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Dry? Damaged? Dehydrated? We Decode These Common Hair Issues

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When you read articles that discuss dry, damaged or dehydrated hair, you wouldn’t be the first person to say “dry, damaged and dehydrated are the same thing – right?”

Well, they do all have one thing in common – the hair needs some TLC. But what would you say if I told you they were all separate hair types?

Ok, it wouldn’t *exactly* change your life. We know there are far more pressing, life-altering issues out there. But knowing what they each mean might make it slightly easier when you’re shopping for your hair products.

Here, I explain the difference between dry, damaged and dehydrated hair and give you the indicators of each one. All in the name of helping you identify which hair type is yours, how to treat it and how to create your ideal hair regime.

With tips from celebrity hairstylist Gina Rivera, and Lisa Abbey, the founder and CEO of Strength x Beauty, let’s debunk the meaning of dry, damaged and dehydrated once and for all!


Dry, dehydrated or damaged: What do they all mean?

Dry hair occurs when there is a lack of natural oils, which the hair needs to stay healthy. They can be stripped away by over-washing or using certain ingredients. Salt water, UV rays and an unhealthy diet can also cause dry hair.

When your body is dehydrated, it needs water and the same applies to your hair. Water is a very important nutrient for the hair, so it needs hydration to keep it vibrant. When it is lacking in moisture, the hair becomes dehydrated.

If your hair is damaged it means it has been over-bleached, over-styled with heat and generally over-worked. This damage can usually be found in specific parts of the hair, rather than all over.


Swimming pool showing how harmful chlorine can be for hair

Image – Floraldeco/Adobe


Is your hair type dry, dehydrated or damaged?


Signs your hair is dry:

“Dry hair can appear frizzy, dull looking and flat,” explains Rivera. “It may also feel like it has no body or bounce,” adds Abbey.


Signs your hair is dehydrated:

Dehydrated hair looks similar to dry hair – hence, why it’s sometimes hard to differentiate between the two. Confusing isn’t it?

However, when your hair is dehydrated it’ll feel rough, lack volume and it might be harder to style. Additionally, it might be extra greasy because of the hair over-compensating for lost moisture.


Signs your hair is damaged:

“Damaged hair appears dry, brittle and typically has breakage,” says RiveraAbbey continues, “it will feel coarse to the touch, have split ends that won’t heal with conditioner and it’ll look burned or frizzy.”

So you see, the signs of damaged hair are more localised than the all-over nature of dryness and dehydration.


hair growth dry damaged dehydrated

Image – Sathaporn/Adobe


How to repair your hair

Luckily for us, there are ways to treat whichever of the above boxes you’re ticking. As you would expect, conditioners, hair masks and serums all come into play here. But which one’s best for which scenario?


How to treat dry hair:

There’s good news, dry hair types! “Dry hair can usually correct itself before it reaches the damaged point,” says Rivera. “Use a professional hydrating sulphate-free shampoo, conditioner and mask consistently and book a trim every 4 to 6 weeks to help avoid split ends.”

I love Kerastase Discipline Bain Fluidealiste (£27.15 on the Kerastase UK website/$32.98 on the Kerastase US website) and Kerastase Discipline Fondant Fluidealiste Conditioner (£35.50 on the Kerastase UK website/$46.00 on the Kerastase US website). They’re like a big warm, moisturising hug for dry hair and you really notice how much healthier it feels post-blow dry.


Image – John Frieda


Try John Frieda Detox & Repair Masque (£7.99 on the Superdrug website/$9.59 on the Feel Unique US website) once or twice a week too which will help to nourish dry hair.

Abbey also recommends using a hydrating mist. I like Lee Stafford Moisture Burst Hydrating 10-in-1 Treatment Spray (£11.99 on the Lee Stafford UK website/$22.00 on the Glam Geek US website) which adds moisture and detangles.


How to treat dehydrated hair:

Hyaluronic acid is your key ingredient here. It’s known for retaining up to 1,000 times its own weight in water, making it the perfect solution for hair lacking in moisture!

“Apply a hyaluronic acid or ricewater mist while hair is still damp, before using any styling products,” advises Abbey. “This will hydrate from the inside out and make your styling products work better!”

Abbey recommends Strength X Beauty Damascus Rose Hydrating Mist with Hyaluronic Acid (£29.64/$36 on the Strength X Beauty website) which works on both the hair and skin.

Avoid styling products containing alcohol and use a hyaluronic acid-infused shampoo too. I recommend L’Oreal Paris Elvive Hydra Hyaluronic Shampoo (£3.75 on the Superdrug website/$5.49 on the CVS US website) which is reasonably priced and smells delicious.


How to treat damaged hair:

“Damaged hair needs a more intense hydrating regimen,” says Rivera. “Your hair stylist might recommend products with protein and deep conditioning masks.”

“Use a hydrating mist and substitute your daily conditioner with a hydrating or bond repairing mask every time you shampoo for up to 2 weeks, then alternate with regular conditioner 1 to 3 times a week,” advises Abbey.

Aveda Botanical Repair Strengthening Shampoo (£30 on the Look Fantastic UK website/$38.00 on the Aveda US website) is gentle on the scalp, doesn’t contain heavy silicones and protects from product build-up.

L’Oreal Professionnel Series Expert Absolut Repair Gold Lightweight Mask (£25.80 on the Look Fantastic UK website/$32.10 on the Look Fantastic US website) is particularly good for chemically-treated hair.


Woman with healthy

Image – Neonshot/Adobe


The takeaway

Many products for hair needing a little extra love and attention come under the same ‘dry, damaged and dehydrated’ umbrella. And we wonder why we get so confused!

But as we’ve now discovered, there’s *actually* a difference between all three, no matter how slight. And it’s useful to know which one yours is.

Dry hair shows in its lack of vitality. Dehydrated hair is harder to style and might be more greasy. While damaged hair is more localised, showing in areas like split ends.

Luckily, there is a regime to be found for each one. Think sulphate-free and moisturising for dry hair; hyaluronic acid for dehydrated hair; and protein-based and bond-repairing for damaged hair.

Now you know the basics, you can build a routine around it and feel safe in the knowledge that you’re doing everything you can to treat it.


Meet the experts

Celebrity hairstylist Gina Rivera skyrocketed to success when the company she founded, Phenix Salon Suites, became the fastest-growing salon suite company in the beauty industry.

She has since been featured in Fashion & Style, Modern Salon, the Huffington Post, Glamour,, O Magazine, and she has over 500,000 social media followers who she regularly shares her pro tips with.


Lisa Abbey is the founder and CEO of Strength x Beauty, a brand of healthy and plant-based hair and body products that use only clean, luxury ingredients.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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