When it comes to our hair, we’re all guilty of making a few blunders back in the day (just open your middle school yearbook for proof). Now that you’re older and wiser, you’d think taking care of your hair would be super simple by now. But as it turns out, there are a lot of ways you could be damaging your strands without realizing it. Read on for six hair care mistakes you could be making and how to get back into your hair’s good graces.

taking care of your hair

1. Using drugstore shampoo and conditioner

Drugstore shampoos and conditioners are popular because they’re cheap and convenient. But the real cost of these low-quality hair care products doesn’t show up on a receipt. Drugstore shampoos and conditioners are often filled with harsh sulfates, silicones, parabens, phthalates, and other harmful ingredients that wreak havoc on your hair (and potentially your health).

The Fix: If you’re trying not to blow your entire paycheck on hair care products, we have good news — you don’t need to pay the big bucks to achieve salon-worthy results! Solid shampoo bars (and conditioner bars) are just as effective and luxurious as the high-end liquid options you’d find at a salon, thanks to their high concentration of potent ingredients. Best of all, they’re way more environmentally friendly, saving one to two plastic bottles from a landfill.

2. Being too aggressive with wet hair

Wet hair is more fragile than you might think. When your hair gets wet, it weakens the hydrogen bonds that hold together the protein structures of your hair (keratin), ultimately making it more susceptible to damage and breakage. For this reason, many hair experts recommend taking extra care with your wet strands.

The Fix: When you get out of the shower, avoid rubbing your hair too hard with a towel. Wait until your hair is completely dry before you take a brush to it or put it up into a bun or a ponytail. And don’t even think about using hot tools on wet hair.

3. Using too much product

Does your hair look limp and greasy? Are your curls lacking their usual luster and bounce? You may want to try cutting back on how much product you’re using in your hair. Besides making hair limp and difficult to style, going overboard with products can sneakily sabotage your hair health. When you use too much product in your hair, the resulting buildup can prevent vital nutrients from penetrating the hair shaft, causing hair to become weak and lifeless. It can also lead to a vicious cycle of over-washing your hair to remove the buildup, stripping hair of its natural oils.

The Fix: Take a less is more approach to your hair care products. Generally speaking, you usually don’t need to apply more than a dime-sized amount of any hair product. Additionally, consider cutting back on the number of hair products you use every day. You’ll save money on products and your hair will be much healthier for it. Plus, you’ll be doing the planet a huge favor by reducing your reliance on plastic waste.

hair care products

4. Not getting your hair trimmed often enough

No, your hairstylist isn’t trying to gouge your pockets by suggesting you come in for routine haircuts. Most hair care professionals genuinely care about the health of your hair — and getting regular trims is actually a crucial part of your overall hair health. When you don’t take care of your split ends, experts say that the damage can work its way up the hair shaft, leading to breakage and slower growth. Moreover, getting regular trims can make your hair appear longer, thicker, and healthier. So, don’t wait — get those ends sheared off!

The Fix: Obviously, the fix is to schedule regular appointments with your hairstylist. But how often should you be getting it cut? The answer to that question mostly depends on your hair’s length, texture, and style. But in general, most people can benefit from getting a snip every eight weeks or so.

5. Taking too-hot showers

We know, we know — hot showers feel divine after a long day or a brutal workout. But the hard truth is that it’s not doing any favors for your hair (or your skin, for that matter). When you take a super-hot shower, the constant stream of hot water pelting down on your head damages the keratin proteins in your hair and strips away the natural oils from your scalp. If you continue with your hot shower habit, it can lead to dry, brittle, and frizzy-looking hair (also: terribly itchy skin).

The Fix: Cold showers can do wonders for your hair, skin, and overall health. But let’s face it, subjecting yourself to icy-cold water every day sounds downright torturous! A more realistic solution? Turn down the temperature as much as you can handle and call it good. If you desperately crave a hot shower, consider wearing a shower cap. That way, you can at least protect your hair.

Taking too-hot showers

6. Skipping heat protectant spray

Once your hair is damaged, it can’t be repaired — only protected and maintained. That’s why using heat protectant spray before styling your hair with hot tools is so important. Heat protectants work by coating your strands with a protective barrier that helps reduce heat damage. They also add shine and smoothness to your hair, and some even contain keratin to increase hair strength and combat brittleness.

Even if you don’t use hot tools, your hair could probably benefit from heat spray in the summer — especially if you spend a lot of time outside. Just like the sun can damage your eyes and skin, it can also damage your locks.

The Fix: If nixing hot tools from your hair care routine is out of the question, do yourself a favor and invest in a high-quality heat protectant spray (look for moisturizing ingredients, such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid). And with the weather starting to warm up, you may want to consider adding a sun protection hat to your wardrobe.

Between heat styling tools, hot showers, and incorrect product usage, there are a lot of ways we can unknowingly be ruining our locks. However, simple swaps such as long lasting shampoo bars and high-quality heat protectants can make a huge difference. With these tips, you can get back on the path to healthy hair!