If your hair is breaking off, the good news is that you're not alone. The bad news: There's a number of reasons why your strands are weak and snapping, and you're to blame for all of them.
Since breakage isn't part of the equation that makes up good hair days, and most importantly, isn't good for your hair's overall health, we turned to two top stylists to find out the most common causes of hair breakage and how to stop them for good.
1. Chemical Exposure
Anyone who regularly colours their hair knows how much of a struggle it can be to keep strands strong and healthy, despite the exposure to harsh chemicals. Going too hard with the bleach can break down the hair cuticle, which in turn will cause it to snap off. "These chemicals slowly break down the cuticle layer of the hair, which is like its shield," explains Suave Professionals celebrity stylist, Marcus Francis. "Everything good is inside it, so if you’re colouring too aggressively or you overlap the colour too often, this will slowly break down the cuticle. When the cuticle gets compromised, it breaks."
Francis suggests having a conversation with your colourist to decide on an option that is the most gentle on your hair. He also recommends going to your appointment with hair that's 1-2 days dirty. "Your hair's natural oils will help protect it from being so sensitive to the chemicals themselves," says Francis. "But, you don’t want it to be too dirty because then the chemical won’t penetrate the hair."
Between colour appointments, you can treat hair with a nourishing oil—like coconut, avocado, or argan—which will help restore your strands' internal moisture.
2. Too Much Heat-Styling
Addicted to your hot tools? Using your flat iron, curling wand, or blow dryer too much can be the reason your hair keeps breaking off. "Heat is the main issue when it comes to damage in the hair," explains Jon Reyman, co-founder of Spoke & Weal Salons. "To avoid this, invest in quality tools. They are made with better materials and engineering to help aid in protection of hair." Along with using the right tools, Reyman also says that prepping hair with a heat protectant product like Aveda Brilliant Damage Control ($49.95; aveda.com.au) is also key for preventing breakage.
For even more insurance, Francis suggests taking a "heat tools sabbatical" once a week and using a dry shampoo like Philosophy Amazing Grace Dry Shampoo ($35; at mecca.com.au) to boost the style you're working with. "It alleviates the oil you don’t want, but keeps the natural oils you do want," he says.
If you do need to reach for your hot tools to touch up your style, turn the heat down to a medium level. Reyman also recommends only holding the tool on the hair long enough to set the style. "Being aware of this can eliminate damage or burning of the hair," he says.
3. Over-Washing Your Hair
It's true: your hair can be too clean. "Over-washing can be drying for the hair as it needs the natural oils brushed throughout to keep it healthy," Reyman says. Your hair type determines how often you should be washing your hair. He recommends fine hair should be shampooed less and conditioned more, while dry or coarse hair should be shampooed more and conditioned less. "Whatever type of hair you have, avoid over shampooing which an cause hair to become brittle and dry that could eventually cause breakage," he says.
4. Brushing Hair Too Rough
Relying on teasing or backcombing hair for extra volume can result in breakage. Francis says to avoid using plastic combs, and opt for a soft paddle brush like Mason Pearson's cult-favorite boar bristle tool ($195.00; davidjones.com.au), which is more gentle on hair. "Using the minimal amount of friction possible between the brush and the hair will do the trick," he says. "Also, I wouldn’t tease on top of hairspray because that makes the hair more sensitive."
5. Going Too Long Between Haircuts
You might think that the more time you go between haircuts automatically means that you'll have a longer length, but the truth is the exact opposite. "You'll actually lose more length because your stylist will have to cut all of the damaged ends off," says Francis.
To avoid split ends and breakage, Reyman suggests getting a trim every 8-10 weeks. "Keeping your ends cleaned up is vital to healthy hair," he says.
6. Friction from Shoulder Bags
Throwing your bag over your shoulder is something we all do without thinking twice—but it can actually be damaging your hair. "Any pressure or strain put on your hair can cause breakage," explains Reyman. "The tugging and friction of the straps and the weight of the bag could be causing stress on your ends or layers."
Both stylists say that being more mindful can help you avoid breakage from your everyday bags. Reyman also suggests making a point of grabbing your hair and throwing it over to the opposite shoulder before you pick up your bag.
This article originally appeared on InStyle U.S.