No one starts out with dry hair. There are many, many different types of hair—coarse, medium-coarse, kinky, curly, fine, extra-fine, and so on—but dry? Not one of them. All dry hair is actually damaged hair. If you’re looking to treat any of the following issues, what you really need to know is how to fix damaged hair…

  • Split ends
  • Dull color
  • Brittle hair strands
  • Frizz
  • Knottiness

As you likely know, the major culprits behind damaged hair include heat tools like curling irons and straighteners, hair dye, and chlorine. But did you know that even saltwater and sunlight can take a toll?

And there are internal factors to consider, too, explained Peita Handel of Fusion Health. She identified stress and hormones as factors that may be influencing the health of your hair more than you realize. Nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin advocates for taking a careful look at how your diet might be harming your hair. “The saying ‘you are what you eat’ really rings true when it comes to the health of your hair,” said Bingley-Pullin, “so make sure your diet is up to scratch.”

Once the damage has been done, is there a way to repair it? The answer, somewhat frustratingly, is yes and no. To understand why that’s the case, you need to know what hair is, exactly.

So, What Is Hair, Exactly?

Your hair has three structural components: protein (primarily a kind called keratin), natural oils, and water. Most hair types, according to Randy Schueller, a cosmetic chemist, also have three layers. The outer layer, the part we all see, is called the cuticle. This layer is itself made up of five to ten layers of protein that overlap each other, sort of like scales on a fish. The cuticle protects the middle layer of your hair, the cortex, where long strands of protein bundle together to make your hair as strong and resilient as possible. Some types of hair (often naturally coarse, dark hair) also have a third layer called the medulla that helps to insulate the hair.

When hair appears damaged, that’s typically because one or more of the hair cuticle’s “scales” have chipped or pulled away from the cortex. This causes your hair to…

  • Become fragile
  • Tangle easily
  • Lose moisture
  • Appear dull and lackluster

Technically speaking, your hair is dead, which means it is simply not capable of regenerating itself. So, no, you can’t fix damaged hair. What you can do, however, is fix the appearance of damaged hair (and, hopefully, take steps to prevent future damage).

To help your hair look as shiny and smooth as possible, you want to concentrate on the cuticle. When all the layers of the cuticle lie neatly on top of each other, your hair will look its best. Using the right hair treatment can smooth down your cuticle and even help reseal it, temporarily at least.

The Best Product for Saving Damaged Hair

There’s no shortage of products that claim to be able to save your hair, and often, for quite a steep price. But the absolute best, science-backed way to soothe and protect damaged hair can be found on the shelves of just about any grocery store. It’s coconut oil!

You can easily whip up a coconut oil hair mask at home that will not only outperform even the most high-end deep conditioning treatments, but will also cost just a fraction of the price. It also smells heavenly and feels luxurious to apply. The reason coconut oil is the most effective way to infuse your hair with moisture is that it can actually penetrate the cuticle of your hair to reach the cortex, where it can help moisturize and protect your hair from the inside out.

Just one coconut hair mask will leave your hair feeling dramatically softer and visibly shinier. Coconut oil contains lauric, caprylic, and capric acids, which nourish your hair and help clear up scalp dryness.

How to Make Your Own Hair Mask

If you’re wondering how to make a hair mask, don’t worry! It’s so simple, and there are a number of helpful DIY hair mask tutorials out there.

Beauty vlogger Jewellianna Palencia has racked up over 240,000 subscribers on YouTube who can’t get enough of her hair care tips and tricks. In this video she shares the recipe for her favorite DIY hair mask that she relies on to keep her scalp and hair healthy. She also offers advice on how to adapt the recipe based on hair length, hair type, and any other hair or scalp concerns you might have. All the ingredients she uses can easily be found at your local drugstore or grocery store. Jewellianna also gives a quick rundown of the top benefits of each ingredient she uses, and specific instructions on how to mix, apply, and rinse out the mask.