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When it comes to hair habits, routines are an easy thing to fall into and a hard thing to break out of. After all, it takes time and practice to perfect new hairstyles, and they aren't one-size-fits-all. What works for an influencer might leave you looking like a stray poodle. What's worse — the styles you've worked hard to master might secretly be wreaking havoc on your beautiful locks. As you take the time to refine your self-care routine, don't forget to examine your hair habits. Odds are, there's room for improvement. Let's look at some potentially damaging styles and easy-to-implement alternatives that will keep your hair healthy for years to come.

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High-and-tight ponytail

The tension pony is a go-to for pop princesses and athletes alike, and, honestly, it looks pretty fierce. Unfortunately, it isn't doing your hairline any favors. Prolonged tension is bad for any hair type as it stresses out the follicles and contributes to hair loss and inflammation. Rock this look only on occasion, and opt for low and loose styles on days when you're craving an up-do. Pro tip: ditch the elastic, and use fabric ties free from plastic or metal.

Woman with ponytail Patrik Giardino / Getty Images
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Poker-straight strands

You hate to love it. The straight iron. Even though you abandoned your scene-kid persona in high school, the straight iron remains an integral part of your styling toolkit. Every time you use it, your strands hiss and fall limp like a moth in a bug zapper. Rather than frying your hair with an iron, commit to a few extra minutes with an ionic blow-dryer and ceramic round brush. Always use a thermal-protection spray before, and minimize damage with your dryer's lowest heat setting. To lock it in place, finish with a burst of cold air and a drop of argan oil.

Straight ironing at the salon 6okean / Getty Images
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Curly locks

Caring for curly hairstyles is not without pitfalls. As with straight hair, heat presents the biggest threat. The high heat from curlers and dryers forces water within your hair's cuticle to bubble, which leads to split ends, breakage, and frizz. If you must use a blow-dryer, use a diffuser. You should wait until the hair is damp (not dripping) to apply heat. Great alternatives like overnight braids, twists, and t-shirt halos exist to preserve your hair's integrity while forming dreamy, enviable locks.

Blow-dry curly hair PeopleImages / Getty Images
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Hairline braids

No one can deny the stunning, face-framing appeal of a tight hairline braid. Yet, braids threaten hair strength and density if worn too often or for too long. Much like a tension ponytail, hair loss and eventual root damage will occur if strands are pulled too tightly. Use a loose braid whenever possible — if not, visit an experienced stylist and keep your hairline moisturized day and night.

Tight hairline braid Yellow Dog Productions / Getty Images
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Extensions

Many articles debate whether luxurious extensions are bad for your hair. The truth is: yes and no. While sew-in or glue extensions are notorious for causing hair loss and damage, they can be totally safe when fitted by an experienced professional. The only downside is convincing hair-safe extensions aren't cheap. If you need those mermaid locks, you should visit the salon monthly to ensure your natural hairs aren't bearing too much weight.

Hair extensions dimid_86 / Getty Images
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Bedtime top knot

Never. Sleep. With. Tightly. Wrapped. Hair. Okay, so this isn't a hairstyle per se, but if you're winding your hair up tightly before you hit the sack, you're going to suffer some hair loss. All the tossing and turning you do in your sleep tugs at your hair, even if you're unaware it's happening. Stick to loose braids or twists rather than a tightly wound clump, and always use fabric rather than elastic.

Woman relaxes with messy bun AleksandarNakic / Getty Images
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Wet chic

Have you ever watched a runway show and wondered, "is her hair actually wet, or is that just a lot of product?" It's probably both. Either way, it's bad for your hair to attempt an up-do with wet or overly saturated hair. Hair is weakest when it's wet. Ever tried to yank an elastic band from your damp locks? Hair loss galore. Save yourself from breakage and wait until your hair is dry.

Wet, messy hair Peter Cade / Getty Images
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Brazilian blowout

As a general rule of thumb, chemicals in hair is bad news. While the smooth, swoon-inducing result of a Brazilian blowout is tempting, it's important to remember that the formula contains harmful toxins like formaldehyde. There are a host of natural alternatives that encourage silky hair and don't pose serious health risks. Try incorporating keratin protein, argan oil, and coconut oil in your routine instead.

Young woman is sitting in chair in beauty salon while hairdresser dries her hair with round hair brush and hairdryer. Straightens hair. Down-up view. Natallia Sorokina / Getty Images
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Double-process color

Once you've found that perfectly bold and beautiful salon color, it's hard to go back. Yet, the single most damaging thing you can do to your hair and scalp is overwhelming it with chemicals. Sadly, lemon juice and sunshine won't give you that same bleach-blonde effect. If you're going to commit to dying your hair forever, it's best to choose a color that doesn't require double-processing. Use non-PPD (paraphenylenediamine) colors, wait longer between dyeing and explore the wide range of natural alternatives such as henna, carrot juice, coffee. They might surprise you.

Bleaching hair at home SimonSkafar / Getty Images
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A word of encouragement

Discovering the perfect hair-safe styles to suit your aesthetic isn't easy, and you shouldn't have to abandon your current routine entirely. Even small changes in the way you brush, wash and moisturize your hair can revitalize its health and maintain its beauty. Don't give up.

Woman brushes hair in the shower PeopleImages / Getty Images

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