5 Surprising Habits That Ruin Hair—and 5 That Save It

We all make mistakes. Here's how to fix a few.

Are you unknowingly sabotaging your hair? When it comes to your mane, the little things really do add up.

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BAD HAIR HABIT: Boar Bristle Overload

"Boar bristles grip hair really tightly and pull hair's oils through it," explains hairstylist Cash Lawless. That sounds like a good thing, but for everyday brushing, that grip and friction can damage the hair's outer layer. Dense, boar-bristle brushes are also a definite no-no on soaking wet hair, which is extra vulnerable to breakage. Limit the brush's place in your arsenal to styling: It's great to use towards the end of a blowout when hair is about 75 percent dry for extra smoothing.

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Stylists love the Wet Brush. "It has nylon bristles that bend as they go through hair," explains Lawless. If your bristles have some give, your hair doesn't have to—which means no breaks or nicks. While that's especially important when brushing wet hair, gentle, wide-set nylon bristles are a win on dry hair, too.

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BAD HAIR HABIT: Tightly-Braiding Damp Hair

"Wet hair has about 50 percent more elasticity than dry hair," Lawless says. That's why you can get such a clean braid on damp hair. But all that tugging to get your boxer braids extra tight means you're stretching hair out past the length it would be when it's dry. It then sets in that stretched-out position and never bounces back. Ditto if you use tight, pinching elastics on wet hair or pull it into a super-taut ponytail. Think of it like a permanently stretched rubber band that snaps. Cringe.

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You can't un-tear a piece of paper, and the same goes for your hair. But you can mask it. These hair treatments infuse hair with hydrators and oils that mimic your hair's own lipid layer, restoring suppleness so your mane has bend and smoothness once more. The key is tailoring the hydration level to your hair's needs, explains celebrity hair stylist Tommy Bucket. Use too much, and strands can go limp; use too little, and strands will still feel like straw.

Not sure which one's for you? Here's a little breakdown from Garnier Whole Blends: The Color Care Mask with Argan Oil and Cranberry Extracts is gentle enough for hair with single-processed color. The Coconut Water and Vanilla Milk Extracts Hydration Mask delivers a hit of moisture for fine, virgin hair. For bleached or highlighted hair, go for a more aggressive moisture jolt with the Honey Treasures Repairing Mask. Thick or coarse hair, which has a natural tendency to be dry, benefits most from the heavy-hitting Avocado Oil and Shea Butter Extracts Nourishing Mask.

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BAD HAIR HABIT: Deep-Frying Hair With Oil + Heat

A surefire way to destroy hair: Apply oils and then style with a flat iron or curling iron. Just like oil in a frying pan heats up to a sizzle, so does oil on your hair. Throw 450 degrees—the max temp of many hot tools—into the mix and bam. Even residue left over from masks and treatments that haven't been fully washed out can end up frying strands, leaving hair dry and lackluster.

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GOOD HAIR HABIT: Purify & Protect

Now we're not hating on hair oils. But if you use them on the regular, deep clean once a week with a clarifying shampoo to get rid of any residue. Need one that's safe for colored hair? We like Pureology Purify Shampoo. Even if oils aren't really you're thing, we recommend a thorough wash twice a month to get rid of product build-up (which will also resuscitate your strands, making styling easier. Bonus!) And be sure to keep a heat protector, like L'Oréal Paris Color Vibrancy Dual Protect Spray, right next to your hot tool so that you always use them in tandem. The spritz creates a light buffer against heat damage that's well worth having. (Caveat: Layering it over hair oils won't prevent them from sizzling hair.)

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BAD HAIR HABIT: Detangling From Root to Tip

Visualize a knot—it has two ends. "When you brush from your roots, you push all the tangles into each other, creating tighter knots," explains Lawless. And whacking at hair to get them out only gives you mega-damage. Instead, start from the bottom to get there. (Get it? Sorry, we had to.) Release any tangles towards the ends, then brush out knots higher up the strand into the already smooth hair below it.

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GOOD HAIR HABIT: Giving Your Roots & Ends Personal Attention

Your roots and your ends are totally different characters. The hair up at your scalp is young and healthy, like an invincible-feeling teenager. The hair at your ends is advanced in age—in people years, like a grandmother. "I almost always use two different products to style hair," says Lawless. Your worn-out tips need moisture and smoothing, like a serum (try Living Proof Satin Hair Serum) or texturizing paste. Your roots need lift and can handle parching or dulling products like salt sprays, root lifters, or dry shampoo (try Garnier Fructis Volume Extend Instant Bodifier Dry Shampoo).

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BAD HAIR HABIT: Blow-Drying & Brushing Sopping Wet Hair

If you haven't caught on, soaking wet hair is really freaking fragile. Stretching it out with a brush and shocking it with a blowdryer when it's at its most vulnerable is "just a really quick way to see some breakage in your hair," says Lawless. If it's a one-time thing, then no biggie. But doing this day in and day out will take toll on your strands.

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Rule #1: Always wait until hair is 75 percent to 80 percent dry before putting a brush on it. Then, to get hair looking glossy and healthy, try hairstylists' fave trick: Put a nozzle on your blow-dryer to concentrate the air and turn your hair's outer surface (the cuticle) into a smooth light-reflector. "Position the nozzle so the air blows down the hair shaft and seals in the cuticle," says Buckett. "It creates a little more shine, so hair doesn't look lifeless and flat."

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Good Hair Tool Kit

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