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F is for Follicle 911: How to Rescue Dry, Mechanically Damaged Hair (and Avoid Repair Overload)

Mechanically damaged hair has different needs from chemically damaged hair. And hey, do you know to watch for Repair Overload? Pro tips and recommendations:
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Some of the best hair advice I've ever received is from Michael Victor, the owner of Delineation Hair & Skin Essentials in Toronto. For instance, when it comes to damaged-hair repair, he says the question you have to answer before you tackle the problem is what caused the damage? Because mechanically damaged hair and chemically damaged hair (over-processed) have different requirements. Today's post is about mechanically damaged hair.

Bad Robot For most people, mechanically damaged hair has nothing to do with a malevolent robot messing with your tresses while you sleep. (For the record, I'm not a fan of the term "tresses," but I felt it fit there, with the malevolent robot.) Mechanical damage is about beating the natural moisture and resiliance out of your hair via blow dryers, flat irons and curling irons, as well as old hair brushes (broken bristles!). Also rough on hair: brushing when it's wet (and less flexible), vigorous rubbing with a towel, excessive backcombing, and constant exposure to wind and sun.

Terms of Engagement Another detail we don't often talk about when it comes to hair rescue is how long it can take. According to Michael, it's not a one-shampoo fix. You have to be patient. And you must monitor your hair's recovery so you know when you can go into maintenance mode. There is such a thing as repair overload. And, confirms Greg May of Greg May Hair Architects in Toronto, it often looks like really limp hair, or really damaged if you use the wrong approach. For mechanically damaged hair, the wrong approach is protein. The right approach is conditioning that helps hair hang onto moisture.

Rescue Crew Your hair-rescue regimen could be as easy as adding a weekly hair mask, or you might have to change your shampoo and conditioner, too -- and more. Some aids to consider:

John Frieda Full Repair

John Frieda Full Repair My hair is naturally a bit on the dry side, so I've been trying the shampoo, conditioner and the Perfect Ends Deep Infusion, which offers protection from heat styling. The products promise weightless restoration with omega-3-rich oils; weightless is right. My hair is softer, but not weighed down in the least. And the line includes styling products to build on its conditioning promise if you need it.

John Frieda Full Repair Facebook page

BONUS: Lookee what I found on the John Frieda Full Repair Facebook page! Free samples! (Click on the above image to get to the coupon.)

Pantene Pro-V Restore Beautiful Lengths Replenishing Mask and LOccitane Shine Mask

Pantene Pro-V Restore Beautiful Lengths Replenishing Mask ($8.99 at grocery, drug and mass retailers) Celebrity stylist Danilo, who works with Gwen Stefani as well as Naomi Watts and Eva Mendes, is a fan. "It's amazing for fixing anybody's tortured hair," he says. In fact, he likes the whole BL collection: "I put everyone on a solid diet of Beautiful Lengths. I've found it to be the quickest way to bring hair around." L'Occitane en Provence Aromachologie Repairing Shine Mask ($36 at L'Occitane) with sunflower and wheat oils is another, fragrant option. Tip: after applying the mask, wrap your hair in plastic and let it sit for about 15 minutes, or use your blow dryer to blast your plastic-wrapped head with hot air to boost its absorption ability. Use weekly -- or twice weekly at first if your hair's in dire straits.

Overnight conditioners for mechanically damaged hair

Nexxus Pro-Mend Split End Binding Overnight Treatment ($14.99 at grocery, drug and mass retailers) is designed to nourish and soften parched hair before you shampoo. In case you missed it in the product name, the Nexxus is a leave-in you can sleep in without messing your pillows. If you don't think you'll find time to do a weekly mask, try this first. Depending on your level of damage, you can use it the night before every shampoo day, or once a week. La Coupe Overnight Miracle Mask ($7.99 at Zellers and London Drugs) is another excellent overnight option; it was tops in an independent Good Housekeeping study for price point + effectiveness.

LaCoupe samples

And wow, what a day for free samples -- LaCoupe is sharing try-size products via its website. If the samples are of shampoo and conditioner, at least the $2 coupon that comes with them can be applied to the overnight treatment if that's what you want to try most (click on image to hit the site's special offers):

You might also need a glossing serum, or silicone formula such as Moroccanoil. They absolutely do work to make dry, overworked hair look more healthy quickly -- silicone coats the hair to smooth it and helps reduce strand friction as you style. Plus Moroccanoil is well loved for its help in cutting down blow-dry time, too. You already know that easing up on the heat styling will help your hair recover, right?

Whatever you use, you should notice enough improvement over time that you can reduce the frequency of the overnight or weekly deep conditioning just to maintain the effects of your repair program.

Have you managed a repair regimen for your mechanically-damaged hair? What's worked for you? If you need to start a program, did you know you have to watch out for repair overload?