Are My Hair Ties Causing Breakage?


Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Getty Images

Dear Beauty Editor,

I’m trying to figure out the cause of my hair breakage, and I’ve been wondering if it could be my Invisibobble hair ties. I’ve been using the ones that look like telephone cords, because they are supposed to be less damaging. But now I’m wondering if they are actually damaging my hair! I definitely notice breakage where my ponytail usually starts. What are the best gentle-but-strong ponytail holders?



Any type of hair tie can cause breakage, and the tighter the ponytail, the more likely it is to cause damage. That’s just physics. Or maybe it’s tribology? Whatever it is, it’s not rocket science: “Ponytails cause tension, and tension can cause breakage,” says Matt Newman, the well-coiffed stylist behind TikTok’s @mattloveshair account. So the first step to preventing breakage is loosening up your style. But you’re probably right about those telephone-cord ties, too. After you swap them for a gentler option (see below), you may also want to rethink your pony placement and incorporate some hair-strengthening products to prevent future damage.

First, let’s talk hair ties. “The worst thing you can do is use that broccoli rubber band,” says Newman. “I still see people doing that and it sends shivers down my spine.” Hair elastics made of stretchy synthetic fabrics are better, but still problematic, according to New York City hairstylist Mahogany Grace, owner of Mahogany Grace Salon. “The elastic material can be drying and abrasive, which may lead to friction-induced breakage,” she says. As for those spiral cords you’re using? They’re less likely to create a visible dent in your hair, which would imply they’re creating less tension, but your strands can get caught between the zigs and zags of the sticky material, which may weaken the cuticle or pull out or break strands when you take your ponytail down.

That makes satin — or, better yet, silk — hair ties the clear winner in the Gentlest Hair Tie Contest. “The difference between the synthetic satin material and the natural silk is not just the bougie price point,” says Newman. “If you were to look at the materials under a microscope, the silk is just inherently smoother, with fewer tiny bumps and ridges.” (The smoother the material, the easier it glides over the surface of your hair.) Newman’s favorites are Slip Skinny Scrunchies, made from mulberry silk, a material renowned for its durability and slip. I also like the silk ones from Crown Affair. If you’re vegan (silk is not cruelty-free), check out Kitsch’s Ultra Petite Satin Scrunchies or the Hair Edit’s Satin Scrunchies. One thing to note: If you have textured or thick hair, or need a tighter hold, you may want to use a few small silk ties to create multiple ponytails and then wrap those together with one larger tie. It’s not the sleekest look, but it will save your strands.

Now let’s talk about where you put that ponytail. Newman says the best way to prevent breakage is to vary your placement. Even if you use gentle ties and loosen up your style, the pressure of the elastic will weaken your strands over time, so you want to make sure you’re not putting tension on the same spot again and again. If you do a high pony one day, do it low the next, or maybe move it over to the side. And try wearing your hair down or in a protective style from time to time.

Follow all the tips above, and you may end up with less damage, but Grace points out there are other reasons your hair could be breaking, including “lack of moisture, excessive use of heat, chemicals, or poor diet.” So, keep all that in mind. And since dry hair is more prone to breakage, she suggests doing a deep-conditioning treatment a few times a month. She likes Milbon Plarmia Enriched Treatment, Philip Kingsley’s Elasticizer, Oribe Gold Lust Transformative Masque, and Olaplex No.8 Bond Intense Moisture Mask. (FWIW, I love the Elasticizer, too. It doesn’t feel like you’re just coating your hair with something slippery; the moisturization goes deep, so your hair feels healthier through multiple shampoos.)

Newman agrees that hydrated hair is less prone to breakage, and he suggests products with bond-repair technology to strengthen your strands. He also likes to do a monthly DIY oil treatment with a lipid-rich carrier oil, such as castor oil (if you have thicker hair) or argan oil (for thinner hair). Just wash and condition your hair as usual, then saturate your damp strands with the natural oil and leave it on as long as you can — preferably 24 hours. “Yeah, your hair will look like it’s coated in oil, but when you wash it out, it will be in the best condition it’s ever been,” he says. “I’ve tried posting about it, but the videos never get traction because it’s not, like, a clever hack — and no one wants to have an ugly hair day. But it really works, it’s so reparative.” I don’t know about you, Laura, but one oily-hair day a month for stronger, healthier hair and less breakage doesn’t seem like a bad trade-off to me.

Silk scrunchies are the best, but synthetic satin is good too.

Slip Back to Basics Skinny Scrunchies

Crown Affair The Scrunchie No. 001

Kitsch Ultra Petite Satin Scrunchies

The Hair Edit Satin Scrunchies Set

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