healthier hair? Find out how to treat the most common hair conditions like dryness, frizz, damage, and breakage for healthy and strong hair...
  • Best protein treatments to strengthen hair - Don't know which protein treatment to use when planning how to strengthen hair? Here are some of the best protein treatments for stressed hair...
  • Remedies for frizzy hair - Frizz getting you down? Discover the best remedies for smoothing unruly hair...
Have a question about how to strengthen hair, or need help repairing damage and treating other hair conditions? Leave a comment for tailored advice...

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