Medically reviewed by Jill Johnson, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 10/19/2021
Whether your hair is one of your best features or not, it’s something you probably want to preserve and protect.
Hair loss is a major concern for many men, but the truth is that even if you’re not in danger of going bald, there are ways your hair can experience damage that will make it look just as rough.
Dry hair and damaged hair may not be baldness, but it’s certainly nothing to ignore if you’re seeing the signs in the mirror or sink.
Hair damage and dryness aren’t the same thing, but they’re inherently related, and understanding the relationship is crucial to health for the hair you have (and want to keep).
Let’s start with the basics.
Dry hair is one of several hair health conditions where the hair follicles on your head have lost their protective coating of oil. And it can lead to damaged hair for men.
This oily coating that gives your hair its natural shine isn’t just for aesthetics — it also protects your hair from damage and, when it’s gone, can be a contributing factor to breakage and other types of hair damage.
It helps to understand that hair texture relates to the thickness of circumference of your individual hair strands — and can affect how your hair looks and responds to products.
Fine hair can be considered thin and fragile — and can become greasy or oily more quickly because of its size.
Fine hair also breaks more easily than coarse hair, and haircare products can sometimes weigh it down.
Coarse or thick hair will always have a medulla layer (a deep, inner layer) in addition to the cuticle (outer layer) and cortex (middle layer), and will always look the most full and thick of the three types.
However, just because it’s thicker, coarse hair can sometimes have a thin cuticle layer, making it prone to breakage.
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.
Internal or intrinsic causes of hair damage can include a variety of factors like poor nutrition and nutrient deficiency. Such factors can lead to brittleness.
External and extrinsic causes of hair damage and hair dryness may not surprise you, because the same things that can harm your hair can damage your skin.
They include ultraviolet radiation, tobacco smoke and smoking.
Sometimes spending a lot of time in an extremely dry climate or out in the elements can also damage strands.
If you’re looking to fix your hair damage problems, we have good news and bad news. The bad news, to start, is that many types of hair damage are irreversible: Once the hair follicle has been damaged, that’s not going to be undone until new hair growth happens.
There are different hair products for straight hair and curly hair, and even some that can be applied to hair strands to add extra moisture and protection.
A healthcare provider can also suggest or prescribe specific products for dry scalp, dandruff or even extremely oily hair.
There are also shampoos and products designed to promote volume (as well as tackle potential hair loss), like this Thick Fix Hair Thickening Shampoo).
The good news is that new hair growth can happen every day, and you’ll have a head of fresh healthy hair eventually, so long as you prevent further damage.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), there are a few ways you can prevent hair damage:
Believe it or not, the AAD says that you may be washing your hair too much — which can strip your strands of much-needed oil.
Rather than working shampoo up and down the length of each hair shaft, they recommend massaging the shampoo into your scalp, and allowing the water to wash it down the length of your hair. This is easier on your strands, delivers a nice scalp massage, and still gets you clean.
The AAD advises using conditioner to moisturize hair and replenish lost oil after every wash. Skipping it can contribute to hair damage.
If you have thin hair, and find that conditioner weighs it down, focus putting most of the conditioner on the ends of your hair, where it tends to be most dry.
There are some ‘conditioning’ shampoos on the market and if you don’t have much time to spend in the shower.
They may or may not smooth your strands as you like, so you’ll need to find what works best for you.
It looks good in the movies, but drying your hair with an aggressive rub down can damage your hair via friction.
The AAD recommends letting your hair air dry (vs. using a hair dryer, which when used too much can sometimes dry out your strands), and when you use the towel, wrap and gently squeeze your hair instead of rubbing it.
Let your hair dry on its own.
Anything that stretches, burns, chemically burns, heats or over-abuses your hair just for styling purposes is going to cause you some damage, and that damage can affect the hair’s moisture levels in the short term and cause it to be brittle enough to suffer damage in the long term.
Sometimes brushing your hair too hard can lead to damage such as breakage, and some salon treatments designed for straightening or coloring your hair for example, can affect the hair’s protective cuticle.
Even a too-tight ponytail can sometimes break strands or potentially lead to traction alopecia (a type of hair loss).
You’ve probably expected this from word one of this story: As mentioned above, hair dryers, hot combs and all of the styling tools that use heat on your hair can be bad for its health.
In addition to stripping the hair’s oil and drying it out, they can also damage the hair’s structure and fracture the cuticle, leading to brittle hair.
If you’re experiencing hair loss or noticing signs of 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 may be experiencing a vitamin deficiency a healthcare provider could diagnose.
There are also supplements specific to hair health. Though they’re not sufficient to replace a balanced diet or reverse a poor diet, items like biotin, vitamin A and the milk industry’s star athlete vitamin D (Biotin Gummy Multivitamins) can increase hair’s healthy performance.
Dry hair can be cause for concern, but dry and damaged hair can be a reason to give your healthcare provider a call.
In fact, any sudden changes to your hair’s health can be a reason to consult a healthcare professional.
They can help you determine whether what you’re seeing as dryness and damage is actually a symptom of a health condition, or the start of hair miniaturization, hair thinning or even hair loss.
And if you are simply experiencing dry hair — and hair damage as a result, you’ve got plenty of treatment options, including thickening shampoo, which can help prevent hair loss and boost your overall volume.
This Hair Power Pack is another great option, and includes biotin, for nutrient-based support.