Treatments for Dry, Brittle, Damaged Hair

How to tame your frizzy hair.
How to tame your frizzy hair.

The best dry hair treatments restore and lock in moisture. Hot oil treatments, essential oils, and gentle cleansing products will naturally nurture locks back to health.

But before you get started, it's important to understand how your hair got this way in the first place. It could have happened for a number (and usually a combination) of reasons:

  • When the hair becomes coated with build-up from shampoos, conditioners, and styling products (also known as product build-up), it cannot absorb moisture.
  • The heat from blow-drying and styling tools, such as flat irons, saps the vital moisture from your hair.
  • The frequent use of hair dyes, perms, and relaxers also damage the hair and prevent moisture retention.

Luckily, there are treatments to address all of these issues, from over-the-counter products to homemade remedies.

Remember that no matter which treatment you choose, it will only be effective if you stop doing the above-mentioned actions that dry out hair. Quit blow-drying, dying with chemical dyes, and using harsh hair products. Allow your hair to naturally air dry, use natural hair dye instead of chemicals, and use the mildest shampoos and conditioners (preferably natural or organic) that you can. Also avoid mousses, gels, and hair sprays as often as possible. If you feel you must use them, however, keep it to a minimum.

Commercial treatments
Commercial treatments

Your local drug store or the health and beauty aisle of your local department store provide numerous over-the-counter treatments for dry hair. Listed below are some of the best products on the market to help you make a decision. In most cases, these treatments can be used as often as once per week, as needed.

  • VO5 Hot Oil Moisturizing Treatment: An excellent treatment for dry damaged hair, this old standby is probably available most everywhere. If you can find it, the version with vitamin E works fantastically for restoring moisture. If you can only find the regular package, it also does the job, particularly when used as part of an overall dry hair treatment regimen. Inexpensive and effective, VO5 really came through with this product, and I've used it numerous times after my hair became damaged from dying. A faster shower version is also available for your convenience.
  • Queen Helene Hot Oil Treatments: This company makes several variations of the hot oil hair treatment. I've personally used the olive oil and jojoba oil treatments. Both of them work beautifully, but I prefer the scent of the jojoba oil. It provides immediate, natural relief for dry, brittle and damaged hair. After using it, your hair will immediately feel softer and sleeker, and it will shine like crazy. Continued use will really repair your hair, but only if you avoid the bad habits that made your hair dry in the first place. You may not be able to find this locally unless you have a well-stocked drug store or natural health store in your area. If you can't find a source, it's easily ordered online.

Homemade treatments
Homemade treatments

If you want to go the homemade route, you have plenty of inexpensive options. Many of the ingredients for these treatments are probably already in your refrigerator or pantry. Just because they're common items doesn't mean they're ineffective. In fact, I use several of these regularly to keep my hair soft, shiny, and moisturized. Just as with any other dry hair treatment, you'll need to be consistent to really make a difference in the health of your hair.

  • Old-Fashioned Mayonnaise Hair Treatment: Massage mayonnaise into the hair liberally and cover with a plastic bag. Allow the mayo to remain for at least 30 minutes. Shampoo, rinse and follow with a shampoo if necessary. Repeat this treatment for dry damaged hair on a weekly basis until the desired results are achieved.
  • Moisturizing Banana Hair Treatment: Mash together one small, ripe banana, one tablespoon of honey, and one teaspoon of sweet almond, olive, safflower, or corn oil. Apply liberally to shampooed hair, cover with plastic and leave on for 15 to 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly.

Apple cider vinegar rinse
Apple cider vinegar rinse
  • Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse: Combine one drop of essential oil with one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Add a cup of boiling water and mix well, then add this mixture to a bowl of water you'll use as your final hair rinse. Rinse your hair thoroughly using this water, immersing as much of your hair as possible and pouring over the areas that are not immersed. Repeat every time you wash your hair for the best results. Use an essential oil that benefits dry hair such as sandalwood, lavender, or rosemary. If necessary, you can omit the essential oil altogether and the treatment will still help nourish the hair.
  • Quick Olive Oil Treatment: Beat together one tablespoon of olive oil, one tablespoon of vegetable glycerin, and one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. If you don't have olive oil, you can use safflower oil, corn oil, or wheat germ oil. To use, shampoo the hair as normal, apply the mixture evenly throughout the hair, wrap with plastic or a towel, and allow it to remain for 15 to 30 minutes. Rinse.

Coconut oil hair treatment
Coconut oil hair treatment
  • Coconut Oil Treatment: I've used this method numerous times, and it always leaves my hair soft, moisturized, and healthy—highly recommend. Buy organic extra-virgin olive oil and brush it through your hair (if the oil is solid, melt it by placing the container in a large bowl of heated water). Leave it on as long as is convenient—anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight. Then wash your hair as normal.

  • Deep Protein Conditioner: Especially good for fragile hair, the gelatin in this dry hair treatment fortifies and strengthens. To make it, combine one tablespoon of plain gelatin with one cup of purified water. Allow the mixture to gel slightly, but don't let it set all the way. Add one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and, if desired, four drops of rosemary essential oil. Massage evenly into shampooed hair, leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes, and then rinse. Repeat up to once per week, as necessary.
  • Rosemary Oil Treatment: The rosemary in this treatment for dry hair repairs damage caused by wind, sun and water, and puts the luster back into your hair. The eggs and oil moisturize and condition. To make it, combine two tablespoons of avocado oil, one tablespoon of castor oil, two teaspoons of strong rosemary tea (steep leaves in boiling water for at least 20 minutes, then cool), and two whole eggs in a small mixing bowl. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and creamy. To use, massage it evenly through the hair, wrap with a towel, and allow the treatment to remain for at least 20 minutes before shampooing and rinsing as usual.

Tips for dry hair
Tips for dry hair

The treatments above will repair your dry, lifeless locks, but you'll have to give up your bad hair habits first. Don't shampoo dry hair too often, as this strips the hair of the natural oils it needs to remain healthy and moisturized. Three times per week is plenty, though you may have to slowly transition to this point if you currently wash your hair daily. Here are several more tips for treating dry hair:

  • Use natural shampoo and conditioner formulated for dry hair. Shampoo with aloe vera makes an excellent nourishing cleanser for dry hair.
  • Allow the hair to air dry whenever possible.
  • After shampooing, put a few drops of rosemary essential oil in your hand and rub it through your wet hair.
  • Use a natural-bristle brush on your hair. These brushes distribute the hair's natural oils more easily.
  • Trim your hair once every month to get rid of old dry split-ends.
  • Limit your exposure to the sun, wind, and water, as these elements also dry out the hair and cause damage.
  • Avoid harsh styling products and replace them with natural alternatives instead.

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Comments 17 comments

Laura 6 months ago

Have you tried the karmin hair repair system?

hair-replacement profile image

hair-replacement 7 months ago from London

Coconut oil is what I found as one of the finest home made hair treatments for dry hair. Just use it after the shampoo and stay with it for about 10 minutes before wash it.

Misa 10 months ago

Only to make sure you shampoo your hair first, rinse, then apply treatment of your choice. I will definitely be trying the Queen Helene oil treatment! Thank you

Tia 21 months ago

What does it mean to apply into shampooed hair.

Melissa 22 months ago

That adesserds several of my concerns actually.

maylin 2 years ago

Did the hot oil treatments work for anyone else?

Jazzy 2 years ago

I have used so many hair treatments for my dry/ damage wavy hair its ridiculous. I tried pure coconut oil, argon oil, vinegar, macadamia oil with just ok results. I even used oil treatments many times before from vo5 to my own olive oil. Results have been just ok. I read your article and decided to try Queen Helene Hot Oil Treatments in jojoba. Boy oh boy was I surprised with the results.

I 1st applied the oil treatment then washed my hair and applied a organic leave in conditioner (Just natural hair care). I never saw many wavy hair so smooth and bouncy. I am in love. FINALLY I found something that works.

Thanks for the product type. By the way you can find the Queen Helene oil treatment at your local Sally's store.

Can't stay THANK YOU enough :)

sheetal 3 years ago

My hair has become dry rough and brittle .they are unmanageable. Pls suggest me something to make my hair smooth and shiny

GiblinGirl profile image

GiblinGirl 3 years ago from New Jersey

Great hub. My hair is constantly dry. I'll have to try some of these tips out. I just pinned this.

Willow Sidhe profile image

Willow Sidhe 3 years ago Author

Thanks, Erika. That's a great tip! A food processor also works for getting a smoother consistency.

Erika 3 years ago

Just a quick tip for anyone interested in the banana treatment, I tried it a while back and I highly recommend blending the banana in a blender, otherwise you get lots of chunks that are hard to wash out of your hair. :)

Willow Sidhe profile image

Willow Sidhe 3 years ago Author

@Humble Pie - Haha. I guess "dry hair conditioner" thinks her hair is enviable. I'm pretty sure that was a spam post, but since she didn't link to anything, I let her have it.

Humble Pie 3 years ago

Who says they have enviable hair. Vain much. Pointless post!

Willow Sidhe profile image

Willow Sidhe 3 years ago Author

Thanks for the recommendation WhitneyNZ. I'll have to add keratin shampoo to the article. I haven't tried it myself, but I think I will the next time I buy shampoo.

@kell - Yes, most of these treatments do help almost immediately. For the best results, try to avoid doing things to your hair that cause moisture loss. When my hair is feeling particularly dry, I always do some type of treatment (usually protein-based) at least once a week.

kell 4 years ago

my hair is terribly dry! do these treatments help at once?

WhitneyNZ profile image

WhitneyNZ 5 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

Products with keratin in them (like shampoo...not keratin straightening treatments!!) are also great for dry hair. The keratin can repair and protect against damage.

dry hair conditioner 5 years ago

I have enviable hair, long, wavy, thick, lots of it. It's just on the dry side from living in the desert. The Shielo Color Protect conditioner hits just the right balance of moisture without heaviness or oiliness. My hair is SO soft and the curls stay apart with minimal frizz without the need for any additional products. Just a touch of product now for the frizz, even with air drying. Love the scent... coconut and something else. Love the absence of many common chemicals.

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