If you have hair, odds are you have a few split ends. A few aren’t much of a problem; you probably wouldn’t even notice them unless you lifted a section of hair up close to your face and crossed your eyes looking for them. But if you have a lot of split ends, they can wreak havoc on the texture and overall appearance of your hair by contributing to frizz and flyaways.
Later towards the end of this article, we’ll discuss trimming the damaged ends of your hair because it’s the only way to actually get rid of split ends. It is possible to temporarily seal the split by applying a product that coats each strand with a thin layer of silicone, so split end menders are covered at the bottom of the page as well. Ultimately, though, the best way to stop split ends is to prevent them. For strategies proven to minimize hair splitting, read on.
What Are Split Ends?
Each strand of hair has two to three layers, with the cells of the outermost layer—called the cuticle—layered over one another like shingles on a roof to protect the inner layers, which are made of keratin, the same protein that’s in our fingernails. Only thick hair has the innermost layer, called the medulla, but every strand has a layer called the cortex. Split ends are what happen when the cells of the cuticle wear away and the coils of keratin in the cortex come apart. A split end looks exactly how it sounds: like a single strand of hair that splits in two at the end. However, it is also possible for the split to occur farther up the hair shaft.
Best Ways to Prevent Split Ends
Protect your hair from breaking. Your daily hair care routine can actually do a lot of damage to your hair if you aren’t careful. In the shower, rather than pile your hair on top of your head and scrub it vigorously, massage shampoo into just your scalp; the rest of your hair will get clean as you rinse the suds out. Because a brush can tear wet hair, always use a wide-toothed comb instead. Once your hair is dry, a wide brush with a pad beneath the bristles is the gentlest way to remove tangles. Since it’s even possible to damage split end-prone hair when you move around in your sleep, a satin pillowcase can help your hair move with you instead of stretching or breaking.
Protect your hair’s natural moisture. Most experts agree that it’s unnecessary to wash hair every day, and doing so not only wears down the hair, but also strips away the oils from your scalp that naturally moisturize your hair. Instead, try washing your hair just once every two or three days. Using a salon brand shampoo and conditioner can also help prevent split ends from forming because more expensive products generally have higher concentrations of gentle detergents and high quality moisturizers. Regular deep conditioning treatments to replace lost moisture can also help protect your hair from split ends. Paul Mitchell has a solid Tea Tree hair moisturizer, you can find it at Amazon.
Protect your hair from heat. Regular blow drying and heat styling can make hair dry, brittle, and more prone to split ends. Letting your hair air dry more often and working with your hair’s natural texture rather than fighting it with straighteners or hot rollers and curling irons will help prevent hair breakage and splitting. If you must blow dry, straighten, or curl your hair, use a lower heat setting and apply a heat protection spray or serum before styling to give your hair an extra shot of moisture and coat the hair shaft with additional line of defense against the heat.
Protect your hair from chemicals. Many common chemicals can dry or break down hair cuticles, leaving it vulnerable to splitting. If you color, perm, or chemically relax your hair, waiting as long as you can between treatments and using high-moisture shampoo, conditioner, and styling products can help keep it looking smooth and healthy. You should always wash your hair after swimming, especially in chlorinated pools or hot tubs, and since the salt in your own body sweat can be hard on your hair, it’s also a good idea to shower after a workout or any other activity that leaves you feeling sweaty.
Protect your hair from the sun. Heat and UV rays from the sun can dry and damage your hair just as they do your skin. If you’ll be spending time in the sun, a wide-brimmed hat is the most certain way to keep harmful rays off your hair (and your face, too), but if you aren’t a hat wearer, many brands of leave-in conditioner are formulated to contain sunscreen. These products are most effective if you work them into your hair with your hands to coat as many individual strands as possible, as thoroughly as possible.
Treatment for Split Ends
The only way to get rid of split ends completely is to cut them off. Most stylists recommend getting a trim every six to eight weeks to maintain healthy-looking hair, but if your budget can’t support such frequent trips to the salon, you can trim split ends one by one (or clump by clump) at home. Make sure you cut at least a quarter-inch above the split to avoid having it reappear, and use sharp hair shears; cutting with dull scissors can damage the end of the hair and cause another split. You can also try using a split end trimmer, such as the Talavera Split-Ender, that cuts only the ends of your hair as they pop up when you slide the tool down a section of hair.
If cutting split ends is a neverending task for you, it is possible to temporarily repair split ends by applying a leave-in split end mender. These products use natural oils or silicone (or both) to coat the hair shaft and hold the split end together. Think of it as a natural glue for your ends.