Split ends are a frustrating problem that can worsen over time if not taken care of properly. But what are they and how do we take care of them?
Split ends are caused by general wear and tear, heat styling, over processing and dehydration. Once the very ends of the hair splits, it will gradually split further and further up the hair shaft. If not taken care of in the early stages, it will ultimately mean more hair will need to be cut in order to restore health. Once split ends have appeared, the best thing to do is to trim immediately. This is the most effective, least damaging way to deal with split ends.
Is cutting them off the only option? And how do we prevent them in the first place? In this post we discuss the cause, prevention and solution to split ends.
What are split ends?
If we were to look at our hair under a microscope, we would see that there are different types of split ends. They usually start at the very tip of our hair which will split into two. In the same way that a rope would unravel at the ends, once it starts it doesn’t reverse.
The fiber of the hair will get more damaged over time as the split expands. The hair fiber splits into a ‘fork’ and eventually into a ‘tree’ split. By this point the hair strand has several branches, or separated cortical cells. If we allow our hair to get to the ‘tree’ split stage, the damage is quite extreme and the hair will look dull and lifeless.
What causes split ends?
Hair grows on average an inch every two months. Meaning six inches a year not taking into account trims. So if your hair is down your back you can imagine that the hair on the ends has been with you for a good few years. Every day we brush our hair, style, tie it up. We colour it and blow dry it and use hot irons. After years of being ‘handled’ our hair suffers breakage.
Even if we are meticulous about being gentle with our hair it will eventually split. For this reason hairdressers have said so often that by now it’s a cliche: it is very important to trim regularly. The important thing here is to have awareness of our hair health and to take the appropriate steps when needed.
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How to prevent split ends
▪️Use high quality shampoo and conditioner
Selecting the correct shampoo and conditioner for your hair can be overwhelming. What I look for in a brand is: what does it contain and where does it come from. Sustainability and high quality, natural ingredients are very important to me so I like brands such as Oway, Davines and Oribe.
The questions to ask yourself are: what problems am I experiencing if any? (Ie: dryness/ oiliness etc/ lack of volume) and then select the corresponding products. I am always happy to advise you if you have any questions about specific products or issues. Feel free to comment below and I will be glad to help.
▪️Minimize heat styling and remember your heat protector
The quality of your tools are very important if you are someone who frequently uses heat. A low quality hair dryer can be too hot and too slow, burning your hair before drying it and a low quality hot iron can cause severe damage.
I recommend investing in a professional grade hair dryer and hot iron. Avoiding burning your hair is crucial in split ends prevention. And most importantly don’t forget your heat protection!
▪️Be gentle when towel drying and use a microfiber towel.
Our hair is extremely fragile when wet. It is much more elastic and is more likely to break and tear. For this reason it is vitally important to take extra care of our hair when wet. Vigorous towel drying can cause damage to our hair.
It is best to gently pat your hair dry with a microfiber towel and wrap it up to soak up any excess water. Ideally if you have time, allow your hair to dry naturally up to 90% before styling with heat. This will minimise heat exposure and damage to your hair.
Micro fiber towel: https://amzn.to/2Mwbkq4
▪️Comb hair gently with a wide tooth comb when wet
As we discussed above, our hair is it’s most fragile when wet. Vigorous brushing wet hair causes terrible damage and should be avoided. If your hair is very knotty, I would advise brushing your hair dry before the shower. While you have conditioner in your hair you can gently comb from the bottom up, using a wide tooth comb.
Alternatively, you can use a wet brush out of the shower after gently patting your hair dry. Remember to always start at the bottom and softly work your way to the root area.
▪️Use leave in conditioner
Leave in conditioner is ideal for very dry or knotty ends. It can be used in addition to regular conditioner but pay close attention to your roots. If you notice oiliness you can stop using conditioner on your roots altogether.
It can also be used as a replacement for a regular conditioner if your hair is not too dry or knotty. It should be applied on towel dried hair before any heat styling and before combing.
My ends are split, now what?
The first and obvious thing is that you must book an appointment with your hairstylist! Unfortunately there is no magic cure for split ends other than to have a good healthy cut. If you want to cut gradually, this is entirely possible if you are willing to put in the work and take good care of your hair.
In order to conceal split ends you can do regular revitalising hair masks. Argan oil or Sweet Almond Oil drops can be added to your conditioner or simply put directly onto the ends of your towel dried hair. Avoid the root area to prevent oiliness. Another favourite is Davines Oi Oil. It can be used on wet or dry hair and will increase shine, improve condition as well as protect your hair from heat.
If you would like to gradually trim away the split ends so as to not lose a lot of length in one go it is possible to do so. You can use the strategies listed above to take extra care of your hair and book into your hairstylist for a good trim. Following that appointment you should trim every 4-6 weeks. If you trim half an inch every 4-6 weeks you won’t lose a lot of length but you will slowly cut away the split ends. Take note: If you go this route it is important to be vigilant with your hair care, otherwise you run the risk of further damage as the split ends will worsen if you skip steps!
Do split ends stop my hair from growing?
The simple answer is no. And yes (kind of)
If your ends are splitting and breaking it will not get longer. This doesn’t mean it isn’t growing from the roots though. If you want long hair, you will have to make sure your hair is healthy from root to tip in order for it to grow.
In conclusion, the goal is prevention rather than cure. In the end of the day the work we put in now will pay off in the long term. Healthy hair is a daily habit, rather than a magic cure.
Blog article by: Amanda Jami