How to Fix Damaged and Dry Hair in Men

Kristin Hall, FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 10/6/2022

Whether or not your hair is one of your best features, it’s probably something you want to take good care of and protect from damage. 

Hair loss is a common concern for many men, and for good reason. Approximately 50 percent of all men develop male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, at some point in life, with diffuse thinning and a receding hairline common symptoms.

But the truth is that even if you’re not in danger of going bald, there are plenty of ways in which your hair can experience damage that will make it look just as rough. 

Dry hair and damaged hair may not be baldness, but they’re certainly nothing to ignore if you’re starting to see the signs of harm from chemical treatments or overly frizzy hair when you look in the mirror or find a few extra stray hairs in your sink.

Hair damage and dryness aren’t the same thing, but they’re inherently related, and being aware of this relationship can be crucial to keeping your hair healthy and looking its best.

The good news is that preventing dryness, damage and shedding isn’t as difficult as it can seem -- in fact, it’s largely about maintaining good hair care habits while avoiding bad ones.

Below, we’ve covered how your hair can become dry and damaged, including specific hair care habits that can do more harm than good.

We’ve also discussed the steps that you can take to fix dry, damaged hair and promote healthy hair growth.

What Men Should Know About Dry and Damaged Hair

Dry hair is one of several hair health conditions that can affect your hair’s appearance, texture and feel. It happens when your hair loses its moisture and oil, preventing it from maintaining its normal smoothness and shine. 

Although hair that’s dry isn’t necessarily weak or damaged, dry hair can be a contributing factor to future damage, including a higher risk of hair breakage.

This is because the oily coating that gives your hair its natural shine isn’t just for aesthetics -- it also protects your hair from damage. When it’s gone, your hair may be more at risk of breaking or deteriorating from common sources of harm, such as heat and friction.

All Hair Types Can Become Dry and Damaged

It’s important to understand that all types of hair, from straight to curly or frizzy, can potentially be affected by hair damage. Damage can also affect hair of any color, from dark black to light blonde. 

Put simply, the potential for hair damage is universal, and it’s vital to keep in mind that you are never truly “protected” from damage simply because you have thick hair naturally. 

Your hair naturally protects itself using something referred to as the 18-MEA lipid layer. This is a thin layer of lipids, or oils, that shields your hair from certain forms of harm and allows it to be hydrophobic, meaning it repels water.

You can think of this lipid layer as an oil-based shield for your hair, that protects the hair cuticle -- the outermost layer of your hair shaft -- from certain forms of harm.

When this layer is damaged, your hair can become hydrophilic, meaning it more easily absorbs water.

While this may seem like a good thing, it can increase your hair’s risk of becoming damaged. If your hair absorbs a large amount of water, it stretches, potentially causing it to fracture and lose some of its strength.

This issue can affect all hair types, but it’s a particular risk in fine hair, which is usually viewed as fragile and thin. This is because fine hair tends to break more easily than coarse hair, with some hair care products weighing it down. 

Coarse, thick hair will always have a medulla layer (a deep, inner layer) in addition to the cuticle (outer layer) and cortex (middle layer), allowing it to look and feel full and thick compared to the other major hair types.

However, just because it’s thicker, coarse hair can sometimes have a thin cuticle layer, making it also prone to breakage and damage.

Why Dry Hair and Damaged Hair Happens to Men

So, how is it possible to damage your hair? A variety of issues can either cause or contribute to hair damage. These include intrinsic factors such as poor nutrition or an unhealthy lifestyle, and extrinsic factors such as excessive sun exposure or harmful hair products. 

While your hair’s texture can tell you a lot about how to style and care for it, you’ll benefit just as much from learning about your hair and scalp issues.

Common intrinsic factors that may damage hair include nutritional deficiencies, certain types of medication and medical conditions, such as hormonal conditions:

  • Nutritional deficiencies can stop your hair from receiving the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients it needs to grow properly. For example, iron deficiency is linked to a form of hair shedding that can cause your hair to appear thin and patchy.

  • Medications, such as retinoids, beta-blockers and anticoagulants can cause your hair to become thinner than normal.

These factors may affect your hair texture, your hair’s protein content, or the rate at which your hair grows. In some cases, intrinsic factors that affect your hair health can contribute to dull hair or certain forms of temporary hair loss, such as telogen effluvium.

Many external and extrinsic causes of hair damage and hair dryness might not be a surprise to you, because the same things that can harm your skin can also damage your hair. 

Common extrinsic factors that can damage your hair include excessive sun exposure (which is a major source of harmful ultraviolet radiation), smoking cigarettes, blow-drying your hair using a high heat setting, using heat styling devices or applying harmful hair products. 

These habits can strip away your hair’s protective lipid layer, causing it to become dry and more prone to damage.

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How to Fix Damaged Hair

If you’re worried about damaged hair and want to take action to improve your hair health, we’ve got good and bad news.

Let’s start with the bad news. Some forms of hair damage, such as damage to your hair follicles caused by excessively tight hairstyles or extremely harmful heat or chemical treatments, can be difficult to fix. In some cases, they can even be irreversible.

Once a hair follicle has been harmed, the damage isn’t going to undo itself until totally new hair growth happens. 

However, the good news is that most forms of temporary hair damage -- for example, chemical damage caused by some hair treatments or dry hair that’s the result of a certain shampoo -- are fixable with some changes to your habits. 

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the most effective ways to promote hair growth and prevent damage are as follows:

Use the Right Shampoo or Conditioner

Your choice of shampoo doesn’t just affect the way your hair smells and feels -- it also has a big impact on your hair’s texture, thickness and ability to properly deal with moisture.

Shampoo washes away excess sebum -- a type of natural oil that’s secreted by your sebaceous glands. When sebum builds up on your scalp, it can cause your skin to become too oily and give your hair a heavy feeling.

Many shampoos contain harsh ingredients that can dry out your hair and scalp, increasing your risk of developing damaged hair.

Try to choose a shampoo that’s formulated for your hair type, particularly if you have bleached or artificially colored hair. If possible, look for a shampoo that also contains ingredients that are used to stimulate growth and promote extra thickness.

Our Hair Thickening Shampoo uses saw palmetto to clean your scalp and hair while controlling the buildup of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that can cause male pattern hair loss.

Get Regular Hair Trims

Over time, it’s far from uncommon for the ends of each strand of hair to break apart, resulting in issues like split ends.

In addition to caring for your hair with a high quality shampoo and healthy habits, a great way to prevent your hair from becoming dry and damaged is to trim it often so that split ends and other signs of damage don’t have time to stick around.

Choose a local hair stylist that understands the type of look you want and try to get a trim every six to 12 weeks.

Try a Hair Mask

Hair masks are essentially regular conditioners on steroids -- supportive, nourishing masks that provide your hair with extra moisture.

While there’s little evidence that using a hair mask can stimulate hair growth or prevent thinning, applying a mask to your hair every now and then may help to support a healthy scalp and keep your hair from becoming overly dry.

Masks can be used on every type of hair, from straight hair that’s easy to care for to frizzy, fluffy or curly hair that often needs a little extra care and attention. 

Our guide to hair masks goes into more detail about how hair masks work, as well as how your hair may benefit from this type of treatment every now and then. 

Stop Over-Washing Your Hair

While washing your hair is good in moderation, washing with shampoo too frequently can strip away excess oil and expose your hair cortex, cuticle and other layers to damage.

In general, it’s best to wash your hair whenever it starts to feel oily or dirty. Depending on your lifestyle, this could mean washing every day, every other day or on a significantly less frequent basis.

If your hair is really dry and brittle, you may even benefit from shampooing once a week to give it time to gradually recover.

When you wash, take care not to overdo it by applying too much shampoo. Instead, squeeze a small amount of shampoo into your hand, then gently massage it into your scalp and hair roots before rinsing it out from your hair.

If most over-the-counter shampoos seem to upset your scalp and hair, consider switching to a sulfate-free shampoo. This type of shampoo may be less likely to cause irritation or limit your hair’s ability to stay soft and smooth. 

Make sure to focus shampoo on your scalp, not the tips of your hair, as this is where sebum is most likely to build up over time.

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Don’t Skip the Conditioner 

In addition to washing your hair, it’s important to apply conditioner after you wash. Conditioner coats your strands of hair, providing extra protection and stopping your hair from feeling overly dry or prone to breakage.

To get the best results from conditioner, apply it to wet hair after you’ve thoroughly washed out your shampoo. You can also use a leave-in conditioner to keep your hair feeling extra soft and smooth after your shower.

If you have thin hair and find that conditioner weighs it down too much, make sure to apply the conditioner to the tips of your damp hair, not to your scalp. 

If applying conditioner is too time-consuming for you, try applying a two-in-one shampoo, which can clean and condition your hair at the same time. 

Like with shampoo, it can take a little bit of time to find the optimal conditioner for your hair and scalp. Our Thick Fix Conditioner is formulated specifically to protect your hair while creating an environment that’s ideal for hair growth. 

Quit Rubbing Your Hair Too Hard with a Towel

It might look good in the movies, but drying your hair with an aggressive rub down can damage your hair via friction. 

In fact, putting any form of pressure on your hair follicles can potentially cause damage, as it’s an easy way to tug on the follicles and affect your hair’s ability to grow. 

Whenever possible, try to let your hair dry naturally rather than using a towel. If you have short hair, this is generally easy to do by simply letting it sit once you’re out of the shower. If your hair is on the longer side, try to wrap it in a towel instead of aggressively rubbing it dry. 

Skip Extreme Styling

Anything that stretches, chemically burns, heats or abuses your hair just for styling purposes is going to cause you at least some damage. Over the long term, this damage could result in your hair feeling overly dry, brittle and weak.

Some styling habits, such as pulling your hair back tightly, can even cause forms of hair loss like traction alopecia

To maintain healthier hair, avoid any styling techniques that involve constant use of harsh styling products. It’s also important to avoid brushing your hair too aggressively, especially when it’s still wet (for example, after showering).

While it’s okay to style your hair in moderation, it’s also important to give it plenty of time to relax and rest. If you use gel, wax or other styling products, make sure to wash them out at the end of the day and give your hair plenty of days off in which it can recover. 

Beat the Heat

Anything that heats up your hair, be it a blow dryer or heat styling tool for either straightening or curling, has the potential to cause heat damage that can affect your hair’s strength and texture.

Not only can these products strip away the natural oils found on your hair and scalp -- they can also damage your hair’s internal structure. This could leave you with a brittle head of hair that’s prone to fuzz and lots of unwanted flyaway hair strands. 

To keep your hair healthy, avoid excessive levels of heat exposure. If you use a blow dryer or a hot tool for styling, only ever use it at the lowest temperature setting. It also helps to hold your blow dryer as far as you can from your hair and scalp when you’re drying your hair.

Take Hair-Friendly Vitamins and Supplements

If you’re starting to develop a receding hairline or notice hair thinning, you may want to consult a healthcare professional to determine what’s going on. 

The same goes for overly brittle hair, as you could be experiencing a nutritional deficiency that’s affecting your hair health. 

By far the most effective way to supply your hair with the nutrients it needs for growth is to eat a balanced diet that’s full of hair-friendly foods. Our guide to the best foods for hair growth shares several ingredients that you can add to your diet for healthier, stronger hair.

You can also use supplements to improve your hair growth. Although these shouldn’t be viewed as a replacement for a healthy diet, they may have a positive impact on your hair’s health and fit easily into your hair care routine. 

Our Biotin Gummy Vitamins, for example, contain several vital nutrients to promote healthy skin, hair and nails.

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The Bottom Line on Fixing Dry, Damaged Hair

Dry hair can be a cause for concern, but it’s generally treatable with the right hair care products and healthy habits. 

If you have bleached hair, dyed hair or simply natural hair that’s prone to dryness, try to use the techniques above to restore its shine and moisture. If you’re worried that your dry hair could be a sign of a medical issue, it’s best to talk to a healthcare provider.

Worried about hair loss? If you’re starting to lose hair, you can take action by using our range of hair loss treatments for men, including evidence-based hair loss medications such as finasteride and minoxidil

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7 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. How to stop damaging your hair. American Academy of Dermatology. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2021, from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/stop-damage.
  2. Trüeb R. M. (2015). Effect of ultraviolet radiation, smoking and nutrition on hair. Current problems in dermatology, 47, 107–120. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26370649/.
  3. Is hair TEXTURE determined by GENETICS?: MedlinePlus Genetics. (2020, September 17). Retrieved April 19, 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/understanding/traits/hairtexture/.
  4. How to stop damaging your hair. American Academy of Dermatology. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2021, from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/stop-damage.
  5. Suchonwanit, P., Thammarucha, S., & Leerunyakul, K. (2019). Minoxidil and its use in hair disorders: a review. Drug design, development and therapy, 13, 2777–2786. https://doi.org/10.2147/DDDT.S214907. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691938/.
  6. D'Souza, P., & Rathi, S. K. (2015). Shampoo and Conditioners: What a Dermatologist Should Know?. Indian journal of dermatology, 60(3), 248–254. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4458934/.
  7. Gavazzoni Dias M. F. (2015). Hair cosmetics: an overview. International journal of trichology, 7(1), 2–15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4387693/.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.