Brittle hair


Normally the hair should be shiny and have a smooth, supple surface.
However, if the hair appears dull, dull and resembles straw when touched, then one speaks of brittle hair. However, all hair layers are intact, only the outer cuticle is roughened and damaged.

The hair consists of three layers, an outer cuticle, a middle layer, the cortex, and an inner medulla (Medulla).
Each hair is anchored at its root in the skin and combined there with its own muscle and sebum gland.

The living cells, which differentiate into dead horn cells, are located in the hair roots. The horny cells are what is visible to us as hair. The melanocytes, the cells, the pigments (Melanin) and thus determine the hair color.


The brittle hair looks dull and dull.
The surface is noticeably roughened and is reminiscent of the consistency of straw, which is why brittle hair is often referred to as straw-like.

Due to the fact that the outer layer of hair is attacked, the hair is less resistant and becomes brittle over time.

The appearance of brittle hair is correlated with length, because the longer the hair, the more sebum the gland has to produce to keep the hair moist. If the hair becomes too long, less and less sebum arrives at the tips, so that sooner or later it dries out.


A distinction must be made between brittle hair and damaged hair in which the hair is functionally damaged.

This means that the hair structure extends into the middle layer (Cortex) is changed.
This makes it porous and less resistant. That is the case with dyeing, perming and bleaching. On the other hand, with brittle hair, only the outer layer is attacked and the cause is different.

Brittle hair occurs when the hair dries out.
The sebum that belongs to the hair no longer produces enough oil to keep the hair supple and shiny.

Causes brittle hair

Washing your hair too often is one of the main reasons for brittle hair

In the vast majority of cases, the cause of brittle hair is quite banal and easy to eliminate.

Often the hair is washed too often, exposed to very hot and dry air and solar radiation.
Solar radiation is an important factor, especially in summer, and dry heating air in winter.

Both the hot temperature and the low humidity cause the hair to dry out and become brittle.
As a result, hot air with a blow dryer and straightening irons are stressful for the hair with every use.

Even when washing hair, fat is removed from the hair with each wash, which then has to be built up again.

Too much combing with pointed bristles can roughen the outer layer of hair and make it brittle.
As already mentioned, hair length also plays a crucial role.
If a certain length is exceeded, the drying out can no longer be avoided at some point.

Brittle hair can, however, also be an indication of a deficiency.
For example, vitamin deficiencies have a negative effect on the hair structure.
The B vitamins and biotin are of particular importance. It must be said that vitamin deficiencies practically no longer occur in our western society despite an unhealthy diet.

Exceptions are special forms of malnutrition such as Anorexia (anorexia), Bulimia, or alcohol addiction. Even with a vegan diet, care should be taken that there are no vitamin deficiencies.

Mineral deficiencies are somewhat more common than vitamin deficiencies, with iron playing the largest role. It should be noted here that iron deficiency manifests itself not only in the form of brittle hair or even hair loss, but also in many other symptoms such as paleness or reduced performance.

The brittle hair is caused by a reduced blood supply to the hair cells and sebum glands. Since iron is essential for the transport of oxygen in the body, if there is a lack of iron, the vital organs in particular are supplied with more supplies, whereas in less important organs the blood flow is reduced to a minimum.

As a result, the sebum glands are not supplied with enough blood and no longer work as efficiently as before. As mentioned above, the lack of sebum is responsible for the brittleness.

In addition to iron, other trace elements can also be insufficiently present. Zinc and copper play a role in the hair. You should be particularly careful with a vegan diet, as most of the zinc is found in meat, milk, cheese and eggs. Possibly. the respective trace element should be replaced by dietary supplements.

In addition, brittle hair can be the result of a low-protein diet, because the hair itself consists of proteins.
Since the body cannot produce all the building blocks of proteins itself, they have to be taken in with food. If this does not happen in sufficient quantity, it can manifest itself in the hair structure, among other things.

Hair changes - like the rest of the body - when there are strong hormone fluctuations or changes, such as during puberty, pregnancy or menopause. Often these changes not only affect the hair, but also the structure of the nails (see: Brittle fingernails) and the skin (see: Brittle hands) also affected.

The hair structure can also be a sign of hormonal disorders, e.g. an underactive thyroid (Hypothyroidism). As a result, the hair can also become brittle and brittle or even fall out. Thyroid-related hair loss is the leading cause of hair loss in women.

However, the hair should not be used as the only criterion, but also whether you feel tired and worn out, freeze quickly, put on weight, etc. If you suspect you should see a doctor.

Brittle hair during menopause

With the entry into the Menopause the falling estrogen level is reflected in all organs.
Estrogen is an important factor in the formation of collagen, which gives the skin and hair their elasticity and, through their layer, provides a moist protective layer.
At Lack of estrogenAs happens during menopause, collagen formation decreases. The hair loses moisture and elasticity and thus changes its substance. This process cannot be stopped.

However, a certain healthy lifestyle can slow this process down and delay its progress. Eating a balanced diet and avoiding too much exposure to sunlight and cigarette smoke can slow down this aging process.
A suitable shorter hairstyle during this process gives the hair a lightness and simplifies daily styling, which is gentler on the hair.

Brittle hair due to a lack of iron

Brittle hair are often an indication of certain deficiencies in the body.
Most often this is done in our society by one Lack of iron evoked. An iron deficiency is accompanied by paleness and a general decrease in performance, so that this constellation of symptoms can indicate an iron deficiency.

Iron and hair are related in that iron is an important transport component of the oxygen in our blood, which leads the oxygen to the areas of our body that need to be supplied.
This is called Iron deficiency anemia. Due to the lack of iron, an important transport tool is missing, so that the oxygen supply is limited, which is essential for the growth and functioning of hair cells and sebum glands.
When the body has too little iron available, the vital organs are first supplied with oxygen, so that the hair parts suffer. With the underproduction of sebum explained by this, the hair becomes brittle.

If iron deficiency is detected, which also causes symptoms, iron can be taken as a tablet or iron-containing food such as:

  • flesh
  • Legumes or
  • spinach

substituted and the deficiency thus eliminated. The symptoms should then be resolving.

Read more about this Consequences of iron deficiency.

Brittle hair during pregnancy

The hormone redistribution during pregnancy also affects the structure of the hair (see also: oily hair during pregnancy).

The interaction between the estrogen and testosterone plays an important role, as these have an influence on sebum production and thus on the moisture content of a hair.
The testosterone promotes the formation of sebum, whereas the estrogen inhibits it. Often the pregnant women notice a greasier and shinier hair. The hormone redistribution can also have an opposite effect on the hair, so that some pregnant women complain of brittle hair.

It is always very individual which balance exists between these hormones and which makes the hair look shiny or brittle. The clinical picture of brittle hair during pregnancy is not worrying.
Rather, it is an aesthetic problem that does not require further clarification, if vitamin- and Mineral deficiencies excluded are. It can be done with simple home remedies like oil and mild shampoos and Hair treatments be resolved.
After pregnancy, the problem should resolve itself as soon as the hormone balance returns to its original state.

Brittle hair due to a lack of vitamins

Also in Vitamin balance Deficiencies have a bad effect on the structure of the hair. Above all they play here B vitamins/ Biotin plays a big role. In our society, however, this deficiency is seldom caused by insufficient intake of vitamins through food, but is the consequence of an underlying disease.
The most common reasons are eating disorder and the Alcohol sickness. Are symptoms of a Vitamin B complex deficiency Like brittle hair, this deficiency should be compensated for with a diet rich in B vitamins. Legumes, nuts, milk powder, whole grains and liver contain high levels of vitamin B complexes. In certain indications, drug therapy may even be necessary.

A Vitamin C deficiency can indirectly lead to brittle hair. This mainly results in bleeding gums. The resulting bleeding-related Iron deficiency leads to structural damage to the hair (see iron deficiency).

Brittle hair after bleaching

Brittle hair can result from a certain type of hair color change.
The focus here is on bleaching. By bleaching it is meant that substances such as persulfates and ammonia remove the natural and artificial dyes from the hair.
This is caused by the destruction of the color particles called pigments.

Furthermore, this leads to a change in the hair cortex, which is noticeable as a general change in the hair substance. The damage to the hair can be kept less by a professional application and implementation of the bleaching. However, this has disadvantages for the hair.

Treatment of brittle hair

The correct therapy is derived from its cause.
If the hair or its sebum gland is stressed too much by frequent washing, increased sunshine, heating air, hairdryer, etc., the glands should be given a break from time to time.
Moisturizing shampoos and refatting agents are suitable for this.

The use of conditioner or hair conditioner is also recommended, as well as soft natural brushes. It is also helpful not to wash your hair every day, as every wash degreases the scalp and hair.
Not using a hairdryer, straightening iron or curling iron is another measure to protect the hair from additional stress. A regular scalp massage can also help, because it promotes blood circulation in the scalp and thus indirectly boosts sebum production.

However, if the cause is not due to external stress, but is an expression of malnutrition, the symptom can only be eliminated if the respective deficiency is eliminated.

If the body does not have enough B vitamins or biotin, one should consume more liver, legumes, wheat germ, yeast, nuts and milk powder, because all of the important vitamins of the B complex are particularly common in them.

If necessary, drug therapy and biotin-containing preparations can be carried out. However, these vitamin deficiencies practically do not occur in the western industrial nations. Exceptions are in the chapter "causes“Listed.

In case of iron deficiency, the replacement is (substitution) The easiest way is through tablets, but it is also particularly found in meat, but also in wheat bran, pumpkin seeds, linseed, sesame and generally in legumes.
Foods that are particularly high in zinc include meat, cheese, milk, and eggs. The zinc contained in cereal products is less easy to absorb from the intestines in a low-protein diet.

If a medicinal zinc administration is necessary, one should keep in mind that the simultaneous administration of iron preparations worsens the use of zinc in the intestine.
If there is a copper deficiency, you can try to get this under control through targeted nutrition.

If this does not succeed, drug therapy is advisable. Copper is particularly found in whole grain products, oat flakes, wheat germ, legumes, dried fruit, nuts, sunflower seeds, liver and dried yeast.

If you suffer from an underactive thyroid, the thyroid hormones cannot be produced in sufficient quantities by the body and must be supplied from the outside through tablets. Unfortunately, there is no avoiding medication here.

Home remedies for brittle hair

To counteract brittle hair, prophylactic hair treatments can be made from simple home remedies, which give the hair its moisture again by applying it over a constant period of time.
The basic means here is that oilwhich has a moisturizing effect on the hair. It should only be used on damp hair, as oil alone dries out the hair.

It is especially suitable for that Jojoba-, Argan-, coconut- or olive oil.
This depends on the type of hair. The oil is massaged into the damp hair and ideally left for a few hours to take effect. Then the hair can be washed and the oil rinsed out.
Self-made hair treatments consisting of various combinations of household products are particularly effective.
These include:

  • honey
  • egg
  • Avocado and
  • Lemon.

But the basic agent always remains the oil.


If the cause is known, the problem can be managed well. However, this must first be found out so that an improvement can occur.

Once it has been removed, the hair takes on its usual structure and shines again just as beautifully as before.


To avoid brittle hair right from the start, you can do a lot yourself, starting with a balanced diet so that there is no lack of vitamins or trace elements in the first place.

In addition, you should be careful with your own head of hair and keep the strain as low as possible.

Brittle hair and brittle nails

With the change in hair structures, the nail structures can also change depending on the cause. If you notice brittle hair with brittle nails, this may have a common cause.
This is often due to a lack of nutrients. Too little zinc, calcium and above all the iron deficiency is reflected not only on the hair but also on the nails. Nails are also dependent on a good supply of nutrients for good growth, so that changing them can signal deficiencies or functional impairment in various organs.
Nails change their appearance with an iron deficiency:
you can see transverse grooves, an upper protrusion that makes it look like a spoon and a general upward protruding shape, which is known as watch glass nails. Likewise, the pale color and its increased fragility suggest iron deficiency. Vitamin deficiency can also be the result of a combination of brittle hair and brittle nails. A deficiency in vitamins A, B, C and folic acid are particularly relevant here.

More on the topic at: Vitamin A deficiency

It is not only important to think about deficiency symptoms, but also about hormonal disorders. Above all, the thyroid gland can cause brittle nails and brittle hair in the event of an overactive or underactive condition.
This should be borne in mind if there are a few other symptoms such as weight loss, rapid fatigue, sweating or a racing heart. Therefore, in this constellation, you should have your blood values ​​checked for thyroid hormones at the doctor's in order to counteract thyroid dysfunction with medication.

If you have a deficiency, you can return to normal with a more balanced diet. To protect the nails, one should minimize the work that stresses the nails or protects them with gloves or certain care products. As a household remedy, a bath in olive oil has also proven itself well for the nails.

Read more on the topic: Brittle fingernails