Is your hair snapping at the slightest tugs? You might be facing a condition of brittle hair.
Hair damage is common, but not unrepairable. The ancient science of Ayurveda cites that a good herbal hair care routine coupled with a wholesome Ayurvedic diet and a change in lifestyle can restore health, strength and shine to your damaged tresses.
Read on to know what causes brittle hair and how to treat it with the best natural remedies.
Our Ayurvedic Doctor Speaks
“Lack of earthy minerals like zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium can make your hair brittle. Also, an acidic body environment can leach these minerals and make the hair brittle.”
Dr. Zeel Gandhi (Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine and Surgery), Chief Ayurvedic Doctor, Vedix
What Is Meant By Brittle Hair?
Your hair is a complex structure formed of 3 main layers - the cuticle, cortex and medulla. Various types of cells alter and combine with special proteins and intercellular matter to form a single unit of hair. Brittle hair defines hair that is dry, damaged, has split ends, frizz and is prone to breaking.This can occur when any one or more of these layers are damaged due to external or internal conditions.
A. How Are Brittle Hair And Hair Loss Connected?
Your hair health is dependent on a number of factors such as proper nutrition, oxygen supply, healthy sebum secretion and hormone stability. Dryness and split ends are clear indicators that the health of your hair is being compromised. Brittle hair is an advanced stage of hair damage, which if not treated immediately, can result in follicle death and hair loss.
Asians have a thick cuticle layer made of about 6 to 8 layers of overlapping keratinocytes that give better protection to the underlying layers. Comparatively, Caucasian hair has a thin cuticle, making it more vulnerable to external damages.
What Does Brittle Hair Look Like?
The characteristics of brittle hair are as follows:
- Has split ends
- Prone to fractures along the hair shaft
- Easily tangles
What Causes Dry Brittle Hair?
1. Hair Structure
Hair in Asians tends to be thicker and coarser with a higher presence of medulla, compared to the hair in Caucasians. This in turn, makes Asian hair more vulnerable and prone to breaking along the axis of the hair shaft. On the other hand, formation of the outermost protective layer, the cuticle, made of scale-like overlapping cells, is dependent on one’s genetics.Thin cuticle layers can contribute to brittle hair.
2. Heat Styling
Heat robs your hair of essential moisture that strengthens and keeps it moisturized. Without moisture, hair shafts appear dull and dry. They become brittle and are more prone to split ends.
3. Chemical Treatments
The intercellular matter, cell membrane complex or CMC, cements the hair cells keeping the hair fiber together. Chemical treatments such as perming and straightening damages these bonds, thus leading to cracks and splits in the hair shaft, leading to brittle hair. 
4. Improper Drying Methods
Most hair care experts advise against using blow dryers or rough towels while drying your hair. Plopping or wrapping are good natural methods of drying hair without exposing it to heat or friction, which damages the cuticle layer, causing brittle hair.
With constant dust and pollution, hair washing is an integral part of the hair care routine. However, frequent washes with shampoos containing harsh surfactants such as sulfates (ammonium lauryl sulphate, sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate) can cause your hair to dry out and become brittle.
When your body lacks optimum water, it immediately affects the health of your hair. A dehydrated body leaves the hair dry and unprotected as it addresses more important body functions that require the available moisture. Dehydration can affect hair growth, cause your follicles to dry up and lead in dry, brittle hair.
7. Hormone Fluctuations
Androgenetic alopecia in both men and women is a condition caused by high levels of androgen hormone in the body, which affect the health of one’s hair follicle. DHT , a type of androgen hormone, attacks healthy hair follicles and causes them to dry up. As a result, you experience hair thinning, brittleness and eventually hair loss.
In women, pregnancy or menopause may affect the production of estrogen and progesterone, hormones that foster hair growth. Low production of these key hormones may also trigger a rise in androgen hormones in the body, thus affecting hair health.
8. Nutrition Deficiency
Nutrition plays a key role in hair growth. Deficiency in essential vitamins such as vitamin B7 (biotin), calcium and minerals such as copper and zinc can lead to brittle hair.
Hypothyroidism is a condition where the body produces low levels of the thyroid hormone. According to a medical study on alopecia patterns and their relation to thyroid dysfunction, the thyroid hormone plays a paramount role in the maintenance of hair follicle health. Low levels of this hormone causes brittle hair and diffuse hair loss.
10. Cushing’s Syndrome
One of the main symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome  is hair damage and alopecia. The condition occurs when your body deals with increased levels of cortisol for a long period of time. This excess cortisol along with other hormones such as androgens attack the hair follicles causing a change in your hair texture and finally leading to dry, brittle hair and hair loss.
11. Menkes Syndrome
This is a condition that affects copper distribution in your body due to a rare genetic mutation. Low levels of copper causes brittle hair and reduces your hair follicles’ ability to absorb optimum nutrition.
12. Environmental Conditions
Hot and humid climates take a toll on your hair health. Excess humidity in the air makes your hair pull in more moisture. This results in limp, tangled, frizzy hair that is prone to breakage. On the other hand, frequent exposure to the sun steals essential moisture from the hair shaft, leaving you with dry, brittle hair.
13. Medicine Side Effects
Certain drugs can affect your hair growth cycle leading to a condition called Telogen Effluvium in which the hair loses its health and quickly progresses to the final stage (telogen) and falls off. Such drugs include:
- Chemotherapy medications
- Oral contraceptives
- Thyroid drugs
“Ayurvedic theory propounds, strength to the body structures is exerted by Kapha dosha and Prithvi mahabhuta. Minerals, fats, water and proteins fall under this cohort. Lack of earthy minerals like zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium can make your hair brittle,” says Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix.
She also adds that, “An acidic body environment can leach these minerals and make the hair brittle. People who suffer from hyperacidity, dyspepsia or heart burns should consult with an Ayurvedic expert to treat themselves.”
Causes Of Brittle Hair In Men & Women
- Weather changes, dry/humid weather, excessive and frequent sun exposure
- Dust and pollution
- Exposure to chlorine water in swimming pools
- Internal health conditions
- Side effects of certain medicines
- Hair gels, hair sprays and heat styling products. Chemical hair treatments, frequent hair washes and towel drying may be responsible too
- Hormone fluctuations, especially for women during pregnancy and menopause
Symptoms Of Brittle Hair
- Dryness and frizz
- Split ends
- Rough textured hair
- Raised cuticle layer
- Increased hair porosity
- Weak hair shafts that break easily
- Lacklustre, dull hair
How To Treat Brittle Hair?
A. Natural Methods
1. Wash With Reetha & Shikakai
Reetha shikakai washes are favoured for their natural cleansing abilities. Moreover, these Ayurvedic herbs are also known for promoting hair growth and restoring strength and shine to damaged tresses. You can even add some methi to this natural shampoo for better cleansing benefits.
How To Use
- Soak reetha, shikakai and methi seeds overnight and boil them in hot water till it begins to froth.
- Bring the solution to room temperature and strain to derive your natural brittle-hair shampoo.
- Massage onto the scalp and hair and leave it on for 15 -20 minutes before washing off with lukewarm water.
- Repeat 3 to 4 times a week.
2. Deep Condition
Brittle hair greatly benefits from deep conditioning hair masks. This restores lost moisture into the hair shaft, seals the cuticle, prevents breakage, frizz and split ends. Opt for deep conditioning packs that have natural ingredients and are devoid of chemical preservatives, fragrances and artificial colours.
You can also prepare DIY masks using ingredients like yogurt, honey, banana and aloe vera. Deep condition 2 times a week or more as per your requirement to repair your brittle hair.
3. Oil Frequently
Shiro Abhyanga or herbal oil massage is a great brittle hair treatment. Oils such as coconut, sweet almond, jojoba, olive and sesame are packed with essential fatty acids and vitamins that infuse the hair roots with nutrition.
Oil massages improve blood circulation in the scalp, enhancing follicle health. Oiling also creates a protective layer over the hair shaft and prevents further environmental damage.
4. Egg, Avocado & Honey Pack
This home remedy for brittle hair is packed with protein, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B, C, E and K, polyphenolic antioxidants as well as essential minerals such as magnesium and potassium. Applying this twice a week can boost hair growth, repair brittle hair and bring back your hair’s lost shine.
How To Use
- Blend deseeded avocado into a fine paste.
- Add an egg and 1 tablespoon of honey and mix well.
- Apply on your scalp and through the length of your hair.
- Leave it on for 15- 20 minutes and wash off with a mild, herbal shampoo.
5. Trim Regularly
One good way to keep dry, brittle hair in check is to trim away the split ends. This prevents the splits from travelling up and causing further damage. Opt for a low maintenance hair style that requires less.
B. Essential oils
1. Rosemary Oil
Rosemary oil calms an irritated, dry scalp and treats dry, brittle hair. Regular application with a carrier oil like jojoba or olive oil can increase hair thickness and may prevent androgenetic alopecia.
2. Lavender Oil
This amazing essential oil is a cure for many hair problems owing to its antimicrobial and anti inflammatory properties. According to a medical study in 2016, topical application of lavender oil promoted the growth of new hair. Applying lavender oil on brittle hair can reduce breakage, moisturize and add strength to your dry tresses.
3. Clary Sage Oil
Similar to lavender oil, the main component of clary sage oil is also linalool and linalyl acetate, making it an effective remedy for brittle hair and hair loss.
4. Thyme Oil
Thyme oil is known for its ability to strengthen hair and stimulate hair follicles and thereby promote hair growth. A clinical trial conducted in 1998 showed the efficacy of thyme oil in treating patients with alopecia.
5. Geranium Oil
Adding geranium to your hair care routine can help you bid goodbye to dry, brittle hair. This oil stimulates your hair cells, regulates sebum production, nourishes your hair and prevents dry scalp conditions.
C. Ayurvedic Remedies
1. Triphala, Bhringraj & Brahmi
Packed with the benefits of amino acids and tannins, triphala provides strength and thickness to your hair. Haritaki in triphala is also helpful in fighting various scalp infections that cause hair loss. The phytochemicals in bhringraj revitalize brittle hair and bacosides (antioxidants) in brahmi add moisture and fortify your hair against external damages.
How To Use
- Simmer all three ingredients in coconut oil. Cool the mixture, strain and massage your scalp and hair daily with this oil. Leave it on for 30 minutes and wash off.
- You can also use it as a hair lepa (herbal pack) by grinding all three ingredients into fine powders. Add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil to it and apply on your scalp and hair. Wash off after 30 minutes. Use 2 to 3 times a week.
2. Hibiscus, Curry Leaves & Tulsi
While antioxidants in hibiscus add health to your tresses, the high mucilage content repairs brittle hair. Using it daily prevents dryness, adds lustre and improves the overall texture of your hair. Protein, antioxidants and beta carotene in curry leaves promote hair growth and improve follicle health. Tulsi fights scalp infections and adds nourishment to dry, brittle hair.
How To Use
- Blend 8-10 hibiscus flowers, 15-20 curry leaves and tulsi leaves and add honey or coconut oil to prepare a herbal lepa. Apply all over your hair and scalp and wash off after 1 hour.
3. Jatamansi, Shatavari & Guduchi
Jatamansi strengthens hair roots and prevents follicle damage. It is also known for prolonging the anagen phase which delays natural hair fall.The vata balancing oily nature of shatavari has a nourishing effect on brittle hair. Guduchi, being rich in antioxidants, prevents hair breakage and free radical hair damage.
How To Use
Blend and mix all ingredients and add 2 tablespoons of a nourishing carrier oil to make a paste. Apply on your scalp and hair and wash off after 1 hour. Repeat 2 to 3 times a week.
D. Diet For Brittle Hair
“Include a mineral rich diet. Amla helps absorb iron, buttermilk helps absorb calcium and legumes are rich in zinc and magnesium. Pomegranates also help strengthen brittle hair. Citrus fruits and amla stimulate collagen production and make the hair matrix stronger,” says Dr. Zeel.
She adds, “Functional proteins, the building blocks of our body, can also be correlated to the Prithvi mahabhuta. Moong and soy proteins are highly beneficial to promote hair strength. Non vegetarian sources of proteins acidify the body and should be avoided. Fennel, chia/ sabja seeds, and cucumbers can help alkalize an acidic body.”
Below mentioned is a diet chart for brittle hair for your reference.
Carrots, moringa, spinach, garlic, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, kale, celery, artichokes.
Avocados, berries, figs, apricots, citrus foods, amla, apples, avocados
Salt, sugar, and spices heat up the system, so use them minimally. Spices like cumin, kalonji, fennel and methi can be consumed.
Yogurt, buttermilk, ghee (raw uncooked), soy milk
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, basil seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds.
How To Prevent Brittle Hair?
1. Add conditioners and hair serums to your hair care routine to prevent dry, brittle hair.
2. Minimize direct sun-exposure or long hours in air-conditioned areas.
3. Avoid washing your hair everyday. Cool washes or lukewarm water is better suited for brittle hair.
4. Avoid chemical hair styling products such as hair sprays, gels, colours and heat-styling.
5. Oil your hair or wear a swim cap  before entering the pool.
6. Dry your hair naturally. Avoid using blow dryers.
7. Don’t brush wet hair.
8. Avoid tight hairstyles that pull at your hair roots. Use hair ties and bands made of soft material to avoid hair damage from friction.
Vedix Tip: Drink plenty of water, as being a component of the Kapha dosha, it is very important in maintaining the elasticity of the hair.
Hair Care Tips For Brittle Hair
- Massage your scalp and hair with herbal hair oils. You can even leave it on as an overnight treatment for your brittle hair.
- Shampoo your hair less frequently to avoid dryness. Apply a conditioner after shampoo.
- Apply a serum and detangle your hair with a wide-toothed comb.
- Deep condition with a herbal hair pack at least twice a week.
- Hair steaming during deep conditioning is a good way to infuse your hair strands with optimum moisture and nutrition.
The Last Word
The high standards set by the glam world keep urging one to try various heat and chemical products to get celeb like locks. In the process, you end up damaging your natural hair making it dry and brittle.
Ayurveda uses the power of medicinal herbs to treat the underlying conditions affecting the health and growth of your hair. It restores the balance of your doshas and enhances your natural healing abilities to holistically resolve your brittle hair issues.
It is advisable to visit an Ayurvedic doctor and know your Prakriti (body constitution) which will further help you set an Ayurvedic hair care routine, diet and lifestyle according to your hair type.Know Your Dosha Now
1. Hair Cosmetics: An Overview (2015 Jan- Mar)
2. Hormonal Effects On Hair Follicles (2020, Aug).
3. Cushing's Syndrome And Hair Loss (2007, June)
4. How To Stop Damaging Your Hair
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