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What's more damaging...
Brushing or finger-styling? FINGER-STYLING. "Ragged nails and cuticles can rip the hair shaft or pull it from the scalp," says Cutler. A brush's coated bristles are gentler.
Chemical straightening or flatironing? FLATIRONING. Most women do it from roots to ends, damaging the entire strand of hair. Conversely, "after a chemical straightener is initially applied, it goes only on roots to relax regrowth," says Cutler. Plus, the process is done once every six to eight months, versus the daily use of a flatiron. At home, straighten only those strands that need it, and use a heat-protecting styler.
Coloring hair at home or at the salon? AT HOME -- but only when you're going lighter. "Bleach can burn the hair and scalp, and corrective treatments may be necessary, compounding the damage," says Cutler. Leave lightening to the pros. Darkening, however, is safe to do yourself.
Blow-drying or towel-drying? BLOW-DRYING. "The intense heat can cause water inside the cuticle to boil and burn hair," says Cutler. Remove as much water as possible from hair before picking up the blower. Sandwich sections between a towel and press; vigorous rubbing can cause breakage. Then apply a heat-shielder (like Arrojo Thermal Protector, $15, arrojoproduct.com) before blasting with air.