Damage Control: What to Do When You’ve Fried Your Hair

Last Update: July 13, 2023

It happened to me. A trip to the salon turned into a nightmare. After getting some super pretty blonde highlights, once I got home and brushed my hair . . . Well let’s just say the theme from the shower scene in Psycho went off and reverberated in my head . . . Fried hair.

Broken hair, everywhere. Yes, I panicked. I spent all night frantically googling “how to fix fried hair” in an attempt to possibly save my precious locks. I went to bed with my head drenched in olive oil. The next day, same thing: short zigzags of strands stripped, so thin they could hardly be called hair anymore, falling off into the sink. The fractured pieces that did stay put on my head had a weird, filmy texture to them… this was a classic, horrific case of fried hair ends

That night, obsessed with solving my fried hair problem ASAP—but way too scarred to entrust my troubles to another salon—I did my best to cut off the fried ends into layers that somewhat blended into the rest of my hair. The bright side: They were only highlights, so 97 percent of my hair was still healthy. Still, staring into a sinkful of broken hair is disturbing.

If you’re here because a similar horror story happened to you, or if your hair’s just parched from general overprocessing—breathe. Sorry to sound like a Hallmark card, but it gets better and you can fix fried hair for future you. Nearly one year after that traumatizing bleach disaster, my hair is in a pretty good place. Here’s what to do to help nourish your locks back to their former glory.

Method #1: Make deep conditioning your new hobby

As soon as you notice your hair is fried, it’s time for a major deep-conditioning treatment. Even if you’re lucky and don’t experience obvious breakage after a bleach job, always, always, always deep condition anyway. Dead hair or not.

Why deep condition?

Amy Halman, Acure’ resident formulator, suggests a mask a couple times a week. “Let it sit for five to 10 minutes before washing,” says Halman. “For very damaged hair, add a couple drops of argan oil into the conditioning treatment, wrap your head, and sleep. In the morning, rinse with lukewarm water—hot water causes inflammation.” This may be the best way to fix fried hair overnight. Regularly deep conditioning can help dead hair by replacing any lost moisture.

Method #2: Skip shampoo

Start training your head to go “no poo.” If you’re not already skipping shampoo every other day, now’s the time.

Why skip shampoo?

Washing hair too often can strip the scalp of its natural oils, which parches thirsty tresses even more, increasing your odds of fried hair. You might have to deal with greasy hair initially, but your scalp will get used to it and regulate oil production accordingly.

Method #3: Oil up

Speaking of oils, consider them your new best friend. Feel free to smooth some argan oil or coconut oil through damp or dry hair on the daily, or as often as you want.

Why use oils?

This luxurious liquid gold coats the porous hair shaft and locks in moisture to prevent dead hair. Coconut oil can also work wonders and replenish essential protein in damaged hair, according to a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results overnight. Restoring damaged hair will take time and TLC, so be patient.

Method #4: Quit your heat-styling habit

In the meantime, drop the flatiron—seriously, don’t even think about putting one anywhere near your head. Heat will only make things worse. Give your hair some time to recuperate by skipping the blowouts and straightening, and instead going au naturale. Embrace a tousled look by mixing up your own sugar spray texturizer—a version of beachy salt spray that boosts shine instead of sucking up moisture.

Method #6: Repair hair from the inside out

Eat plenty of lean protein including beans, lentils, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, and spirulina,  as well as fruits, vegetables, healthy oils (like olive, avocado, and coconut), and lots of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of wild salmon, tuna, chia seeds, and flaxseeds. This is the long game approach to treat fried hair by avoiding it in the future.

Method #7: Make the cut

Don’t freak out, but it might be time for a haircut. It’s hard to come to terms with this, especially if you’ve been growing out your hair for what seems like ages. We get it. But remember, it’s just hair, and it will grow back (taking a biotin supplement can help). And besides, dramatic chops were a major trend in 2015—just ask Emma Watson, Jessica Alba, and Kate Bosworth. Before you know it, your long locks will be back, and stronger and healthier than ever.

Photo credit: Alicia Cho

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Dana Poblete

Dana's love for all creatures under the sun (bugs, too) drives her in her advocacy for ethical eating, environmental sustainability, and cruelty-free living. A natural born islander, she surfs when she can, and writes, always.

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