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Dry Hair: Potential Causes and Treatments

BY Jana Russick

Disclaimer: The information provided is not intended as medical advice. For any medical concerns, always contact your doctor.

Brittle, lifeless, and dry is not the way anyone wants to describe their hair. Yet so many of us struggle with hydrating our moisture-deficient locks. Even when we coat our strands with all the oils, creams, and conditioning hair products in our cabinet, how do we still end up with dehydrated, brittle hair

If you deal with hair dryness, you’ve probably gotten your fair share of tips on how to treat your troubled tresses: Your stylist says stop shampooing so much. Your friend says to leave the conditioner on overnight. A magazine article you read says to use argan oil after every wash. But how do you decide what’s right for you? And how can you settle on a haircare routine that works for your particular lifestyle? 

In this guide, we’ll explain what dry hair is and help you determine the potential sources of your parched mane. We’ll also explore treatment options for moisturizing and rehydrating dry locks so you can enjoy well-nourished, healthy-looking hair. 

Do You Have Dry Hair?

So let’s get down to it: How do you know if your hair is dry? Technically speaking, dry hair is defined as hair that does not have enough moisture or oil to preserve its natural texture and sheen. 

A good example of this can be seen on curly hair that’s been damaged over time. Curls that were once well-defined and moisturized can become dry and frayed after years of heat styling (like with a blow-dryer or straightening iron), hair color treatments, and chemical straighteners.

That’s because all of these processes penetrate the inner layers of the hair cuticle, altering the shape and texture of the hair. Likewise, if you have straight hair that looks dull and feels frizzy or straw-like, it doesn’t take a science degree to figure out that you have dry hair

Dryness is often linked to hair porosity, which is the hair’s ability to absorb and retain hydration. If you have high porosity hair, it means your strands absorb more moisture than they can actually retain. As such, this type of porous hair tends to be dry. 

How do you know if you have high porosity hair? For one thing, if your hair absorbs product but still ends up feeling and looking dry, you probably have high porosity hair. (Check out our guide on high porosity hair for details on how to take an easy hair strand test.)

To battle dehydrated locks, seek out products specifically made to help soften and moisturize dry hair. But before doing this, let’s get into some of the common causes of hair dryness.

What Causes Dry Hair?

dry hair

Some of the most common causes of dry hair include frequent hair washing, blow-drying, using flat irons and curling irons, infrequent hair trims, exposure to arid climates, and nutrient-deprived diets. Let’s explore the specifics of what these things do to your hair and how to combat their drying effects.


Shampooing your hair every day can strip you of the natural oils you need to maintain healthy hair. While shampooing cleanses your hair from dirt and excess oil, it can also strip away the protective layer of sebum (oil) that covers the hair, causing the shaft to dry out and become more prone to breakage. This is particularly true with shampoos that have sulfates

Sulfates act very similarly to dish soaps in that they cut through oils and dirt. The problem is that these cleansing agents over-cleanse your strands and remove the natural hair oils you need to maintain healthy locks. So while sulfates are great at lathering up and making your hair look less oily, they can ultimately leave your hair feeling rough, weak, and dry. After all, oils are what keep your hair looking shiny and healthy. 

To restore hydration to your hair, cut back on washing it — once every three or four days is fine. Be sure to use a sulfate-free shampoo specifically formulated to hydrate your locks. For instance, Function of Beauty’s shampoo can be customized for dry hair needs. It’s packed with naturally derived ingredients that can help your hair look and feel its best.

Heat Styling

Blow-drying, flat irons, and curling irons take their toll on hair, often leaving it dry and brittle. That’s because heat works against the natural texture of your hair, causing hair damage to the inner cortex of each strand. With hair dryers specifically, studies have shown that the longer and hotter you use them, the more damaged and dry your hair can become. This can cause further damage such as frizz and split ends.

The best way to avoid the drying effects of heat styling tools is to simply stop using them — but we know you’re probably not going to do that. More realistically, try to cut back on how often you heat your hair — and use hair styling products that protect against damage.

Function of Beauty’s hair serum is designed to be applied before heat styling. This light serum coats each strand, making hair appear less frizzy and dry. Most importantly, it thermally protects hair from damage of up to 400 degrees while also increasing shine.

Another tip that can help you defeat parched strands: Let your hair air dry after the shower and only use the blow-dryer occasionally.

Damaged Ends

The driest part of your hair is likely the ends. This is because they are the oldest section of your hair and have withstood the most damage. The best way to get rid of dry ends (and split ends!) and regain a healthy hair look is to get regular hair trims. 

If the ends of your hair are very dry, consider replacing your regular conditioner with a hydrating hair mask designed to help hydrate dry, lackluster, and damaged hair. Function of Beauty’s intensive deep conditioning treatment is formulated with ingredients like argan oil, Japanese sake, and jojoba ester oil that work to keep hair feeling soft and hydrated.

Leaving the hair mask on for an extended amount of time can provide better cuticle penetration and help with nourishing the dried-out ends of each strand. 

Dry Climates

Unfortunately, not all of us are blessed with weather that works perfectly with our hair. If you live in a dry climate, it’s easy to feel like the elements are working against you. So while you can’t change the weather, you can use products that will fight the harsh effects of a dry climate.

To give hair a fighting chance against dry weather, Function of Beauty’s leave-in conditioner has been formulated to smooth, hydrate, and protect hair from the elements. This product contains avocado oil and coffee extract that work to condition the hair and leave it feeling smooth. This leave-in conditioner can be applied to either wet or dry hair and is great for using on wash days, in between washes, or for quick touch-ups.


If your hair feels dry and damaged, it could be because your diet is lacking the essential nutrients it needs to promote healthy hair. Talk to your doctor about adopting a well-balanced diet of nutritious whole foods. Three of the most important sources for strong hair are omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

You can find omega-3s in oily fish such as salmon, chia seeds, and walnuts. Foods rich in vitamin A include carrots, spinach, broccoli, and tomato juice. Meanwhile, vitamin C is full of antioxidants that protect follicles from the damaging effects of free radicals. Foods that contain vitamin C are citrus, peppers, strawberries, and potatoes.

Revive Your Dry Hair

Why does dryness rear its thirsty head and keep you from having the shiny, healthy-looking hair you dream of? It could be a variety of factors. Maybe you’re over-shampooing, under-trimming, or frying it with heat styling tools. Or maybe it’s partly because of your diet and also simply because you live in a dry climate that sucks the moisture from your mane. 

The good news is that you can make some changes to revive your dry hair. Getting regular trims, trying sulfate-free shampoos, and scaling back on hair washing, drying, and treatment can all potentially help with your dry hair problems. When your hair isn’t acting the way you want it to, it’s also crucial to know exactly what type of products and ingredients can help prevent the problem.

That’s why Function of Beauty has developed a custom hair quiz for finding your perfect hair formulas. In this quiz, you’ll identify your hair type and your specific hair goals. We’ll then recommend products that we can completely customize for your unique hair needs.

Take the quiz now and start working towards attaining your ultimate hair goals.