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Ask Retrodiva: what to do with dry brittle hair

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Ask Retrodiva: what to do with dry brittle hair

We love it when you all write in and ask us stuff. It totally makes our day! Kaitlin wrote us recently and asked:

I was just wandering, what are the best shampoo’s & conditioners around, for dry brittle hair. I used to have amazing hair and now it is boring & bland and breaking. I used to get blonde foils & now I have gone fully brunette. Are there any tips and advice you have to offer?

Oh, girl. I feel you. As I’ve mentioned way too many times before, I’ve had a serious run in with bleach last summer, and ever since I’ve been trying to get my hair back into it’s formerly-glorious condition (what can I say? I have Leo rising – my hair is part of my identity!). So yes, I have plenty of advice to give, all of it tried by me.

The first thing I recommend is to get rid of any shampoo or product that has sulfates and parabens in it. When the “natural” products started rolling out, I mostly ignored them. I had read over and over that the sulfites just weren’t that big of a deal and nothing to be worried about. However, after I realized that I needed to try something different to coddle my damaged hair, I gave the whole idea a try, and was absolutely shocked (yes, really) at the results. My hair felt and looked much, much better. Sulfate-free shampoos are everywhere now, and not all of them cost a fortune. Here’s a list of my personal favorites:

Second, you absolutely must deep condition at least once a week. This is so important, because it helps your hair feel softer, silkier, and more manageable, especially if you have frizz or extra dry ends. Most conditioners aren’t formulated with sulfites, so  the brand isn’t that important. Just don’t skip a week if you can help it. Some of my favorites are:

Third, if you wash your hair every day, stop it. Your hair isn’t that dirty. Shampoos can strip your hair of natural oils which help repair damage, and are really unnecessary. If you feel that you must wash, try just rinsing with water or use conditioner. If you have product build up, a apple cider vinegar rinse (about a cup – warm it up slightly so it doesn’t freeze you out in the shower) will gently clear your hair of buildup.

Fourth, make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of heat that you use to style your hair. If you blowdry, don’t flat iron. Don’t wash your hair every day to preserve the heat styling that you have already done. Heat damages hair, and the less you use it the better off you are. Dry shampoos are your friend – and there are so many good ones out there to choose from. A few of my favorites:

And also, be sure to use some sort of thermal shield spray when you do heat style. You must have some sort of protection between the heat source and your hair to keep it from causing further damage.

And finally, depending on how damaged your hair is, consider cutting the worst of it off. I’ve had to go shorter since my bleach incident than I’ve been in quite some time, but it’s so nice to have the healthy new growth replace the yucky brittle hair. It’s not ideal, I know, but sometimes it’s the best thing to do.

Good luck, and thanks for your question!

© 2011, Retrodivas Beauty. Some rights reserved. Retrodiva’s Beauty Blog by Meredith Edwards-Cornwall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at

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