Nothing is better than a good hair day, you know? Those days when you glance in the mirror and everything is falling just right. A fantastic hairstyle is awesome, but the real secret to a good hair day is the health of your hair.
Split ends stand in the way of great hair, and we're all susceptible to them. No matter the color, length, or texture of your hair, split ends can happen. When left untreated, they make hair dull, dry, tangled, lifeless. There are many things to think about when treating your split ends and working to prevent new ones. Allow us to take you through the best methods to keep your hair sleek, shiny, and healthy.
For starters, let’s first walk you through what Split Ends actually are?
What are Split Ends?
Is your hair looking dull and lifeless? Luscious and bouncy hair days are a thing of the past now? Do you feel the moisture slowly seeping out of your tresses? Then chances are that your hair has probably made friends with split ends.
Before diving into the nitty-gritties of how to address split ends, it’s important first to know what you’re dealing with. Essentially, split ends occur when the outermost protective layer of your hair’s cuticle deteriorates over time due to environmental factors, as well as normal wear and tear. It could be due to excess sun exposure, heat styling, chemical processes, etc.
Split ends are often dry and brittle, so it can be easy to identify them. If you really want to know if your strands are splitting, take a look at an individual piece of hair. There will be small breaks toward the end of the strand. They often look like little trees with branches shooting off in different directions. Knowing the culprit behind the damage can help you determine how to best treat it.
Know your Hair Structure
Your Hair Shaft mainly consists of 3 layers:
1. The Cuticle
The cuticle is your hair’s protective layer, composed of overlapping cells. A healthy cuticle is smooth and flat. This gives your hair shine and protects the inner layers from damage. It also minimises the movement of moisture in and out of the underlying cortex, thus maintaining your hair’s hydration balance and flexibility. However, chemical processes and weathering can lift the cuticle and disrupt this balance, causing your hair to become dry and brittle.
2. The Cortex
The cortex forms the main bulk and pigment (colour) of your hair. It consists of long keratin filaments, which are held together by disulphide and hydrogen bonds. The health of your cortex depends largely on the integrity of the cuticle protecting it.
3. The Medulla
The Medulla, only present in thicker hair types, is the innermost layer of your hair. It consists of a soft, thin core of transparent cells and air spaces.
Now that we know all about the hair structure, let’s discuss what causes Split Ends
What causes Split Ends?
Once split ends start popping up, it seems like there's no stopping them—but there definitely is hope.
1. Hair Styling
We love our precious blow-dryers and flat irons, but those heat stylers can be culprits for damage and breakage. Yes, those temperature settings on your hair straightener and curling iron really do matter if you're dealing with split ends. The higher the heat, the more damage it will inflict, and not everyone needs 450 degrees to see results. We recommend turning down the temp of your hot tool to 285 degrees and see if it'll get the job done.
2. Chemical & Color Treatments
While we agree we all want the perfect hair color, that straight hairdo, and/or curly style you’ve been craving, it can come with a cost. These treatments generally use a lot of chemicals that can deplete and strip your hair of its natural moisture, leaving it dry and prone to split ends. Chemical processes damage hair from the inside out and make the cuticle weaker, making it severely split end-prone.
3. Climate and Weather
It’s common knowledge that hot and humid weather can make most people with long hair look like an electrocuted poodle. The same way too much humidity affects your hair, too little humidity — such as what happens during winter — can make your hair dry, flat, and brittle. As a result, you’ll notice unsightly consequences, such as split ends.
4. You rub a towel over wet hair
While roughly towel-drying hair won’t directly cause split ends, it will create knots. Once you try getting those knots out, you’ll end up ripping your hair. Prevent split ends by wrapping a towel around your head after your shower instead. You won’t create knots because you’re wrapping the hair in a free-fall. Even better? Consider using a Microfiber hair towel or a Cotton t-shirt that’s even gentler from roots to tips.
5. Brushing Wet Hair
Wet hair is more fragile than dry, so brushing through it can create damage. Wet hair tends to become bendy and stretchy because of the change in elasticity and that's when the strands snap. Use a wide-tooth comb in the shower before rinsing out your conditioner to keep knots at bay while avoiding split ends.
6. Over Washing
Since washing your hair too often can dry your hair out, it can leave it more susceptible to breakage. Hair is also more fragile when it's wet, so combing or brushing while it's wet and aggressive towel-drying can also lead to breakage and split ends. While it’s important to keep our locks clean and scalp healthy, excessively washing hair can cause it to lose its natural oils. This results in dryer, rougher ends.
7. Sun Exposure
If your hair has prolonged exposure to the sun, UVA and UVB rays can damage the outside cover of the hair strand, called the cuticle. Sun damage can come in the forms of discoloration, dry and brittle strands, broken or split ends, thinning and frizziness.
8. Skipping Regular trims
Prevention is key, but once your hair starts to split, no product can fix it. Your only option is to cut the damage off. Trims are important because they cut split ends off so they don’t climb up the hair and cause more split ends. We recommend getting a trim every six weeks is a good rule of thumb, though you might need to go more or less often, depending on how well you treat your hair. Even with healthy hair, though, you should never go more than four months between cuts.
A condition called Trichorrhexis Nodosa, which happens when nodes around your hair shaft grow thicker or weaker than usual, causes the hair to break more easily and could also be the cause of your split end woes. Sometimes this is an inherited condition, but it can also be caused by iron deficiency, Hypothyroidism, too much ammonia in the body or because of another syndrome.
10. Nutritional deficiency
If you’re running low on key vitamins, your health—and especially your hair—could suffer. In fact, different hair issues such as shedding, split ends and dry scalp could be thanks to specific nutrients you’re missing. Though everyone’s locks need a little moisture from time to time, a super brittle texture leading to split ends could be a sign of a zinc and/or an iron deficiency. Zinc and iron are important for keratin production so not having enough of these can lead to changes in the structure of hair. Zinc can be taken alone or with a mineral formula including iron. You can add foods that are high in zinc like beef, pumpkin seeds, and lentils to your diet.
Read how to tackle hair woes with superfoods here.
How do Split Ends affect the appearance of Hair?
Split ends can cause the hair to look dry, straggly and uneven at the ends, with the lengths looking flat and dull. When the cuticles are damaged, they don't lie down flat against the fibre. This means the light does not reflect as well off the hair, which is why people with split ends often notice a lack of luminosity and depth. These damaged cuticles are also less supple, which means they do not lie smoothly against one another, but have a tendency to tangle, create knots, and break even further.
Hair that is not moisturised can make the ends look even drier, so if you dye your hair, especially with lighter balayage through the ends, you may notice them more. Also a lack of routine maintenance such as regular trimming and deep conditioning treatments can make split ends more obvious.
Can you get rid of Split Ends?
When it comes to fixing split ends, you can’t ever fully repair the damage that’s been done and get back to untouched, virgin hair, but you can temporarily mend the strand. The only real cure for split ends is trimming them off. But, with continued care and maintenance, you can keep your damaged hair looking and feeling as healthy as possible. Keep reading to know how you can do that.
How to prevent Split Ends?
1. Get Regular Trims
It doesn't matter if your tresses are straight as an arrow or curlier than a Slinky. If you want healthy hair, regular trims are essential. The easiest, quickest and most convenient way of getting rid of split ends is by trimming them off. If your hair falls on the fine side, a strict routine for trimming ends is crucial. Split ends can make tresses look thin and frail. When they split they continue to unravel up the hair shaft, and it will split much more rapidly if you don’t cut those ends off. One should preferably get a trim once every 5-6 weeks.
2. Use the Right Products
Another way to keep split ends at bay is by washing your hair less frequently and using the right shampoos, conditioners, and styling products. For instance, it’s also best to stay away from clarifying shampoos which can be hard on the hair, stripping it of necessary oils. Instead, be on the lookout for products that are designed for dry, damaged hair. We suggest the Faith in Nature Hydrating Avocado Shampoo and Conditioner Combo. It’s a great combo for strengthening hair. It instantly fortifies, making hair noticeably smoother and softer to the touch after just one use. Formulated with Avocado, it helps strengthen against further damage. Bid adieu to dryness and dullness while revitalizing your hair from root to tip, leaving it feeling stronger, softer and shinier.
3. Avoid Over Shampooing
Washing hair often depletes it of its natural oils. Wash hair twice or thrice a week and use a mild shampoo to avoid Hair damage. It's important to wash the scalp properly as that's where it starts to get greasy and that is where the roots of your hair are which need to be taken proper care of. Washing your hair is easy, right? Just "rinse and repeat." But in real life it's not so simple, and we're constantly finding new ways to screw it up. Read all about Shampoo Sins here
4. Condition better, but don’t overdo it
Using an intensive conditioning treatment like The Switch Fix Calming Blue-tea-ful Conditioner twice or thrice a week, depending on your hair texture, to keep your ends supple and hydrated. This is even more important if you have hair below shoulder-length or chemically processed hair, since the ends will naturally be more weathered. Moisturised and hydrated hair is stronger and less likely to split.
But make sure your conditioning game is on point by avoiding these bad habits. Read our blog on conditioner mistakes here.
5. Use a Hair Mask
The key to fixing split ends? Prevention. A nutrient-dense hair mask that coats strands with everything it needs to stay healthy can help keep split ends at bay.
Hydration is key—we really can’t stress this enough when it comes to keeping any hair healthy! The True Frog Deep Conditioning Hair Mask works from root to tip, and brings about immediate yet long-lasting changes to hair damaged by months of neglect. It rebalances, intensely hydrates, and makes it up to your hair for all the love that it has been missing. This mask contains Vinegar, Apple, Lemon and Tamarind Extract that prevent hair damage, Tucuma Butter provides deep conditioning and improves lustre and Quinoa Protein restores hydration to every cuticle.
To know more about hair masks, click here
6. Rethink the way you towel dry your hair
When your hair is wet, it is at its most fragile state. At this point, rubbing it vigorously with a towel can cause long-term hair damage and cause your hair to fall out and result in split ends too. Excessive rubbing with a towel can also lead to major frizz.
Gently squeeze excess moisture from your hair. If you rub your hair roughly when towel-drying you can cause knots and then breakage, which leads to split ends.
7. Use a wide toothed comb
It’s probably your first instinct to grab a paddle brush and run it through your freshly-washed tresses. But hair is actually most susceptible to being damaged when it’s wet—which means when you’re brushing out tangles post-shower, you’re actually causing breakage. Instead of using a brush to detangle hair, opt for a wide-tooth comb to gently work out knots while your hair is wet.
Hair is more elastic when wet, and conditioner will help the comb glide through while distributing the conditioner, without breaking the strand. Rinse with colder water to seal down the cuticle after. Hair will be less frizzy and shinier when dry, and easier to style. Keep in mind that towel drying can cause more split ends, so it’s better to gently pat it dry.
8. Minimise the use of heat and styling tools
Use a lower heat setting, and turn off the heat when your hair is ‘just dry’. Over-drying can scorch and dehydrate your ends, which is one of the main causes of splitting. When it comes to picking a blow dryer, a few key things to look for are a few heat settings, various speeds, a cool shot setting to dry your hair quickly without overheating it, and a few good attachments and diffusers to distribute heat more evenly.
Something to keep in mind: you don’t need to hit your hair with heat the minute you step out of the shower and it’s still soaking wet. Try to hold off on the blow dryer for as long as possible. Letting your hair air dry until it’s 90% dry and then blow drying and styling is a great way to give yourself a great blowout without frying your hair when you don’t have to.
9. Use Heat Protection every time you style
Even when you’re being more conscious of preventing splits, you’re probably not going to stop doing the one thing that we all know causes them: heat styling. We get it! Since you can’t put down your styling tools, pick up a hair styling combo that not only protects your hair, but actually harnesses the heat and uses it to heal your hair. Our Pick ? The Arata Hair Styling Combo Formulated with the nurturing, plant-based goodness of organic flaxseed, olive oil, and coconut oil extracts, this combo infuses your hair with 100% nature-derived ingredients that nourish and strengthen the scalp.
10. Oil your hair regularly
We never underestimate the power of rubbing a natural oil onto our frayed ends. This has the added benefit of nourishing damaged strands while minimizing the appearance of split ends between salon visits. Our pick? The Juicy Chemistry Hibiscus, Amla and Bhringraj Organic Hair Oil is extremely hydrating and nourishes the hair from root to scalp. When you're in a pinch, work a few drops onto towel-dried ends. The only caveat here is to be mindful of how much you're applying—it is an oil after all, so begin with a small amount of product and work your way up as needed.
11. Eat omega 3 and protein-rich foods
It is important to include foods that provide all the essential vitamins and minerals to your body in your daily diet. Make sure to have foods rich in proteins, iron, vitamin C and omega 3 fatty acids along with other essential nutrients.
12. Minimise UV damage
If your hair has prolonged exposure to the sun, UVA and UVB rays can damage the outside cover of the hair strand, called the cuticle. Sun damage can come in the forms of discoloration, dry and brittle strands, broken or split ends, thinning and frizziness etc. Wrap a scarf around your hair, wear a wide-brimmed hat or cover yourself with an umbrella. If you swim in a chlorinated pool, wear a swim cap or put your hair up in a high bun to keep your hair dry. If you get your hair wet, make sure you rinse the pool water — which contains chemicals like chlorine — out of your hair with clear water. Use an SPF product catered to shielding hair against harmful rays. Use hair products and conditioners appropriate to your hair color and type, as well as the climate. If you have fine hair, look for a volumizing formula. Summer is a favorite season of many, but next time you’re out in the sun, don’t forget to shield your hair from the sun, too.
13. Sleep on a silk pillowcase
Protect your hair with satin or silk! This goes at night (use a satin pillowcase or bonnet to prevent split ends at night), not only does it have more slip which prevents your hair from snagging while you toss and turn, it’s also great for preventing wrinkles.
What happens if you leave split ends untreated?
Split ends not just make your hair lifeless and dull, there are other reasons why letting your split ends persist and leaving them untreated is a bad idea.
A) Split ends don’t go away on their own
Split ends don’t just magically fuse back together when you start conditioning or taking care of your hair. In fact, the longer you put off trimming them, the more each end splits into 2 or 3 “feathers.” This, in turn, seriously hinders your hair growth.
B) Uneven Pigmentation
The color of split ends is usually a bit lighter than your natural hair color. This can make your overall hair color look discolored and uneven.
There are a ton of different products out there that transform your dull, fried ends into sleek, healthy hair. It’s not just what you use, it’s how you use them. Even the most badly damaged hair can be salvaged with the right condition and care.