17 Causes of Dry Hair that Have Nothing to do With Health

Last updated on July 24th, 2020 at 08:45 pm

One of the main things that needs to be addressed if you want healthier hair that grows to longer lengths (if that’s your goal) is Dryness. Discover the causes of dry hair and you can do what’s necessary to avoid it.

causes of dry hair

In preparation for the winter months, it’s good to know what causes dry hair so you can head it off at the pass. Of course, many of the reasons your hair can become dry have nothing to do with the weather. It’s just that people are more attentive to the subject knowing that the cold temperatures can wreak havoc on their hair.

Sometimes dry hair can be caused by a health condition. (example: anorexia, hormonal issues, poor nutrition or hypothyroidism) Because I’m not a qualified physician, I’m omitting health concerns as a cause of dry hair. We will simply deal with the causes of dry hair based on environmental issues or actions that can be corrected.

As you can tell from the Infographic above (Yes, please share it), there’s many causes of dry hair. You may be exposed to more than one of these causes but even just one will keep you from reaching your hair goals.

Dry Hair Causes

Let’s take a closer look at each of the many causes of dry hair.

Evaporation

One of the most common reasons your hair could become dry is neglecting to “seal” moisture into your hair. Wetting your hair may cause it to feel moisturized when water is applied to it but if you don’t layer on a conditioner with oils in it or some form of sealant, all that moisture you applied will evaporate.

The other way you’d get moisture into your hair is by the next potential cause of dryness.

Skipping the deep conditioner

Deep conditioning your hair on wash day is a primary means of getting moisture into your hair. If you skip this step on wash day, you’re leaving out a very important step in caring for your hair.

After washing your hair, it may feel a bit dry, especially if you do the next potential cause of dryness on the list. The deep conditioning process puts back all of the lost moisture into your hair.

deep conditioner

Washing with a shampoo containing sulfates

Cleansing your hair with shampoo can cause your hair to feel dry. When that shampoo contains sulfates (sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, sodium lauroyl isoethionate, sodium lauroyl taurate, sodium cocoyl isoethionate, sodium lauroyl methyl isoethionate, sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, or disodium laureth sulfosuccinate), it’s even more drying to your strands.

Sulfates can really do a number on your hair by:

  • Stripping away natural oils
  • Lifting the cuticles of the hair shaft
  • Leaves hair looking dull to do leaving a negative electric charge on it

Just steer clear of sulfate shampoos to protect your hair from dryness.
Learn more about sulfates here.

Sleeping on a Cotton Pillowcase

Cotton has a high absorption rate. Without being too “sciencey,” cotton is made up of substance called cellulose which contains a negative charge that attracts water. In short, cotton has a number of properties that attract moisture.

When you sleep on a cotton pillow case, the fibers are capable of drawing moisture into the interior of the fabric. That includes the moisture from your hair. Enough said?

Lack of Protective Styling

Wearing your hair out all of the time without keeping your ends put away from time to time, over-exposes your hair to the elements.

When your hair is loose it can rub against your clothing which can dry it out tremendously. That is, unless you wear silk or satin tops every day. Even then, it’s still not good for your hair to be constantly exposed to friction because eventually it will start to feel dry.

Hand in Hair Syndrome (HIHS)

Constantly touching your hair, playing in your curls etc . is another cause of dryness. I like to call this Hand in Hair Syndrome. Sometimes you do it without even realizing.

By feeling up your hair all of the time, you cause it to dry out – another case for protective styling.

Not re-moisturizing during the week

Just because you get your hair feeling nice and moisturized on wash day doesn’t mean it will stay that way til next wash day.

Add some moisture to your hair by way of a hair spritz, moisturizing cream or other moisturizing product to prevent it from completely drying out.

Chemical processing

It’s no secret nor should it be a surprise that chemicals dry the hair out. Coloring, relaxing, perming and other chemical treatments are very harsh on hair.

Most everyone who does a chemical treatment on their hair is subjecting it to some amount of hair breakage. For those of us with fine hair, the breakage is usually more critical.

Alcohol based products

Using hair products containing alcohol can cause your hair to feel very dry. Think about what your skin feels like when a doctor rubs alcohol on it to clean it before giving you an injection. This is the type of alcohol you need to avoid in your hair products. Steer clear of ethanol, SD alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, proponal and denatured alcohol.

There are other types of alcohol in hair products that don’t cause dryness. These are fatty acids also known as emulsifying alcohols. Read more about them here.

Overdoing it with Protein

Protein is quite beneficial for your hair when it’s in need of it. Using too much protein or doing too many protein treatments on already strong hair, causes protein overload.

Overloading your hair with protein will cause it to feel very dry and brittle. That’s another reason why when doing a protein treatment you have to follow it with a deep conditioning to balance out the moisture.

protein in hair products

Certain herbs when used incorrectly

One such herb is henna. If you use natural herbs like henna to strengthen your hair, you run the risk of drying your hair out from one of the following:

  • Leaving on too long
  • Not following with a deep conditioning sans protein
  • Using too often
  • Not rinsing thoroughly from the hair

You’re washing your hair too often

The constant action of washing your hair can cause it to become dry. Doing so when your hair is not actually in need of a cleansing is applying repetitive unnecessary friction to the strands that will dry them out.

There’s also the process of your hair shaft swelling and closing repeatedly from washing that causes dryness. This is part of what’s called hygral fatigue.

You have hard water

Most cities in the United States have hard water because the water has to be treated with certain minerals (dissolved calcium and magnesium) to keep it clean.

Those minerals build up on your hair causing it to feel dry and rough. Hard water has damaging effects to your hair. Get a shower filter capable of filtering out those minerals. This will take care of the problem.

Heat styling

Blow drying and flat ironing your hair is detrimental to it’s moisture levels and it’s strength. The flat iron is even more damaging because the heat generated from it comes into direct contact with the hair.

Sun and wind exposure

The sun emits UV rays which can be quite damaging to your hair and it starts with drying it out. Think about if you were to pour water onto a side walk while the sun is beaming down on it. Within seconds it will dry up the ground beneath it.

When temperatures drop and the wind is blowing, the frigid temperatures can attack your hair and leach all of the moisture out of it.

Foam rollers

Just like cotton, foam rollers can leech the moisture right out of your hair. Think about what a sponge does. it absorbs moisture.

Using foam rollers will absorb moisture from your hair and leave it feeling and looking dry. If you want roller set curls, try Curlformers, flexi rods or satin rollers. Satin rollers will give the same effect as foam ones, only without the moisture zap.

roller set hair

Swimming

It doesn’t matter if you swim in the a pool or in an ocean. Chlorine and salt water are no good for your hair. Thus, it will dry it out your hair with the quickness.

Just like chemicals being applied to your hair is damaging to it’s moisture levels, so are chlorine in pools and salt water in oceans. Now, let’s say you are swimming in a lake or a river. Those can be drying as well because there may be oxidizers like iron in the water.

The purpose of this article isn’t to necessarily provide you with detailed solutions to may of the causes of dry hair. However, I don’t want to leave you hanging!

Remedies for Dry Hair

I’ve already written a number of articles that will help you to remedy the common problem of dryness as it relates to natural hair.

When Fine Hair Seems to Snap, Crackle, and Pop hair 

7 Ways to Get Moisture Into Natural Hair

Deep Conditioning Fine Natural Hair

Why Steaming Should Be Part of Your Natural Hair Regimen

Moisturizing Fine Natural Hair

How To: Moisturizing and Sealing Fine Natural Hair

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Michelle Smith

Michelle is a Christian natural hair enthusiast. She's been natural for 20+ years and shares natural hair care tips and easy hairstyles for those with low density or thin fine natural hair. It's her joy to inspire you to live by faith in God while caring for your "crown."

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