How Do I Control Frizzy Hair?

Q. I am 41 years old and have coarse, thick hair. In the past several months, my hair seems frizzy and breaks very easily. My hair dresser thinks my hair is thinning. What can I do to prevent the breakage and thinning areas of hair?

To understand frizzy hair, one needs an understanding of the structure of the hair shaft. There are two distinct functional layers.

The cuticle is the outer layer, consisting of hard, flattened cells which overlap one another like shingles on a roof. This creates a strong, but flexible arrangement to the hair shaft. The function of the cuticle is to protect the inner, more delicate cortex. The cuticle is resistant to damage; but it cannot withstand excessive environmental damage resulting from humidity, wind, cold, sun, etc. or excessive hair treatment damage from drying, coloring, perms, etc. The number of overlapping cuticle cells (thickness of the cuticle) and type of cuticle cells varies from loose and open to tight and firm scales. Also, the porosity of the cuticle cells is variable. These are characteristics that vary from one individual’s hair to another.

The cortex makes up 75-90 percent of the hair shaft mass. The behavior of the hair is determined by the cortex. These physical properties include strength, elasticity, pliability, diameter, and quality of the hair shaft.

Any insult that damages the structure of the hair shaft (cuticle and/or cortex) can make the hair frizzy. The cuticle is tough and protects the cortex, but does not hold it together. The cortex is strong but cannot resist wear and tear. The cortex holds itself together, but is easily damaged without normal cuticle protection. Any excessive stress that damages the cuticle layer will ultimately damage the hair cortex and cause frizzy hair. Repairing damage to the cuticle layer of the hair shaft will protect the cortex layer and eliminate frizzy hair. It’s important to know the hair shaft has no power to repair itself, as in the case of damaged skin.

Extreme climate conditions (dry or extremely humid) can cause frizzy hair. The cuticle is used as a base for hair sprays, lacquers, conditioners, fillers, and hair cosmetics. If the cuticle layer is damaged, one can apply treatments that can be beneficial to fixing the problem. Also, over-brushing and handling the hair can aggravate frizzy hair. There are some hair products that can aggravate or cause frizzy hair; gels, mousses, and hairsprays with high alcohol content should be avoided.

One should not overlook the fact that stress, illnesses, medications, and nutrition can have a negative impact on hair growth and frizz.

Products that restore and maintain a normal scalp and hair pH (shampoos that are pH adjusted), restore moisture content (conditioners), and flatten cuticle cells (pH adjusted conditioners), and products which help fill, coat, and repair cuticle cells (pH adjusted protein treatments) will prevent frizzy hair. There are some conditioners formulated to help smooth hair. In addition, there are deep conditioning treatments that can be used once a week to help smooth and soften frizzy hair. Pomade and hair creams can be used to combat hair frizz, as well as anti-frizz serums that contain silicone (dimethicone and cyclomethicone). Non-alcoholic mousses can be better than styling gels for frizzy hair. Products need to be used repeatedly and are not a one-time solution.

Use styling implements with wide teeth to avoid hair static and frizz.

Remember, you can control and tame frizzy hair, but not cure it.

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