Brittle Hair: Causes and Treatment

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Anjali specializes in hairstyles and hair and skin care and has written over 200 articles in these domains. Her philosophy about hair and skin care is simple: if you love and care for it, it will be h... more

  • What Causes Brittle Hair?
  • Thinning Hair Vs. Brittle Hair: The Difference
  • Brittle Hair: Treatment And Prevention

What Causes Brittle Hair?

Brittle is characterized by split ends, breakage, roughness, and dryness. It is more prone to frizz, static, and flyaways. It may also lead to hair grayness if left untreated. Identifying the causes of brittle hair and correcting them can help.

  1. Copper Deficiency: Copper is crucial for hair strength. Copper deficiency can make hair brittle. It may also cause premature hair graying (1).
  2. Zinc Deficiency: Zinc deficiency could be associated with alopecia as it may make hair brittle (1).
  3. Over-Grooming: Excess hair styling with curlers, flat irons, blow dryers, and other styling tools can cause the hair to become weak and brittle (2). These tools use heat to change the hair structure to style the hair. The heat causes serious hair damage and leaves it dry and lifeless.
  4. Chemicals: Chemicals used in hair styling treatments, hair colorants, dyes, and certain hair products can deteriorate hair health and lead to hair attrition (2). Shampoos containing sulfates or parabens may make hair dry and brittle (as they have a pH higher than needed). Certain chemical treatments contain formaldehyde that can cause scalp inflammation and weaken hair. Hair dyes use colorants and chemicals like hydrogen peroxide and ammonium that can leave hair brittle due to their oxidizing and penetrative properties.
  5. Excess Washing: Washing your hair too much can also make it brittle. Ideally, you can wash your hair twice a week. Washing your hair too often can strip its natural sebum and leave it dry.
  6. Wet Hair: Wet hair is more porous. Pouring water over your hair can cause the hair shaft to absorb the water and swell up (2). This can leave each hair strand open to more damage, leading to brittleness.
  7. Weakened Hair: Thinning and weak hair can eventually make hair brittle. Hair weakens from exposure to daily pollution, UV rays, stress, dirt, and weather conditions (2). This constant weakening can make hair brittle and prone to breakage.
  8. Dry Scalp And Hair: Dryness in the scalp or hair can make hair stiff and brittle. Insufficient sebum or moisture can make hair dry and easily breakable.

Thinning Hair Vs. Brittle Hair: The Difference

ishonest No.501 - Frizzy Hair

No.501 - Frizzy Hair

Thinning hair and brittle hair are not the same. Thinning hair is characterized by reduced hair strand thickness and density, while brittle hair is dry, frizzy, and prone to breakage and split ends. Thinning hair can cause hair to become brittle and vice versa.

A self-diagnosis by looking into the mirror can help you understand if your hair is thinning or brittle.

You do not have to live with brittle hair all your life. With the right treatment and preventive measures, you can restore and prolong your hair health.


Brittleness can affect straight, wavy, and curly hair types. If left untreated, it might even lead to hair shedding. But worry not â with constant care and using the right hair care products, your hair can become healthy and strong with time. A regular hair care regimen can help transform your hair and keep it vibrant and strong for a long time to come.

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