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How to Tell the Difference Between Baby Hairs and Breakage

When it comes to baby hairs, it’s a bit of a love-hate relationship.

On the one hand, some short, wispy strands right around your hairline can add an air of romance to every undone updo. And on the other hand, those tiny tufts can disrupt your slick and sleek aesthetic. Whether you’re into little flyaways or absolutely over them, you should always beware: not-so-benign breakage may be lurking behind your baby hairs. It can be tough to tell the difference between torn-off tresses and budding new growth. But this distinction is super important in terms of mane management and care.

That’s why we asked celebrity hairstylist Christin Brown for a comprehensive “baby hairs or breakage” breakdown! Read on for her expert tips and tricks for recognizing the subtle difference.

Look for the telltale signs of breakage

While the distinction may be discrete, there are some objective factors you can look for when determining whether you’re dealing with baby hairs or breakage. “The way that I can differentiate between the two is that breakage can sometimes appear blunt and “broken off” at the ends, and stick straight up from the follicle.” Brown explains. Baby hairs typically look softer and often lay against the hairline with ease. When examining those flyaway stands at your hairline, watch out for these red flags.

Harmful habits and health concerns can cause breakage

Unlike baby hair, breakage doesn’t just sprout up over night. Certain bad habits and health concerns could be responsible for these pesky strands. “The biggest ones I see are chemical damage, heat damage and mechanical damage.” Brown says. “When the hair has become compromised from over-processing with lightener or color, the hair isn’t strong enough and will eventually break.” she continues. The same goes for heat.

According to Brown, mechanical manipulation from wearing a ponytail or bun everyday can also cause breakage. “We may think it’s low maintenance, but the constant pulling and tugging on the most fragile parts of the hair (the hairline) will eventually lead to too much stress on those follicles.” she explains. Vigorous daily hair brushing can have the same effect.

Apart from your hair habits, breakage could result from more serious health-related concerns. “There are some cases where hormones play more of a factor like pregnancy, post-partum, and medication,” Brown warns. If you notice breakage on a regular basis, seek support from both your stylist and a dermatologist to formulate a plan for recovery. 

Use breakage-prevention techniques when styling

So you’ve got breakage, not baby hair. Now what? “To minimize mechanical damage, instead, start your bun or ponytail about 3 inches away from the hairline,” Brown recommends, “then gently integrate the front sections either back into the bun or ponytail with a bobby pin or leave them out for a beachy, bohemian feel. This will relieve a lot of the tension on those fragile hairline tresses.” In addition, avoid heat styling daily if you can.  

Invest in reparative products

Minimize the impact of everyday wear and tear on your tresses by investing in a top-notch treatment. “Olaplex has become my insurance policy over the years to really assist me in maintaining and improving the integrity of my client’s hair including my own,” Brown says. Olaplex’s unique, salon-grade products are specially designed to repair broken, brittle locks, improving hair strength and repairing all 5 types of damage (chemical services, heating styling, mechanical damage, environmental damage, and lifestyle or psychological changes).

“In the salon, I add in Olaplex No.1 Bond Multiplier throughout my color services and Olaplex No. 2 Bond Builder after service,” Brown explains. “The two are a powerhouse combo for me as a professional to ensure my client’s hair will become strengthened and repaired after services.” In addition, Brown relies on this duo as a stand-alone treatment in-salon to help relink any broken bonds from chemical, thermal, or environmental damage. If a salon visit is too far in the future for you, no worries. Olaplex just dropped their No.0 Intensive Bond Building Hair Treatment. Mix this intense new product with their iconic Olaplex No.3 Hair Perfector for the ultimate take-home version of the professional in-salon service. It’s scientifically proven to provide 68% more repair, leaving your locks up to 3 times stronger. Now that’s what we call results.

Baby hairs need TLC, too

Though breakage requires immediate attention, baby hair should not be neglected. When it comes to new growth, it’s important to avoid forcing fledgling flyaways out and away from their origin. So say no to slicked down buns or ponytails! Even headbands can add a great deal of stress to the follicle and hairline. “Try celebrating them!” Brown advises, “Get creative. Leave them out for the wind to sweep or give them some design along the hairline.”

Opting for a cream styler with softer hold like Olaplex No.6 Bond Smoother is also a good move for your mane. “It’s a bond smoothing leave-in that eliminates frizz while strengthening all hair types,” Brown explains. But most of all, embrace your natural locks! “Whatever you do, just treat them as the delicate individuals they are and your full edges will thank you,” Brown says, “They’re worth it and so are you.”

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