The biggest hair myths debunked

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all have J.Lo’s hair? Whether it’s long, short, curly or straight the star’s tresses always look perfect.

Unfortunately, most of us can’t afford the best treatments, or to have a stylist do our hair every day. It’s important to know what products are safe to use so we can minimize hair damage.  

There’s a lot of advice on the web making it difficult to know what actually works and what doesn’t. Here’s a list of common myths we hear about to help you figure out what you really should and shouldn’t do to your tresses.

MYTH: Parabens and sulfates aren’t that bad

Sulfates are commonly found in personal care products like shampoo. They are detergents that create the lather and eliminate dirt from your hair.

Nonetheless, they are made up of salt that can dry the hair and cause dullness.

Parabens are preservatives used in cosmetics and pharmaceutical products. They stop fungus and bacteria from growing in personal care products like shampoos and conditioners. However, over the past few years. there has been growing debate over whether the ingredient can be harmful to your health.

Fontana says parabens and sulfates are a cheap and easy way to make a product, so he tries to stay away from companies that use them.

“If companies are staying away from those things then they’ve gone beyond the call of duty to create an amazing product so I have a little bit more faith in their research and development,” he says. “They’re not just trying to put a product out there to make money, they’re actually trying to provide a good product for people.”

MYTH: Alcohol based products don’t damage hair

Alcohol is used as a preservative to give products like hairspray a longer shelf life. The drawback with the ingredient is it can be quite drying for the hair.  

According to Dr. Jeff Donovan, a dermatologist and hair restoration specialist, individuals who dye their hair may be more susceptible to damage when they use these products. The more treatments you have on your hair, the easier it is to damage your tresses, so he advises using an alcohol-free product.

“I think these individuals already have some breakage. They already have some small amount of damage to the hair, especially to the cuticle, and an alcohol-based product just has the potential to dry it out further,” he says.

MYTH: Dry shampoo is bad for the hair

Everyone is in love with dry shampoo and for good reason: it’s an easy and quick alternative to washing your hair every day.

Nowadays people are using it not only to soak up the oil, but to style with as well. The drawback is that it does add dullness and build up.

Francesco Fontana, a hair stylist and owner of Studio Fontana in Toronto, says the build up comes from people rushing when it comes to washing their hair.

“It’s going to compound, which is why you see the dry shampoos do leave build up and do dull the hair out because the people that are using it are not washing their hair properly,” he explains.

If you live by the spray then ensure you’re eliminating the build up.

“Get a good clarifying shampoo as a prep shampoo.,” Fontana says. “You use the clarifying shampoo to remove the buildup from that product and then use your normal shampoo.”

Keep in mind that dry shampoo is a good substitute every now and then, but washing your hair shouldn’t take a back seat every time.

MYTH: There’s no wrong way to wash your hair

Whether it’s running to get to school or work, we don’t typically leave a lot of time in our morning routine for washing our hair. But rushing through this process means we’re not cleaning our scalps the way we should be.  

According to Fontana, “If you just wet your hair for let’s say 10, 15 seconds, you’re reactivating the product that is in your hair so your shampoo is going to have a hard time cleaning your hair because it’s battling against the dry shampoo, or the hairspray or the gel.”

Cleansing your hair is a vital step if you use a lot of styling products. Fontana recommends rinsing your hair for 35 seconds to a minute before even touching it with shampoo. This will help dilute any of the products that are in your hair and that way the shampoo can clean it properly and reduce any kind of build up.

Fontana also recommends choosing wisely when it comes to what products you splurge on.

“I would splurge on shampoos and conditioners because those are curative, those repair, those help. If I was going to save, I would try to save on styling products. Styling products don’t necessarily improve your hair.”

MYTH: Hair elastics ruin your hair

How many times have you heard that a hair elastic can cause major damage to your tresses? Fontana says it’s actually not the elastic itself that’s the problem, it’s the tension.

“You can use whatever you want, it has to be loose. It has less to do with what you’re using to put it up than just how tight it is when you put it up,” he says.

Fontana says a tight ponytail usually causes tugging at your temples, hairline and the bottom of your nape. If you release that tension so it’s not tugging on those points anymore, the ponytail won’t cause damage.

“It’s the tight ponytail that ruins your hair,” he adds. “You’re killing the elasticity which is the ability to return back to its natural form.”

MYTH: Skipping heat protectant is OK

Heat protectants act like sunscreen for your hair. They are meant to restore moisture and defend your hair against your hot tools.

“I recommend these products actually on a daily or every second day usage in women that are using heat on their hair,” Donovan says. “These products are great in that they actually do something to protect the hair a little bit from the damaging effects of heat.” 

Ottawa hair stylist and Society Salon owner, Stefania Capovilla, says it’s also not a bad idea to test the product before using it to ensure that it will do the job.

“A good way to see if your heat protector actually is effective is to take the spray, spray it onto your hand like on your skin, take your blow dryer and heat it up,” she says. “See if there is a decrease in the feeling of the heat on your hand and you will see whether or not it’s effective.”  

MYTH: All silicone-based products are bad for your hair

Silicone is a mineral that makes the hair appear shiny and smooth. However, people are sometimes afraid of using silicone-based products because they’re unnatural and can dull the hair.

Capovilla says washing out the silicone is an important step in stopping it from causing future damage.

“Anything like that will clog the cuticle of the hair so people just need to make sure they clarify their hair once a week because if they do have an over deposit of that in the long run it can be damaging,” she says.

According to Donovan, silicones are misunderstood. He says some silicones protect the cuticle and may be beneficial, so it’s an inaccurate statement to say all silicones cause hair breakage.

“There are some silicones in conditioners that do a very good job helping the hair, improving the shine and reducing brittleness and reducing hair damage so I don’t think silicones are universally bad for hair.”

MYTH: Heat and chemicals aren’t damaging to your hair

Donovan says heat and chemicals essentially fry your hair, making them the most damaging external products you can use. 

It’s really heat and chemicals that are disruptive to this outer layer of the hair called the cuticle and it’s once that layer is damaged or perturbed in any way that hair starts to develop split ends, that it starts to fray, that it starts to not lie flat,” he says.

The hair restoration specialist recommends not using the two in close proximity to one another.

“Women that I see with incredible breakage and incredible hair damage are usually the women who have had their hair bleached or dyed and then flat iron their hair to style it even further. These are the individuals that are most susceptible to hair damage.”