What Causes Frizzy Hair and How to Deal, According to a Hairstylist

Find out how to address each common cause of frizzy hair to achieve smooth, moisturized strands.

Hair Health Hotline: What Causes Frizzy Hair?
Photo: Getty Images

Hair Health Hotline is your direct access to dermatologists, trichologists, hairstylists, and other beauty pros. Each story in this series tackles a common hair or scalp concern and offers science-backed solutions to care for your strands.

Anyone who's prone to hair frizzing will tell you that it's not the easiest hair concern to avoid. Simply leaving your house on a humid day can trigger a halo of frizz, even if you've applied a hair oil, serum, or conditioner.

If you've tried the above products to no avail, familiarizing yourself with the causes of frizzy hair may help you figure out a better strategy for avoiding the concern. Ahead, Dani Everson, a professional hairstylist with over 20 years of experience and founder of Clementine's Salon in Denver, discusses what causes frizzy hair and how to deal.

Q: Why is my hair so frizzy no matter how many products I use?

A: Frizz is a result of damage and dryness, explains Everson. Avoiding frizz is a matter of moisturizing your hair during and after showers and limiting habits that contribute to dryness and damage.

Hair Health Hotline: What Causes Frizzy Hair?
Courtesy of Dani Everson

What Causes Frizz In Hair

Frizz can be caused by dryness, which leads to fraying of your hair's cuticle, explains Everson. The cuticle is the protective outermost layer of each strand which is made of flat, overlapping cells that look like scales and can open and close, according to an article published in the journal PeerJ . "When the hair is dry, the hair cuticle, which is supposed to lay down smooth, opens up and becomes rough and prickly," says Everson. "Enter: Frizz."

People with curly hair tend to be more prone to dryness, and by extension, frizz. "Those who have naturally curly hair are prone to frizziness the most, [because] curly hair is much drier [and] the natural oils produced by your scalp cannot travel down the hair as easily as they can on straight hair," explains Everson.

Certain styling habits can also cause frizzy hair. For instance, if you color your hair frequently, you'll be more likely to experience frizz, because the chemicals in color treatments tend to "deplete the hair's moisture over time," says Everson. (Related: Cold Water Is the Affordable Secret to Healthy Shiny Hair)

Frequently using heat on your hair can cause frizz as well. "Flat-ironing is a staple in most people's hair routines, but unfortunately, it dries the hair out and can cause damage and frizz," says Everson. "The more you apply heat and damage your hair, the more your hair cuticles don't lie down, causing friction and a frizzy hairdo."

Similarly, while you may think that washing your hair frequently adds moisture because you're running your hair through water, doing so can have the opposite effect. "People think a fresh wash will help hydrate hair and eliminate frizz, but ultimately it can cause more frizz as you are stripping your hair of its natural oils and drying out your hair and scalp," says Everson. Specifically, the cleansing ingredients in shampoos and hot water are to blame.

Finally, environmental factors can also cause frizz. Humidity causes the hair cuticle to open up and "become rough and prickly," according to Everson. The moisture in humid environments can cause hygral fatigue, which is when hair absorbs too much moisture, causing the cuticle to swell and frizz to appear, according to an article in the International Journal of Trichology. Before heading into a humid environment, you can prevent hygral fatigue by applying oils to your hair to "reduce the amount of water absorbed in the hair," according the article.

How to Address Each Cause of Frizzy Hair

Preventing frizz starts in the shower. Avoid washing your hair too frequently and "avoid taking long and super hot showers," which can lead to dry hair, says Everson. How often you should wash your hair depends on your hair type, but here's a guide that can help you figure out your sweet spot.

You also want to avoid overdoing scalp exfoliation. The practice helps remove build-up and promote circulation, but when performed more than once or twice a week, it can excessively strip your hair and scalp, explains Everson. Adding a weekly conditioning hair mask into your shower routine is another way to ensure your hair stays adequately moisturized, says Everson.

Once you're out of the shower, it's important to treat your hair gently. "An easy tip I tell my clients is to not towel-dry their hair," which can rough up the cuticle, says Everson. Allowing your hair to air dry rather than using heat can help you limit overall damage that can cause frizz.

If you can't resist heat styling, certain products can help you minimize damage. "If you use a styler in your day-to-day hair routine, incorporate a hydrating conditioner, weekly hair masks, an oil or serum, or leave-in sprays that can help minimize any heat damage before and after styling," says Everson. Also, consider investing in a heat protectant spray, which can help protect your hair against damage up to a certain temperature. (Related: The Best Heat Protectant Sprays, According to Customer Reviews)

That sums up everything you need to know about the causes of frizz. If you've been loading up on hair-smoothing products without results, consider taking stock of your entire hair-care routine and how it may be contributing to dryness and damage.

Have a hair health question you want answered? Send your Q to hairhotline@shape.com for a chance to have it featured in a future installment of Hair Health Hotline.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles