Why This Part Of Your Hair Always Gets More Damaged Than Others

Illustration: Anna Sudit
Despite what shampoo ads (and bottles, for that matter) might tell you, the hair on your head is not all uniform. Maybe it's smooth on top and frazzled and frizz-prone underneath; maybe it has natural waves in one spot but tends to fall totally flat in others. Even if your hair is predominantly of one texture — straight, curly, natural, wavy, what have you — there will always be a few strands that just won't play ball. More often than not, this will occur on the underside of your hair.
"If you take any random six hairs from somebody’s head, not all of them will look the same," trichologist Anabel Kingsley explains. "Some might be coarser than others, or straighter." It’s more common for these discrepancies to be dispersed throughout your hair more or less evenly, but it’s not unheard of to have one single unruly chunk. "I’ve definitely had clients who have a random section of hair that’s a different texture," says Scott Ade, stylist at London salon Larry King.
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But before you can move on to treating the situation to create uniformity, you'll want to examine the causes. Both Kingsley and Ade confirm that it's possible you're one of the special few genetically prone to a mish-mash of textures, but there are causes that go back to nurture — rather than nature — too. "If you love tight ponytails, and you're using a hair elastic to secure it, you could be suffering from traction alopecia," Ade says. Obviously, all kinds of hairstyling can lead to damage, but super tight ponytails worn high up on the head and secured with elastic can pull at the hairs on the nape of the neck, causing breakage and leaving those strands coarser than the rest.
Then there’s the positioning of it to think about. The back of your neck and your back itself will sweat when you get hot, and this stickiness and humidity can only lead to frizz. "Your hair has two kinds of bonds: disulfide and hydrogen," Kingsley explains. "Disulfide bonds can only be broken by chemical treatments, but hydrogen bonds are broken by water; hence, when there’s water in the air through humidity or sweat it breaks down those hydrogen bonds and returns your hair to a puffier state."
It could also be a question of haphazard styling or absentminded fiddling. "Lots of people twiddle their hair as a nervous tic, and it is usually those longer, underneath layers that end up between your fingertips," Kingsley says. The other consideration is that the very nature of an underneath layer makes it harder to style, meaning the cumulative effects of slapdash brushing could be making the issue worse. "If you’re brushing too hard or roughly, it leads to cuticle damage, which makes the hair much more prone to frizz," she adds.
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But if you did simply win that particular genetic lottery, help is at hand. "A keratin treatment is a really great way to make hair healthier and easier to style," Ade says. "If it's just the underneath layer that's the issue, I'd only apply to that section — no need to smooth the whole head." If you're not ready to take the keratin plunge, Ade recommends another, more temporary in-salon treatment. "Redken Heatcure would last around 10 washes," he says. "It involves using a special beeswax-based nourishing treatment and helps repair the surface damage on your hair."
As for at-home styling, Ade suggests trying Redken's multitasking One United Multi-Benefit Treatment Spray, which he says he uses on practically all of his clients, thanks to its repairing benefits and lightweight texture. Kingsley suggests dispersing a smoothing serum through the bottom layers of your hair to help counteract the effects of humidity. There's also Color Wow Dream Coat, which offers some of the most effective protection against humidity available on the market right now. It uses a special polymer blend to essentially "waterproof" the hair without weighing it down — the only catch is that it's heat-activated, so you'll need to skip the air-dry to reap its benefits.
Whatever you choose, bear in mind Kingsley's best advice: "Be mindful of the fact that color and heat damage only serve to reduce the elasticity of the hair, which will make things worse," she warns. "You'll then have to put more heat on in order to flatten it down. It becomes quite the vicious cycle." So give your blowdryer a break once in a while, and always keep a Slip silk scrunchie on hand for when things get rough. Literally.
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