Hair varies naturally from thick and robust to thin and stringy, but you likely know the natural range of your hair already. When health issues, medication side effects, stress, and treatments damage your hair, making it brittle, dry, or broken, it's natural to want your normal hair back.
Is there anything you can do? Do you have to just let it grow out and cut off the damaged parts, or can you treat your hair to restore its natural resilience and luster?
Causes for Damaged Hair
Whether or not your hair can bounce back depends, in part, on what damaged your hair in the first place. The kind of damage also matters.
Thinning hair is typically caused by one of two things: aging and stress. Aging-related thinning hair or hair loss is a gradual change, usually due to hormone changes in the body, though it can also be caused by the slow reduction in productive hair follicles.
Stress can cause abrupt hair loss, but it's typically on a delay. Your hair might not react for weeks or even a month after a major stress event, only then causing your hair to fall out. This sucks, too, because when your hair abruptly starts falling out, you worry about new, recent changes, not stressful events from weeks ago. This can lead to a cycle of stress.
Hair loss can also be caused by some medications, typically the drugs and radiation therapy used as treatment for some cancers and autoimmune diseases. There's not typically much you can do about this kind of hair loss other than defeating the disease and waiting for your hair to grow back after treatment.
Dry, coarse hair is a much more common form of damage from external forces. It has a range of possible causes.
One of the more common causes of damaged hair is heat. We don't just mean the heat of a hot day outside, but rather, heat treatments ranging from a hot hair dryer to curling or straightening irons and other heat treatments. This damage is a lack of moisture, so minimizing direct heat exposure and using a warm, moist towel to restore some moisture can help.
Overwashing can also cause damaged hair. Shampoo does a great job of stripping dirts and oils from your hair and scalp, but it also strips the natural sebum from your hair as well. If regular washing is leaving you with dry, brittle hair, try skipping the shampoo every other day or so.
Bleach, of course, can damage hair, with more damage the longer it is applied. Bleach makes the hair itself swell so it can remove the natural pigmentation inside it, either to give you lighter hair or to prep darker hair for dyes. Using low-quality bleach, or using bleach for too long, can destroy hair with little you can do to save it.
So how can you treat damaged hair with natural remedies? Here are some options.
1. Eat Some Eggs
Eggs are one of the top treatments for hair for a few reasons. They're a very healthy option for a snack or the centerpiece of a meal.
They're full of vitamins and nutrients your body uses to produce healthy hair, including Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Biotin, Folate, and Iron. Work eggs into your diet, however you like them the most, and keep an eye on your hair over the course of the following weeks and months.
2. Make an Egg Mask
There's some evidence to suggest that the benefits of eggs work even if you're using them as a topical solution rather than as part of a meal.
An egg mask is a combination of egg and some oil, which you massage into your hair and leave for around 20 minutes before washing it out. This imparts some of the same nutritional benefits to your hair directly, and will have a more immediate effect than eating the eggs alone.
3. Massage an Avocado Treatment
Avocado is a fruit with a lot of nutritional benefit, including essential fatty acids and a healthy, natural oil. Mix up some mashed avocado with an egg to create a thick hair treatment.
Massage this into your hair and scalp and leave for 20 minutes, just like an egg mask. Rinse out carefully afterwards. For normal hair, use this once a month. For damaged hair, try once a week for the best benefits.
4. Melt Some Coconut Oil
Another healthy, natural oil you can massage into your hair for some lustrous benefits is coconut oil. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so you'll want to put about two tablespoons into a heat-safe container and heat it up until it turns liquid, but not enough that it gets too hot.
Mix in a bit of lemon juice for light-colored hair, or rosemary essential oil for darker hair. Massage into your hair when it's damp and let sit for, you guessed it, 20 minutes. Wash out later and repeat once a week or so.
5. Mix Some Epsom Salt
Epsom salt is a magnesium sulfate compound originally discovered in the town of Epsom, hence the name. It's used for dozens of different purposes for centuries. Take some of this compound and mix it with some of your favorite conditioner, and heat until warm. Shampoo normally and use your new conditioner mixture, letting it sit for 15 minutes before rinsing. It should give your hair a bunch of extra volume.
6. Bust Out the Mayo
An egg mask is a mixture of egg and oil. You know what mayonnaise is? It's an emulsion of egg and oil, often with a few extra ingredients.
You can easily make it yourself, or find an organic, no-preservatives version in your favorite store. Use it just like an egg mask to liven up your hair with proteins and vitamins.
7. Brew a Cup
One of the healthiest beverages you can drink is a little tea, brewed up fresh with some hot water, a little lemon, and your favorite tea blend.
Even without drinking it, though, you can benefit from a nice cup of tea. Brew up a cup of unsweetened tea. Hop in the shower and wash your hair normally, then use your tea as a final rinse. Just be aware that darker black teas may have a staining effect that enhances hair color, so those with lighter hair – who don't want it darker – should use an herbal tea instead.
8. Consume Those Omegas
Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to your body in a variety of ways, but one of the most visible ways is through your hair's health. You'll want to get more of this essential fatty acid in your diet.
You can do this naturally by eating more fatty fish, or you can opt for supplements instead. Once daily consumption of a fish oil, borage oil, or flaxseed oil capsule can bring a range of benefits to your body and your hair.
9. Try a Spot of Butter
Oils are good to add to your hair, from inside and out. While we wouldn't suggest just eating butter for the health benefits, you can use a bit of the fat externally.
When your hair is dry, soften some butter and massage it into your hair and scalp. Let it sit for about half an hour, and then shampoo and rinse it all out. We recommend unsalted butter; the salt in salted butter may further dry out your scalp, which can lead to problems like dandruff and thinner hair.
10. Add a Bit of Cider
Apple cider, and apple cider vinegar, are both great, healthy additions to both food and hair treatments. Whip up a batch of a standard egg mask, as up there in #2, and add in a teaspoon or two of either cider or apple cider vinegar.
This fruit addition will add in some volume and a bit more life to your hair, particularly if it's limp and damaged from previous treatments. As usual, let it sit for about half an hour, then rinse it out.
11. Try Sandalwood
Sandalwood essential oil is an intense scent. Essential oils are extremely concentrated, so don't use them pure; mix a few drops of the essential oil into a carrier oil like olive oil or jojoba oil. Stir it up nicely and smooth it through the ends of your hair to help reduce split ends and frizziness, or massage it into your scalp for a deeper treatment in the roots. The carrier oil helps add that fatty, oily goodness, and the sandalwood adds both a hint of additional nutrients and a wonderful smell.
12. Use Some Honey, Honey
Honey is nature's wonder sugar, with antibacterial properties, a surprising range of health benefits, and a viscous nature that helps it cling in topical applications.
Mix up some honey with some olive oil in a 2:1 ratio, heat it lightly to make it smooth and easy to apply, and massage into your hair. As is typical, let it sit for half an hour, then rinse it out with your usual shower routine. You can also mix honey with shampoo or conditioner, or both, for even more benefits.
13. Soothe with Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera has been used for everything from wound care to a healthy snack. The succulent's inner gel alone can be used as a kind of conditioner or mask. Simply mix up the gel into an easy to apply cream and rub it into your hair. Let it sit for about 20 minutes, so it can impart its amino acids and vitamins into your hair and scalp. Wash it out and let your hair dry naturally to maintain those benefits.
14. Go Ape with Bananas
Bananas have natural moisturizing properties and are high in potassium. They can help improve the elasticity of your hair.
Mash up a ripe banana. You can use it pure, or you can mix it with some oil, and add honey if you like. This mixture should be applied as with any other mask. Leave it for 20-30 minutes – or even a full hour for just the banana – then rinse it out.
15. Use a Humidifier
One of the leading causes of dry, brittle, and frizzy hair is simply a dry climate. In hot, dry areas, or in areas where winters are particularly dry, you might want to invest in a good humidifier.
Using one of these at night can help keep your hair moist and supple, as well as keeping your eyes and sinuses moist and healthy. Not only can this improve hair health, but it can also minimize seasonal illnesses!
Is Damaged Hair a Sign of Something Worse?
Your hair is like a barometer of your overall health. When something is wrong in your body, your hair may react outwardly before other symptoms show themselves. While treating your hair for its outward damage, look inward for other symptoms that might indicate something worse.
If your hair is dry, tangled, or coarse, watch out for excess fatigue, depression, weight changes, and muscle weakness. These can be a sign of hypothyroidism or malnutrition.
If your hair is thinning unexpectedly, look for weakness, pale skin, brittle nails, and cravings for odd foods and non-foods like dirt. This can be a sign of anemia.
If your hair is graying when you wouldn't expect it to, look for swelling in your legs, nausea, ashy skin, or easy bruising. This can be a sign of kidney disease or kidney failure.
If your hair is falling out rapidly, look for extreme fatigue, extreme weight loss, rashes, and joint pain. This can be a sign of an autoimmune disease.
If you experience any of these symptoms in conjunction with one another, consider seeing a healthcare professional to check for and diagnose any more extreme issues. In these cases, an external treatment for your hair won't be enough; you need to treat the underlying disease.