The Five Degrees of Hair Damage

Some types of hair damage are relatively easy to repair, while other types of damage are not. The most expensive conditioners in the world cannot repair hair that is hopelessly and severely damaged-- no matter what the label on the bottle says.  Therefore, you must evaluate the severity of the damage before you throw away money on a "miracle" product that doesn't work. This article is designed to help you do just that by describing the five stages of hair damage.

1. Healthy hair.  Hair that is healthy should have a noticeable sheen, and should feel neither dry not oily to the touch. Healthy hair is easily combed and often resistant to chemical processing. In order to test the condition of the hair, snip some hair off of the ends and place into a glass of water. If the hair is healthy, it will float!

2. Slight damage.  Hair that has slight damage often lacks shine, and only the ends feel dry to the touch. The probable cause of this damage is a combination of heat damage from blowdrying, curling, or straightening and the use of inferior quality haircare products. In order to test your hair, snip some hair near the ends and place in a glass of water. After 30 seconds, most of the hair will float on top, and only a few strands (the damaged portions of the hair) will sink to the bottom. Reduce the hair's exposure to heat, upgrade to a quality shampoo and conditioner, and get the ends trimmed and your hair should be as good as new in no time.

3. Moderate damage.  This often occurs when the hair has been chemically over-processed.  Moderately damaged hair lacks shine, is difficult to style, and the hair feels dry from the mid-strand to the ends. The root area, however, should still appear shiny and healthy. Moderately damaged hair may also tangle easily, and can be difficult to comb. Moderately damaged hair will sink to the bottom of a glass of water after 30 seconds, with a few healthy strands of hair floating on the top. Cutting 1-2 inches from the length, using low heat settings on your styling tools, and a quality shampoo and conditioner should restore the hair's health... although it won't happen overnight. 

4. Severe damage.  This is caused by a combination of over-processing with chemicals, thermal damage from styling tools, and one or more outside factors like stress, poor nutrition or side effects of certain medications. This type of damage is often associated with perming hair that has been double-processed or bleached. Severely damaged hair is brittle and will break and tangle easily, and often takes a long time to dry. If squeezed when completely dry, it will make a "crunchy" sound, like dry grass or straw. This type of hair sinks easily when placed in a glass of water. It will be impossible to repair this hair in one step, and it may take a series of conditioning treatments, as well as a few haircuts to remove the worst of the damage.

5. Beyond repair.  Hair that is beyond repair will stretch easily and feel "gummy" when wet. If you attempt to color this type of hair, the dye usually process off-tone, or will fade quickly. When dry, this hair will be extremely difficult to style, and may be resistant to heat styling. When dry, the ends appear "crinkly". This hair will also break easily. This damage is impossible to fix, and cannot be restored with conditioners or conditioning treatments. It must be cut off.

These are the five categories of hair damage. As you can see, hair can only be repaired up to a certain point. After that, even the best products in the world won't help-- and any hairdresser who attempts to convince you otherwise is just trying to earn a retail commission check.