Asian woman with long wavy hair smiling posing for a dead hair treatment concept

What Causes Dead Hair and How to Revive It

Discover the culprits behind extremely damaged hair and learn how to treat and give your strands new life.

Technically speaking, your hair is dead. “[Human hair] consists of hardened dead cells, prevalently made of keratin,” according to a study published in the journal Cosmetics. But in the everyday sense, when we say “dead hair” or “patay na buhok,”  we mean extremely damaged hair. It often looks dull, feels rough, and breaks easily. It may also have dry, frayed tips also known as split ends.

Your hair is constantly exposed to damaging factors. The environment, heat, styling, and chemical treatments all contribute to the degradation of your hair fiber. However, it doesn’t mean you should stop brushing your hair or going to the salon to get a new hair color. It also doesn’t mean you can no longer revive your hair when it looks damaged and dead.

First, let’s take a look at the common causes of damaged hair. Then, let’s find out how you can revive it through tweaks to your hair care habits.

What Causes Dead and Damaged Hair?

1. Heat-Styling Tools

Asian woman using a flat iron on her hair
Using your flat iron often can leave your hair dry, brittle, and damaged. Credit: Natasha Estelle

Who doesn’t love a good blowout? Also, who can resist the allure of glamorous curls or the understated elegance of pin-straight hair? You may enjoy switching up your hairstyles with the help of your blow dryer, curling iron, or hair straightener. But your strands—not so much. Heat weakens the hair fiber, and constant exposure to it can leave your hair dry and brittle.

2. Coloring and Bleaching Treatments

Asian woman touching her blonde wavy hair
We love a new hair color, but bleaching can cause severe hair damage. Credit: Dennie Ramon

Dyeing or bleaching your hair breaks down the hair cuticle—your hair’s outermost layer—to let the new color come in. Asian hair has dark pigments and a thick cuticle layer, so lightening it may require several rounds of bleaching.

According to a review article in the International Journal of Trichology, chemical treatments like coloring can “lead to a decrease in the lipid content of the cell surface.” When this happens, your hair becomes hydrophilic, absorbing more water. Water absorption causes the hair shaft to swell and, over time, makes your hair more prone to frizz and breakage.

3. Alkaline Chemical Treatments

Asian woman at the salon looking at the result of the salon treatment
Always go to a reputable salon for chemical treatments to make sure they’re done properly. Credit: Shutterstock

Both hair rebonding (for straightening) and hair perm (for curling) break down the natural bonds in your hair, rearrange them, and give your hair a new structure. While you may love the new shape of your hair, these chemical treatments can make your hair hydrophilic and even cause cracks and splits on the inner layer of your hair cuticle.

4. Sunlight

Asian woman with shoulder-length hair wearing sunglasses standing outdoors
The sun can be brutal to your hair. Credit: Shutterstock

According to the Cleveland Clinic website, the sun’s UVA and UVB rays can damage your hair cuticle after prolonged exposure, making your hair dry, brittle, and frizzy. It can even cause discoloration or lead to premature hair graying.

5. Not Moisturizing Your Hair Enough

Asian woman touching the tips of her long hair
Dry hair is prone to frizz and breakage. Credit: Shutterstock

Do you often skip your conditioner when you’re in a hurry? Are moisturizing hair treatments part of your hair care regimen? Dry hair is more prone to breakage and damage; leaving it untreated can make it look dead.

How to Repair Damaged and Dead Hair

1. Use a shampoo-and-conditioner duo designed for damaged hair.

Bottle of Dove Keratin Tri-Silk Serum Intense Repair Shampoo

Because of its dry and damaged state, dead hair needs a lot of moisture and nourishment. We recommend using Dove Intense Repair Keratin Tri-Silk Serum Shampoo daily. It has keratin, serum ingredients, and fiber actives that repair damage, deeply nourish and protect your hair, and leave it extra beautiful. Its Keratin Repair Actives also repair damaged hair from the core to the surface.

Tube of Dove Keratin Repair Conditioner

Pair this shampoo with Dove Keratin Repair 1 Minute Serum Conditioner for best results. This conditioner has keratin-infused serum capsules that go deep into your hair to repair damage from within. With regular use, it leaves your hair recovered, beautiful, and resilient in just one minute!

2. Pamper your strands with hair repair treatments.

Tub of Cream Silk Treatment Keratin Damage Repair

Shampooing and conditioning regularly may not be enough. Upgrade your hair care routine and include a hair treatment product. Why don’t you try Cream Silk Daily Treatment Damage Repair? It has keratin that helps define the structure of your hair, smoothening away signs of damage, reducing frizz, and adding shine. It also has collagen that gives your hair strength and elasticity. This protein helps bind water to your hair to help fight dryness and brittleness.

3. Minimize the use of heat-styling tools.

Asian woman with long wavy brown hair wearing an off-shoulder top
Air-dry your hair and showcase your hair’s natural texture. Credit: Shutterstock

Give your hair a break from your blow dryer. Let your hair dry naturally once in a while. And when you blow-dry, make sure to position the blow-dryer 15 cm away from your hair. According to a review article in the International Journal of Trichology, this distance, coupled with continuous motion, is less damaging to the hair.

We won’t stop you from using your curling iron and hair straightener. However, limit the use of these heat-styling tools because they come in contact with your hair surface directly. You can reserve curling or ironing your hair for when you’re attending formal events or special occasions. On other days, you can wear your hair au naturel or go for hairstyles that don’t require these tools. You can also try messy-chic hairstyles or loose braids for that effortlessly chic look!

4. Pace your coloring, bleaching, and chemical treatments.

Asian woman with blonde hair using her mobile phone while sitting on a sofa
Avoid changing your hair color frequently. Credit: Shutterstock

Imagine this: You’ve just gotten a new hair color, but after a week or two, you realize that you don’t like it. Should you head to the salon right away to get a new hue? The answer is no. Give your coloring treatments an interval of four to six weeks to give your hair time to recover from the damage.

For hair rebonding and perms, it’s best to wait months before you get a new chemical treatment. It’s also not advisable to get two treatments, like a new hair color and a perm, at once. Your hair may not be able to withstand the intensive processes and end up damaged and looking dead. Always let a professional assess your hair before getting any treatment.

5. Protect your hair from the sun when going out.

Asian woman wearing a wide-brimmed hat standing outdoors
Head coverings like wide-brimmed hats and headscarves can help protect your hair from the sun. Credit: Shutterstock

According to the Cleveland Clinic website, using an umbrella, wearing headscarves, or wearing a wide-brimmed hat can help shield your hair from the harmful effects of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Also, avoid going out in the middle of the day when sunlight is most intense.

Having extremely damaged or dead hair can be upsetting, but you can still turn things around. By giving your hair more TLC, tweaking your hair care routine, and using products designed for damaged hair, you can help revive dead hair and nurse it back to its healthy-looking state.