The Damage: Fraying, breakage
We get it—ponytails are a quick and easy way to hide dirty hair and give you a polished look in seconds, but (and yes there is a but) they can be one of the most damaging hairstyles out there. Elastic hair ties can grip the hair too tightly and cut into the hair shaft, causing fraying when they are repeatedly used in the same spot.
So throwing your hair up in a quick pony for the gym every once in a while is okay, but when you’re using the ponytail as your go-to hairstyle every day, it can become a problem. And yes, this policy applies to buns, too. However, if you absolutely cannot go a day without your beloved pony or bun, don’t worry—your hair isn’t totally doomed. Try ditching your rubbery elastic bands for thick, fabric-coated hair ties, such as Emi-Jay’s Hair Ties ($7 for three), for a secure hold that’s gentler on your hair.
The Damage: Splitting, follicle damage, hair weakness, tensile stress
We first began with pigtails when we were young and have since upgraded to more advanced styles such as the reverse milkmaid ; let’s face it—braids have always been in our lives. We’re not expecting anyone to banish braids from the hairstyle archives completely, but rather to ease up on them (literally). If hair is pulled back too tightly, it can break away from its roots, which can result in splitting, hair weakness, and follicle damage. Braids, which includes boxer and Felicia styles, that are too tight can also cause tensile stress, which occurs when there is constant tugging on hair follicles. “These type of braids can be damaging depending on how tight or heavy the braids are. The stress on the follicle can weaken it and sometimes cause hair loss,” says Jessica O’Brien, artistic educator and stylist at Ouidad .
Regular tensile stress can lead to serious hair loss conditions, such as traction alopecia, which is caused by wearing tight hairstyles for a long period of time.
However, all hope is not lost. You can still wear braids without taking such costly risks. “The best way to wear braids with minimal damage is not braiding too tight at the scalp, taking breaks between wearing braids, and moisturizing your scalp before, during, and after wearing braids with essential oils,” says O’Brien.
Like we said, everything in moderation. You can wear the tight braid for special occasions and then give your hair a break the next day with a more relaxed look. For inspiration on those special days, check out our big, badass braid guide .
The Damage: Breakage, splitting, acute hair loss
This goes right up there with the tight ponytails and buns. If ponytails and buns with dry hair can do damage, can you even imagine what can happen when you form an updo with wet hair? Wet hair is much more fragile than dry hair and is more prone to breakage and splitting. You should never tie up your hair when it is wet. Don’t believe us? Look at your elastic hair tie next time you remove it after a wet-updo day. See that hair wrapped around your hair tie? We rest our case.