What Causes Dull Hair and How to Restore Your Shine
Wondering why your hair doesn’t look like the shiny, bouncy hair you see in TV commercials? It’s not just editing magic – healthy hair should be luminous and reflective, rather than matte and flat. But a variety of elements from the weather to your hair care routine may be working against you and your hair health.
So, what is dull hair and how do you transform it into those shimmery, on-screen locks? Get the full guide, plus tips on how to help dry, dull hair, below.
What is Dull Hair?
You know dull hair when you see it: It may be limp, frizzy, flat, and, most notably, matte and dry instead of shiny. But what’s really happening on your scalp?
Here’s the deal: Each strand of your hair is covered with a cuticle layer, which is made of flattened cells that overlap like shingles on a roof. When the cuticle lays flat, the hair appears smooth and shiny. When the cuticle is raised, you lose that reflectivity, making your hair look lifeless and dull.
What does dull hair look like? While it can depend on your hair type, dull hair may be:
- Rough and coarse
So if you’re wondering, “Why is my hair frizzy, heavy, or coarse?” the better question may be: “Why is my hair dull – and how can I fix it?”
What Causes Dull Hair?
Your hair may have lost its luster due to a variety of reasons. Common dull hair causes include:
Product buildup: Over time, your hair and scalp may accumulate buildup and residue from shampoo and styling products. Eventually, that buildup can block natural hair oils from getting to the hair shaft – resulting in dull, dry hair.
Hard water: The minerals in hard water, such as calcium and magnesium, are also a common source of buildup that can act as a barrier that moisture can’t penetrate.
Sun damage: Prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays can damage the outer protective layer of your hair. As a result, sun damaged hair can often become dry, brittle, and frizzy.
Excessive heat styling: Heat tools, like blow dryers and curling irons, can damage the cuticle of your hair. Fine hair is especially susceptible to heat damage and can get easily burned.
Improper hair care products or routine: This could include using too many hair products, using products with harsh, harmful ingredients, or using products that aren’t designed for your unique hair type.
Infrequent brushing: Regularly brushing your hair helps keeps the cuticle sealed, and draws your natural oils from the scalp downward, which allows your hair to better reflect light. Failing to brush your hair can allow that cuticle to become rough and raised.
Frequent dyeing or overprocessing with harsh chemicals: Whether you’re going lighter or darker, coloring your hair too often can decrease your natural shine.
- Pregnancy or other hormonal changes: You’ve probably heard that you’re supposed to enjoy thick, luscious hair during pregnancy – but hormones can affect every pregnant woman differently. Sometimes, hormone changes, as well as occasional nutritional deficiencies, can turn hair thin and limp.
How to Prevent Hair From Becoming Dull
If your hair is currently healthy and shiny, enjoy it – but don’t get too comfortable! Because dull hair can stem from everyday elements from the weather to your normal hair care routine, it can sneak up on you. Consider these tips to keep your natural luster.
Avoid Product Buildup and Overuse
Dry shampoo can be a lifesaver between washes – but relying on it (or any other hair styling product) too often can lead to damaging buildup. Loading your hair with too many styling products and failing to thoroughly cleanse them can cause your strands to lose their shine. Using a scalp brush and a gentle, detergent-free cleanser can help you remove any product residue and make sure you’re starting with a clean slate.
Minimize Heat Styling
Give your hair a break from excessive heat and try letting it air dry. A lightweight moisturizing cream (like Hair Balm) can help you make the most of your natural texture without heat. If you absolutely can’t give up your go-to tools, keep the temperature to a minimum. Try keeping your blow dryer at least six inches from your head, and work quickly with curling or flat irons to minimize exposure.
Amp Up the Nutrients and Water in Your Diet
The health of your hair begins with your overall health – and that extends to your diet. Consuming plenty of nutritious fruits, vegetables, and protein, can prevent dull hair from the inside out. It’s also important to stay hydrated, which is key for healthy skin and hair.
Use a Humidifier in Your Home
Dry indoor air, as well as indoor heating, can zap the moisture from the air – and from hair. Over time, that dry air can make your strands look dull, dry, and lifeless. To keep your luster, try turning on a humidifier in your home. It will inject moisture into the air, which will help keep your hair hydrated and shiny.
Limit Chemical Treatments
To keep your hair healthy, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends limiting chemical processes (like coloring, perming, or relaxing) to every 8 to 10 weeks – or longer if possible. Stretching the time between salon appointments limits damaging chemical exposure and allows healthy new growth.
Dull Hair Remedies: How to Bring Your Luster Back
If you’ve already noticed a lack of shine and are wondering “Why is my hair so dull?” try the following tips for brightening dull hair.
Take a break from heat styling. Blow dryers and curling irons, especially when used on high heat settings, can cause surface damage to your hair (they’re also common dry hair causes). To bring your shine back, ditch the heat tools and let your hair air dry naturally.
Remove product buildup: It may sound simple, but a good, thorough cleansing can be an effective dull hair treatment. Try using a cleanser (like New Wash Deep) that contains powerful botanicals that break down buildup, and scrub with a scalp brush to thoroughly exfoliate. However, don’t wash too aggressively – scrubbing too hard can rough up your cuticle rather than smoothing it out.
Revive with oil: While putting oil in your hair sounds like a recipe for greasy locks, hair oiling can be a great way to revive shine. Not only does hair oil fight frizz, but it also adds a protective layer that will allow your strands to become stronger and shinier. (Learn how to use hair oil.)
- Ask your stylist about a gloss treatment: Your stylist may be able to recommend a chemical treatment that seals your hair cuticles and restores your natural shine. Gloss treatments are considered semi-permanent, so they won’t last forever, but they can be a quick, effective fix if you’re wondering how to make your hair shiny ASAP. If you’re specifically looking for how to fix dull blonde hair, your stylist may also be able to recommend a toner that will bring your blonde back to life.
One final note: If you spend even just a few minutes researching, you’ll find several suggestions for do-it-yourself hair treatments that promise glossy, shiny results. However, like anything with your hair, approach DIY solutions with caution. One common home remedy, which involves using baking soda on your hair, can actually result in irritation and added damage.
Helping dull hair shine again comes down to adding moisture, avoiding heat damage, and removing buildup. Once you understand what to do and what not to do, you’ll be well on your way to a much brighter future. .