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Let’s start with the bad news first: Pretty much anything and everything we do to our hair can damage it. We’re talking about everything from brushing to heat styling to coloring to even spending time outdoors. Enter the beauty of calling in the occasional hair breakage remedies. “By using a hair breakage treatment, you can replenish the hydration of the hair, strengthen the inner core, and begin to rebuild the cuticle, all of which are key elements to regaining the health of the hair,” explains celebrity stylist Anthony Cristiano, owner of the eponymous salon in Chicago. He goes on to say that they typically fall into one of two categories—those that are hydration-based and those that are protein-based. He suggests alternating between the two; while hydration products can be used daily, protein-based formulas should be used slightly more sparingly since a build-up of protein can inadvertently make the hair drier and more brittle. Regardless, “to achieve optimal results from any hair breakage treatment, consistency is key,” says Cristiano, adding that he says to give it at least six weeks of use to see the best results.
Ready to give your hair a little extra TLC? Keep reading to learn more about the best hair breakage treatments.
Best Overall: Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3
Great for all hair types
Beloved by hair pros
Super concentrated, so do not overdo use
This aptly-named product is the at-home version of an in-salon treatment that colorists love; the DIY option is just as beloved by pros and consumers and beauty editors alike. It uses a unique technology to help rebuild the bonds that are broken when hair is damaged and delivers impressive results after just a few uses. It’s a favorite of Cristiano’s: “The once-a-week treatment helps maintain the hair’s structure, strength, and overall luster,” he says.
Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: None | Size: 3.3 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
What Our Testers Say
"If you have color-treated hair, Olaplex's at-home treatment 100 percent deserves a place in your shower. Apply this science-backed, colorist-approved restorative treatment to wet hair (before shampooing or conditioning) and leave it for as long as you like before continuing your hair-washing routine. The product strengthens the hair from the inside out to reduce breakage big-time." —Amanda Montell, Product Tester
Best Drugstore: Pantene Miracle Intense Rescue Shots
Easy to use
No protein-rich ingredients
These single-use ampoules house the beloved drugstore brand’s most concentrated formula to date, a deep conditioning treatment that targets damage caused by heat styling, coloring, chemical processing, and more. It also helps prevent split ends and restores tons of moisture; happy reviewers (with all hair types and textures) rave about how well it works and the impressive effects they notice even after one use.
Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Yes | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Natural: Viva Naturals Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Coconut oil may cause acne
Per Cristiano’s previous point, go ahead and use moisturizing and hydrating products with reckless abandon. Arguably the most natural option for this purpose? Straight-up coconut oil. This extra virgin, totally pure option is great for either dabbing onto damaged ends or even being used as an all-over mask—there’s really no wrong way.
Hair Type: Thick, dry | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: No | Size: 16 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Mask: Phyto Phytoelixir Intense Nutrition Mask
Great for all hair types
A little goes a long way
“This nourishes hair, replenishes hydration, and improves elasticity,” says Cristiano of another one of his favorites. The creamy mask is also ideal for warding off future issues: “It’s rich in vitamin E, camellia, and Karanja oils, which are key ingredients for protecting hair fibers from further damage,” he says. Tailor the use based on your hair type; leave it on for just two to three minutes if you have fine hair, five to 10 if you have thicker hair.
Hair Type: Dry | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: No | Size: 6.2 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Leave-in Treatment: Matrix Unbreak My Blonde Reviving Leave-In Treatment
Repairs bleaching-induced damage
Great for all hair types
Must use with accompanying shampoo and conditioner
It may say ‘blonde’ in the name, but this newbie is actually a good choice for anyone who lightens their hair (and lest we forget that hair bleaching is a prime cause of damage). It claims to balance the hair’s pH and reinforces the protein bonds while also conditioning hair to leave it generally softer and shinier—and stronger, too, of course. Reviewers rave about how good it makes their hair both look and feel.
Hair Type: Lightened | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Yes | Size: 5.1 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Shampoo: Tresemme Keratin Repair Shampoo
Great for daily use
Not as effective as when using mask
Broadly speaking, damage-repairing treatments shouldn’t necessarily be used every day, but a reparative shampoo like this one can be. It’s a great way to make sure you’re getting a daily dose of hair repair. This sudser touts a bond-building technology to help strengthen hair while also keeping it protected from future damage. It smells amazing and leaves hair feeling noticeably softer, even pre-conditioner.
Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: No | Scent: Yes | Size: 20 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Fine Hair: Shu Uemura Silk Bloom Restorative Treatment
Easy to use
Those with fine hair are in a little bit of a tough position. Fine hair can be more susceptible to breakage, yet many products out there can tend to be too rich or heavy for finer textures, ending up weighing them down. Enter this pick, an effective solution to that catch 22. Argan oil, ceramides, vitamin E, intensely hydrate the hair from the inside, out. All you have to do is swap it out in place of your conditioner and leave it on for five to 10 minutes, once per week.
Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Yes | Size: 6 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Flyaways: Playa Ritual Hair Oil
Delivers multiple benefits
Not for those who dislike hair oil
Many frizz-fighting treatments are laden with silicones and simply sit on top of the hair—that’s not the case here. A combo of coconut, apricot, sunflower, and other oils help tame frizz, add moisture, and impart mirror-like sheen. And per the damage repair part of things, all these oils deliver a dose of reparative and protective antioxidants and vitamins. The sophisticated, beachy scent is just the cherry on top of the sundae.
Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Yes | Size: 1.52 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
What Our Testers Say
"For the first time in my life, I'm using a dry shampoo that doesn't make me wince—that's because the botanical blend of rose powder and anise extract sops up oil without leaving any weird residue. Whereas I used to smooth and spray in two or three products to breathe life back into my waves, Playa's Endless Summer Spray ($24) delivers a flawlessly beachy texture in mere seconds. And the Ritual Hair Oil ($38)—easily my favorite item in the collection—is the perfect remedy for dry ends, flyaways, and general hydration. It also smells heavenly." —Victoria Hoff, Product Tester
Best for Curly Hair: Nexxus Curl Define Ultra-8 Pre-Wash Treatment
Targeted formula for curly hair
An extra step to your hair routine
The formulators behind this product discovered that certain proteins are two to six times more prevalent in curly hair than in straight hair. They used that knowledge to develop the unique protein blend in this treatment, a must for those with curly or coily hair. Work it through hair and leave it in for five to 10 minutes before shampooing as usual. After even one use, it helps strengthen curls, while also detangling, hydrating, defining the shape...you name it, it can do it.
Hair Type: Curly | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: Yes | Size: 8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Fast Fix: Amika Kure Multi-Task Repair Treatment
Works very quickly
Great for all hair types
Short on time? This wash-out speed demon works in, wait for it, just 60 seconds. Credit a bond-repairing technology that helps both undo existing damage and prevent damage super fast. It’s so effective that after just three uses, it leaves hair up to 2.4 times stronger and with 58% less breakage.
Hair Type: All | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: No | Size: 6.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Castor Oil: Tropic Isle Living Jamaican Black Castor Oil
Can be too heavy for fine hair
Castor oil is another great option in the ‘ingredients that naturally strengthen’ department. Anecdotally, many say that it helps with hair growth (though we do need to point out that there’s no scientific evidence backing up that claim). It is, however, rich in fatty acids, antioxidants, proteins, and vitamins, which are beneficial for both your scalp and hair. It also helps to lock in moisture and leaves hair beautifully shiny, too. Follow team Byrdie’s lead and massage a little bit into your mid-lengths and ends before using hot tools.
Hair Type: Dry, thick | Sulfate-Free: Yes | Scent: No | Size: 8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
What Our Testers Say
"I have a complicated relationship with hot tools. For years, I straightened my naturally curly hair, which resulted in major damage. The photo of my hair in my high school graduation cap still makes me sad. My broken-off, brittle ends needed a bunch of TLC, so I began applying this oil made with pure organic Jamaican black castor seeds to my ends and my scalp. My hair seriously sprouted. It can be used as a heat protectant as well, so I massage this onto my hair before I blow-dry and flat-iron my hair. I'm forever indebted to this stuff." —Maya Allen, Product Tester
Top marks go to the Olaplex No 3 Hair Perfector—it’s got a well-deserved following that literally sings its praises, a truly impressive strengthening formula. For a natural, supremely hydrating option, try the Viva Naturals Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (view at Amazon). This natural, classic formula is cold-pressed and unrefined, so every nutrient is preserved to nurture your hair back to life. If you have curly hair, the Nexxus Curl Define Ultra-8 Pre-Wash Treatment (view at Ulta) is a must. It's specially formulated to address the protein needs that are specific to curly and coily textures. And when time is of the essence, reach for the Amika Kure Multi-Task Repair Treatment (view at Revolve), which works in just 60 seconds and delivers seriously impressive results after just three uses.
What to Look for in a Hair Breakage Treatment
Formulas that include reparative ingredients are key to restoring healthy hair. Look for moisturizing ingredients like coconut oil, avocado oil, castor oil, and botanical blends. Oils are especially effective at delivering hydration and maintaining it. In terms of application, however, try not to go overboard, as treatments are typically potent and a little can go a long way.
Treatments come in many different forms, and depending on your lifestyle and needs, you’ll want one that works with you. Solid oils—that emulsify when warmed—are ideal for intensive overnight treatments. Creams are a great everyday product to apply after cleansing and right before styling. Liquid oils can be used interchangeably—either as a deep treatment or after styling.
What is the best way to prevent hair breakage?
According to Saviano, there are a few measures you can take to prevent hair breakage. First and foremost, he explains that a lack of moisture in the hair is the number one reason for breakage. With that in mind, he recommends using a weekly deep conditioning mask that's formulated for your hair type and contains natural conditioning ingredients like argan oils and coconut oil to keep the hair healthy and hydrated.
He also recommends blow-drying your hair from damp (or at least 70% dry)—and never while it’s dripping wet. “Keep in mind that most blow dryers use 2,000 watts of power, and that’s a lot of heat,” he says. “The water will boil on the hair from the heat, causing the hair shaft to become prone to breakage. It’s not any different from dipping your hair in a pot of boiling water—we wouldn’t ever think about doing that.” He also mentions using heat protection products and a natural boar bristle brush (rather than metal or plastic bristles) to help protect your hair during a blowout.
Blow drying aside, overdoing it with hot tools—especially without a heat protectant—can also lead to breakage. “I tell my clients to not use hot tools more than one or two times a week and to only use them with heat protection,” he says. “Heat styling should also not be done at a temperature higher than 400 degrees (never turn it up to the highest setting, 450 degrees) and always use ceramic plates when it comes to flat irons because they will distribute heat evenly to minimize damage.”
Chemical treatments and sun exposure are two other factors that contribute to hair breakage, so he recommends spacing out your color services and protecting your hair when you know you’ll be exposed to the sun for longer periods of time.
Lastly, he says that one of the best ways to prevent breakage is to never skip a trim. This way, you can snip off split ends that result in dry, brittle hair before they continue up the hair shaft and eventually break off.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Her hair is both fine, highlighted, and often styled with hot tools—AKA she makes sure to use a hair breakage treatment regularly. The Olaplex and Tresemme products featured in this round-up are two of her current personal favorites.
Meet the Expert
- Nunzio Saviano is an award-winning hairstylist and the owner of Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City.
- Anthony Cristiano is a celebrity stylist and the owner of his eponymous salon in Chicago. He has over 30 years of experience in the industry, a long list of A-list celebrity clientele across the country, and is known for his signature and technically precise cutting techniques.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough hair breakage treatments from Black-owned and/or Black-founded businesses to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.