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Saving Fried Hair: 5 Effective Techniques for Over-Processed Locks

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  • Post last modified:September 26, 2023

Have you noticed damage (those short, bothersome pieces of hair throughout your head), a lack of luster, and a dry — maybe even (gasp) crispy — sensation to your hair? Hate to inform you, but you could be in over-processed hair denial. But you’re not alone: Stylists see it all the time, especially in chemically treated blondes, says Brenna Clauson, a stylist and colorist at Mint Salon Block in Maine.

“Any manipulation or modification of the hair shaft repeatedly — blow-drying, heat styling, chemical relaxers, bleaching — can lead to hair shaft damage,” explains Shani Francis, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at the California Skin Institute. “When this damage occurs as a result of treatments, hair is said to be ‘over-processed,'” she adds.

Imagine treating the hair like lifting the shingles off a roof: “If too frequent or too aggressive, it’s obvious how the dying process can be traumatic to hair shaft fibers,” says Dr. Francis. But don’t give up hope on rescuing your strands. Since these are hair experts, they have the best tips for how to treat over-processed hair.

First thing’s first: If you’re concerned about existing (or future) damage, have an upfront conversation with your stylist and ask that they only lighten your hair as much as absolutely necessary to achieve the look you’re after. Then, get to work at home, because here’s the thing: Your hair is an investment. And if you spend time (and well-earned dollars!) coloring it, the same should be true about caring for it — you know, just like you recover as hard as you work out.

Here, how to treat over-processed hair (and prevent it in the first place), according to derms and colorists.

Select the appropriate shampoo and conditioner.

If you’re blonde, the shampoo you use is important if you want to be sure you maintain the color you leave the salon with throughout the months to come. “Cool blondes should try and use an anti-yellowing, toning shampoo such as a purple shampoo once or twice a week,” says Clauson. “The purple shampoo helps balance any unwanted brassy color that could be caused by the type of water you have, sun, chlorine, or the ocean,” she explains. And always use a sulfate-free shampoo to preserve color as long as possible, advises Clauson.

Products to experiment with:

Give hair a boost of protein.

In the case of damage, it’s also important to focus on incorporating both protein and moisture (look for ingredients such as kaolin clay and shea butter) back into the hair, advises Dana Hodges, a stylist based in NYC and a national trainer for Eufora. “Protein will assist in rebuilding connections and preventing hair breakage, while moisture will replenish the hair and prevent it from appearing excessively dry,” she explains.

Thankfully, there are products available on the market today that can work wonders in repairing damaged hair fibers. “I have witnessed hair undergo a transformation, going from resembling cotton to looking (and feeling) shiny and healthy once again,” shares Krista Depeyrot, a master colorist and co-owner of Salon Bisoux in Alexandria, Virginia.

Products to try:

Take it easy on the heat and bleaching.

Do you never leave the house without blow-drying or styling your hair with a curling iron? Unfortunately, these habits are making the situation worse. Heat tools and blow-drying exacerbate the appearance of over-processed hair, explains Depeyrot.

If your hair is damaged, try reducing heat styling to once a week, recommends Dr. Francis. Additionally, always use a heat protectant — which acts as a barrier against damage — before blow-drying your hair. Ingredients like aloe vera and sunflower seed extract can help prevent damage and provide moisture, notes Hodges.

When it comes to bleaching, consider doing it only seasonally (about four times a year at most), suggests Dr. Francis. After all, the more you tamper with the hair cuticles, the more damage you’ll experience. Moreover, a skilled stylist can work with less frequent visits as long as you maintain regular appointments. According to Dr. Francis, “Hair color experts have techniques to conceal intermittently.”

Product to try:

  • Kérastase Ciment Thermique (Purchase It, $42, This treatment shields hair from heat on days when you blow-dry, while also aiding in hair reconstruction thanks to pro-keratin.

    It is also lightweight enough to avoid causing a heavy or oily sensation in the hair.

Stay on top of your haircuts.

“Destruction from split ends can travel up the hair shaft like unzipping a zipper, amplifying the quantity and length of hair that necessitates trimming,” remarks Dr. Francis. The frequency at which you’ll require a trim will vary depending on your hair type, length, and the extent of damage, but most hairstylists recommend approximately every six weeks.

Invest in facial masks and oils.

Additional harm equals the necessity for supplementary hydration. Choose a day that you anticipate having 20 or more free minutes during shower time to apply a hair mask, advises Clauson. Additionally, a hair oil will assist in taming frizz and moisturizing your ends, even if you forgo styling your hair, she adds.

Products to consider:

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