Beautiful hair, like so many other things in life, comes at a price. Hair dyes, relaxers, perms, extensions, hot rollers, curling irons and flat-irons all exact a toll on your hair’s natural healthy shine. Few things are as frustrating as watching great hairstyles give way to dry, damaged hair. The main requirement for repairing dry hair is that you seal in lots of extra moisture. With a little patience and dedication, fixing damaged hair can be done simply and inexpensively.
Cut off as much of the obviously damaged split ends as you can. If you are not confident enough to do this alone, either have a friend help or go to a salon. Once the ends are split, the hair will continue breaking up along the shaft, so a little healthy pruning is essential.
Wash your hair with a mild shampoo. Only wash your scalp to avoid further drying or breaking the ends. The shampoo will clean the length of your hair as you rinse it.
Apply a deep conditioner to the length of your hair. Do not rub it into the roots of your hair, because this can clog the pores in your scalp, trapping the natural oils that damaged hair needs. Let it sit for five minutes or so. Rinse out the conditioner with warm water. Do not use hot water on damaged hair, as it will dry it out more.
Wrap your head in an absorbent turban or towel. Don’t rub your head or wring out your hair. Just let the cloth wick out all of the extra moisture. Rubbing and twisting can break brittle, damaged hair.
Separate your hair into sections, and use a wide-toothed comb to smooth out any tangles. Work from the bottom up, rather than the scalp down, so that you are dealing with the damaged ends when they are still fairly wet. Do not yank out snarls; work them out patiently. Having a spouse, sibling, child or friend with a gentle touch do this is very soothing.
Raid your pantry for a cooking oil such as olive oil or canola. Use up to 1/2 cup for very long or thick hair. Add a few drops of almond, jasmine, lavender or rosemary essential oils for a more fragrant hot oil treatment. Heat the oil in the microwave for a few seconds on a low setting.
Let the warm oils sit until they are just a little warmer than your skin temperature. Pour a little into your palm and smooth it into your damp hair. Start at the ends, and always work in the direction your hair grows.
Wrap your head in a layer of plastic wrap, and then either put on a sleep turban, or wrap your head in a small towel and secure it with safety pins. Leave the cling wrap and turban or towel on all night, and use your mild shampoo and deep moisturizing conditioner in the morning.
Wash your hair as infrequently as possible, trim the ends at least every six weeks and apply the overnight hot oil treatment two to three times per week until your hair starts to regain its normal, healthy shine.
Braid your hair before you go to sleep on the nights you are not using the hot oil treatment. Secure it with a coated elastic to help avoid breakage.
Avoid harsh chemicals and styling tools that require high heat while you are repairing your hair.
Emmy-award nominated screenwriter Brynne Chandler is a single mother of three who divides her time between professional research and varied cooking, fitness and home & gardening enterprises. A running enthusiast who regularly participates in San Francisco's Bay to Breakers run, Chandler works as an independent caterer, preparing healthy, nutritious meals for Phoenix area residents.