Hairdresser, marketer, and dabbler in many things. I enjoy sharing knowledge about the science of hair coloring and hair care.
It can be frightening to be in a situation where your hair has become damaged, and the first thought for a lot of people is that their hair will need to be cut off to cure the problem.
You don't have to cut your hair off though. Even the most severely damaged hair can be saved. Judicious use of the correct hair products restores even the most problematic hair to good condition.
What Causes Damaged Hair?
Damaged hair is a direct result of chemical treatments, heat styling, and the environment around you. While you may be well aware that dyeing or bleaching hair causes damage to its structure, it's less known that the ultraviolet light from the sun can cause significant damage just like chemical treatments. Even salt water can dry out hair and cause it to snap and split much more easily.
Of course, chemical treatments are the most damaging process you can subject your hair to. This damage occurs to the hair as a side effect of the oxidation process needed to create permanent lasting color or bleach hair lighter. The same oxidation that is lightening your hair also causes some degree of destruction to the protein that comprises your hair, weakening it every time it is dyed.
In order to protect your hair and keep it healthy, follow these simple tips:
- Use a shampoo that contains sun-blocking ingredients
- Avoid pulling, combing, brushing, and rough towel drying of hair while it's wet
- Avoid saltwater and chlorinated water as much as possible
- Always use heat-protection products like a hair serum when you straighten or curl your hair
- Change your hair color less often, or use semi-permanent and temporary hair dyes where possible.
Types of Hair Repair Products
There are two main categories of hair repair products, and both of these products can be used together for added effect if necessary:
- Protein treatments
- Conditioning treatments
Protein treatments are the best hair repair treatment available because they help to repair the actual damage that has occurred to the hair shaft during chemical treatments like coloring and bleaching. These treatments work by providing your hair with new protein and amino acids that can patch up damaged areas. It is through this mechanism that they fortify the hair structure and can restore damaged hair to almost perfect condition with regular use.
Conditioning treatments, on the other hand, are used to treat really dry hair. These hair repair products won't restore the damaged structure of the hair shaft, but they will relieve problematic dryness that often occurs after using hair dyes or bleach.
This dryness itself can cause the hair to become more damaged as it is brittle and breaks easily without balanced moisture levels. Conditioning treatments will prevent further damage to your hair and make it feel smooth and soft, but these kinds of treatments won't address damage that has already happened.
The Redken Extreme Range
Redken is one of the best professional product brands, well loved by hairdressers and happy clients all over the world. This is especially true of their range of hair repair treatments and other products in particular though.
The Redken Extreme range of products is designed for stressed, damaged hair. In particular, hair that has been bleached or dyed several times will greatly benefit from these products. If you only have mild damage, the Redken CAT treatment can be used alone, once a week and your hair will be restored to good health after a few weeks.
If your hair is very damaged or you have really dry hair, it will benefit most from using a combination of these products. Just like the CAT treatment, all the products in the extreme range are tailored towards damaged hair and can be used in place of your regular shampoo, conditioner, and as treatments to gradually restore damaged hair to prime condition.
Redken CAT Treatment
Redken CAT is the absolute best hair repair treatment on the market by virtue of its superior ingredients and long history of successful use. A limiting factor in most protein treatments is that they are formulated using whole protein, sourced from wheat, silk, or other natural ingredients. This protein will strengthen your hair, but the inclusion of single amino acids are necessary for real repair to occur.
While your hair is made out of protein, that protein itself is comprised of a chain of amino acids. Hair repair products that supply whole protein are less effective at restoring damaged hair because this protein can't replace individual amino acids. An amino acid called cysteine is most susceptible to damage within your hair, and you will get the best results by targeting its repair directly.
Redken CAT is different in that it has free amino acids as well as whole protein to increase its repairing ability. Not only that, but the product also contains an amino acid called arginine. Arginine is of particular benefit to damaged hair because of the way it can fill damaged areas of the hair structure and reinforce them.
This acts somewhat like a filling does for your teeth, preventing the hair from weakening further and restoring damaged hair to optimum condition. The inclusion of ceramide in the formula has an additive effect on this process, helping to provide even more long-lasting fortification so that your hair stops breaking and splitting quickly.
Another thing that sets Redken CAT apart from other hair repair treatments is its potency though. Other treatments often have a conditioning base that can benefit dry hair, but this dilutes the product down and it doesn't have as much protein available to repair your hair even though it may temporarily make your hair feel softer and healthier.
The CAT treatment is a pure protein treatment that doesn't include conditioning agents. Hair is left stronger, suffers significantly less breakages, and in most cases will return to close to its former strength, without conditioning to muddy the impression of results.
How to Use
This hair repair treatment won't condition dry hair because it's not a conditioner. You can however, follow it up with a conditioning treatment to make your hair feel soft as well as strong. To use this product to restore damaged hair, spray it liberally into freshly shampooed hair and leave for up to 5 minutes before rinsing.
The treatment can be used every time you shampoo if you have very damaged hair. After a week or two, you won't need to use it as often and can gradually decrease use to once a week. For mildly damaged hair or damage-prevention, use the treatment once a week to strengthen your hair and restore it to top condition.
Shampoo and Conditioner
The Extreme Shampoo and Conditioner are designed to be used with Redken CAT and other products in the Extreme range. The shampoo is less drying than regular shampoos, so it won't stress dry damaged hair and strip it of its condition. On top of this, it has added protein to maintain the structure of your hair, as well as nourishing ingredients that care for your hair from root to tip.
The conditioner gives your hair balanced moisturization and seals the hair shaft to lock in that moisture and prevent your hair from drying out. Used together instead of your regular shampoo and conditioner, they are a combo that cares for your hair and helps it return to its former glory.
The treatment is the real star of this range though and you can still get great results by using that alone, alongside your preferred shampoo and conditioner.
Extreme Mega Mask
If you have dry damaged hair, a protein treatment will restore the damaged structure to working order, but it doesn't relieve the dryness. Redken's Extreme Mega mask is the answer to really dry hair, conditioning hair and fortifying it even further.
The Extreme Mega mask is a duel treatment, so it does everything CAT can while also adding in necessary moisture to relieve even the most problematic dryness. The ceramide in the formula reduces split ends by sealing the hair shaft to prevent it from tearing when washing or styling. This sealing effect also closes your hair cuticles so that your hair feels smoother and looks both shiny and healthy.
How to Use a Hair Mask
This mask should be used once a week depending on how dry your hair is. If you have really dry hair that doesn't seem to respond to other conditioning treatments, Extreme Mega is a great option because it seals the hair shaft so that moisture isn't lost again after the treatment is washed out.
A little of this hair repair treatment will go a long way and it will last you a while with once a week usage, making it a cost-effective option if you need both protein and conditioning. To use it, simply apply in place of your regular conditioner to freshly shampooed hair and leave it to process for up to five minutes. Rinse, dry, and style your hair as usual afterward.
Redken's award wining Anti-Snap Leave-in conditioner is another product in the Extreme range that can be used to help treat really dry hair. Unlike other leave-in conditioners, the Anti-Snap conditioner is formulated with added protein and novel ingredients that nourish the hair and boost shine to help your finished style look perfect.
Using Anti-Snap: Whilst the Strength Builder mask is best used once a week to pamper your hair, the Anti-Snap can be used every time you wash you hair. After gently towel drying hair, pump a little Anti-Snap into your hands and massage it evenly into your hair, focusing on the mid-lengths and ends where most dryness occurs. Your hair can then be allowed to dry naturally, or you can use a blowdryer. Style as usual and look forward to soft, shiny, healthy looking hair every day.
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If you use only one product, CAT or Extreme Mega are the best hair repair treatments for this purpose. If your hair is really damaged and you desperately need to save it however, you can combine any number of the Extreme products, and they are all able to be used in conjunction with each other to save hair that's on its last legs.
For dry damaged hair, combine the mask with the shampoo and leave in conditioner. For hair that is extremely damaged, use most of the Extreme product line in place of your regular products to save it before it's too late. Hair that's damaged needs special care and you shouldn't use a normal shampoo and conditioner if you can afford not to. If you give your hair the love and care it needs, it will look great any day and every day.
Do you have damaged hair and need some help to save it? Have you used any of the Redken Extreme product range and want to share your experience? Leave a comment for tailored advice and share your insight with other readers.
© 2014 Maffew James
MARCIA on July 27, 2018:
I know I am REALLY late to the game....
I was wondering your thoughts on Olaplex vs Redken? I have been seeing Olaplex name pop up all over the place but do not know anyone who has personally used it?
Marie on May 22, 2017:
Does Redken Chemistry Shot Phase Extreme deep treatment have the same benefits as Redken Cat?
Cristina on October 08, 2015:
hi maffew, your posts seem to come up most during my new found blonde saga. my natural hair is a dark brown, almost black. i've been using permanent drugstore box dyes since the age of 15... now 30. i've recently changed to salon brands while researching the best way to lighten and go blonde. I bleached about 4 times using a 30 v in the past 3 months and got to a beautiful beige blonde level 8 using wella t28. I still has orange stained ends which are around level 7. my roots were at the point of touch up last week, so I did, then applied a bleach bath using a 20 vol mixed with conditioner and shampoo. but this last step has compromised my invinsible hair to the point that it's stretchy and snaping when wet and competly dry! no moisture left what soever. i've used the aphogee 2 step protein which I think made a bit of a difference, tons of deep conditions, ions reconstructing mask, olive oil, argan oil, then ions leave in keratin mist. am I on the right path to nurse it back? I can't even tone cuz i'm scared to even use a 10 vol and have the rest melt off! will it? what's my best option to tone safely? my hair looks horrible cuz of the orange ends and pale yellow almost white near top and roots. I used clairol beatiful collection temp dye which helped the tone a bit, but sucked all the moisture I put in. plus, 1 wash and it's gone now! any suggestions, pls help!!
Maffew James (author) on March 03, 2015:
None of these Redken products contain keratin.
I only recommend the Redken Extreme line, and certain other Redken products because they are highly effective, well-known, and trusted; I don't care for their dyes and styling products, and most of their other haircare lines for example. I'm not affiliated with Redken itself in any way, nor do I receive any money or compensation from them in regards to this.
Other protein products I often recommend include Joico's K-Pak Reconstructor and Aphogee Two Minute Reconstructor if you would prefer a different brand. You can also feel free to ask about a particular brand you like and if I have any experience with the product I'll let you know how well it works.
As for the use of protein in general, it should be kept to 1 - 3 times a week after shampooing for very damaged hair and then cut back to once a week at most as the hair begins to be restored. Hair that is less damaged, thin, or fine should only be treated with protein once a week or less.
The reason for this is that while the protein is beneficial and does repair damage over time, if you use too much it temporarily hardens the hair from the buildup. This applies to any kind of protein and can result in continued breakage, dryness, and sometimes tangling. It's a matter of 'more' not necessarily being better; just like if you use too much conditioner, your hair feels oily and clumps together instead of feeling smooth and clean.
Onto your question; the fact that it thins out towards the ends means that you're getting quite a bit of breakage as it grows, rather than immediately after lightening. Hair that is a level 10 is practically white, so there's very little pigment left, and bleaching to this level is itself a cause of more damage than would normally occur.
Bleach works through a process called oxidation, and this has two effects: it reacts with melanin pigment and decolourises it; and it reacts with the protein your hair is made out of and denatures it, leaving it unable to form the usual structure of your hair. Luckily, melanin is a bigger target because it's more susceptible to oxidation, but as the amount of pigment in your hair decreases, damage itself will increase because the bleach begins to attack your hair structure more readily.
Also, damaged hair can seem fine and intact after bleaching but the mechanical stress of washing it and brushing or combing is sometimes enough to then break it later on, even if it hasn't been bleached or dyed again in that time. Wet hair itself is a lot weaker than dry hair and even being a little too rough drying your hair with a towel can tear bleached hair.
Apart from that, your hair may just be naturally weaker, meaning it takes less processing to damage it compared to someone with stronger and coarser hair. Protein will help in any of these situations, but you may need to think about trying a darker shade of blonde for a more permanent solution.
Justine on March 02, 2015:
Hi. I have heard that if you use hair products that contain keratin like almost every time you wash your hair, it will eventually start to get tangled really easy and then it might start breaking easily.
Do these redken extreme products contain keratin? Do other proteins act like it too, like if there is wheat protein will it make the hair more tangly eventually?
Im a bit sceptic about this range because you hype it so much, it feels like you are advertising it a bit! :D But I have tried everything :/
My hair is bleached to level 10-11 from level 5 or 6 I think (soon I will ask you about toning it but not in this post ;D ) and its long. I cut it last summer a bit above my shoulders and for a while it looked good, but now when its almost to the half of my back it is significantly thinner from the ends and really frizzy and dry.. Strange thing is that I bleach with only 6% developer, I use straightener, curler and styling products quite seldom, like twice a month.. and I think I use good quality salon hair products and a lot of serums and leave-in stuff.. I just do not know why my hair is in so bad condition :S
CandaceC1985 on September 25, 2014:
Maffew James (author) on September 25, 2014:
Redken's Anti-Snap leave in is great. As for the Cat treatment, you already have their Strength Builder mask and that has a lot of the same effect. Redken Cat is the best protein treatment overall, but that's all it does. It doesn't moisturise your hair or make it feel soft.
The Strength Builder is a combination product that contains similar protein building ingredients as Cat, but also conditions your hair. Compared side by side, Cat is more concentrated and will strengthen your hair more than Strength Builder.
It's really up to you whether you want to buy a bottle. If nothing else, it does last a long time and can be used with the Strength Builder if you really need additional breakage resistance. I wouldn't stress too much though if you're using the Strength Builder once a week. If you bleach or dye your hair again though, I would recommend using Cat. It's really good to use straight after a colour.
As for the breakage when brushing your hair, that is to be expected. Hair is actually at its weakest when wet. Wherever possible, dry it before brushing, and whatever you do, don't use a comb in your hair whilst it's wet, and don't scrunch a towel through your hair. Gently pressing a towel against the hair will minimise breakage and prevent it from tangling up.
Thanks for the question, and as always, if you have any further questions about your hair, feel free to ask.
CandaceC1985 on September 25, 2014:
OK so I have a big gallon size jug of redken all soft shampoo & conditioner. Since I don't want to waste it, I'm going to keep using it for now. But I do have the redken extreme strength builder plus hair mask I use at least once a week. I also have John freida leave in conditioner but I am almost out and thought about switching to the redken anti-snap. But should I go ahead and get the redken cat treatment too? I've had my whole head bleached a couple times and I do have a little breakage but I think it's from brushing my hair too soon after I shower. But other than that, it seems fine. No more hair falling out than usual. I just want to make sure I keep my hair healthy as possible. ..