Hair Care, Hair Care Problems

What to Know About Split Ends Causes


What are Split Ends?

Split ends are a common hair condition where the ends of the hair shaft become damaged and split apart. This damage is caused by physical and chemical stressors that weaken and break the hair strands.

Split ends cause the ends of the hair to become dry, brittle, and frayed. The damaged fibers separate and fray outwards, creating the characteristic wispy, bushy appearance of split ends. The split can start small but continue to travel up the hair shaft if not treated.

The splitting occurs when the protective outermost layer of the hair, known as the cuticle, becomes damaged. The cuticle is comprised of shingle-like overlapping scales that protect the inner structures of the hair. When the cuticle is compromised, the inner cortex loses its protection and strength. This leads the ends to fray and split apart into two or more strands.

What Causes Split Ends?

Split ends are caused by damage to the hair shaft that causes the ends to split and fray. There are several common causes of split ends:

  • Heat styling damage – Frequent use of hot styling tools like blow dryers, flat irons, and curling irons can cause the hair cuticle to lift and hair to become brittle and prone to splitting. The high temperatures break down the hydrogen bonds in the hair.

  • Chemical processing damage – Chemical treatments like hair dye, bleach, relaxers, and perms can damage the hair and lead to split ends by altering the structure of the hair cuticle. The harsh chemicals weaken and dry out the hair.

  • Environmental damage – Exposure to sun, wind, and chlorine from pools or hot tubs can all cause damage. The UV rays from the sun degrade hair protein. Wind and friction can wear down the cuticle. Chlorine dries out the hair.

  • Age and wear – Over time, normal wear and tear from styling and the environment causes cumulative damage. As we age, hair can become more brittle and prone to splitting. The ends are the oldest part of the hair and most likely to split.

Signs and Symptoms of Split Ends

Split ends can be tricky to spot, but there are some telltale signs that indicate your hair is suffering from excessive splitting. Being aware of the symptoms can help you address the issue early before major damage occurs.

The most common signs of split ends include:

  • Dry, brittle hair – Hair with split ends often feels rough and dry to the touch instead of smooth and soft. The ends look dull instead of shiny.

  • Frayed, wispy ends – Under a microscope, split ends have a frayed, brush-like appearance from the individual strands separating. The ends may look thin, wispy and frazzled.

  • Hair looks unhealthy – Overall, hair with a lot of split ends takes on an unhealthy, lackluster look, lacking the shine and vibrancy of healthy hair.

  • Tangles easily – The rough, separated fibers of split ends tend to snag and tangle with each other. Hair seems increasingly tricky to detangle.

  • Hard to style or manage – The frizzy, dry texture of damaged ends makes hair more difficult to comb, straighten, curl or style. Split ends refuse to stay smooth.

Being attentive to these symptoms can clue you in that it’s time to treat your split ends. The sooner you address them, the less damage they can cause! Regular trims and deep conditioning can restore your hair’s health and appearance.

There are several factors and habits that can lead to the development of split ends. These factors and habits include: 

  • Rubbing shampoo throughout your hair during the washing process
  • Not using conditioner 
  • Allowing your hair to come into contact with harsh chemicals such as the chemicals in swimming pools 
  • Using a towel to rub your hair dry
  • Brushing your hair after a shower while it’s still wet 
  • Using blow dryers, hot combs, and/or curling irons frequently and on high settings
  • Applying long-lasting hair styling products 
  • Securing your hair in a tight ponytail, bun, braids, or other updos 
  • Wearing hair extensions and weaves 
  • Using professional hair treatments such as perming, coloring, or relaxing your hair 
  • Overbrushing your hair 
What to Know About Split Ends

Prevention Tips

Split ends can often be prevented with some simple hair care habits. Here are some tips to help minimize split ends:

  • Limit heat styling – Excessive use of hot styling tools like blow dryers, curling irons, and straighteners can cause a lot of damage leading to splits. Allow hair to air dry when possible and always use the lowest heat setting on styling tools.

  • Deep condition regularly – Using a hydrating deep conditioner 1-2 times per week helps strengthen and protect hair. Focus the conditioner on the ends where splits commonly form.

  • Protect hair from sun/wind – Use a hat or scarf when outdoors to shield hair from drying sun and wind exposure. UV rays and wind can degrade the hair cuticle over time.

  • Gentle handling and styling – Avoid excessive brushing, tight ponytails, aggressive detangling, and rubbing hair with a towel. Handle wet hair gently and use a wide-tooth comb for detangling to prevent breakage.

  • Regular trims – Schedule trims every 6-8 weeks to snip away any existing split ends and keep ends healthy. This helps prevent further splitting by getting rid of damaged ends.

Treatment Options

Split ends can’t be repaired once the strands are split, but you can take steps to treat them and prevent more splitting. Some of the most effective treatments include:

Regular Trims

Getting your hair trimmed regularly is one of the best ways to deal with split ends. Trimming off the split portions removes the damage and allows your hair to remain healthy as it grows out. Most experts recommend trimming every 6-8 weeks.

Leave-In Conditioners

Using a leave-in conditioner after shampooing coats and protects the hair strands. This helps reduce friction and combats dryness that can lead to splits. Focus the conditioner on the ends where splits occur.

Oils, Masks, Treatments

Applying nourishing oils, masks, or hair repairing treatments can strengthen and condition hair. Try masks with protein or oils like coconut, argan, olive, or almond. These can help restore moisture and flexibility.

Avoid Heat/Chemicals

Excessive use of heated styling tools and chemical treatments like coloring, perms, relaxers can damage hair over time. Limit their use and always apply a heat protecting product beforehand.

Humidity for Hair

Dry, brittle hair is more prone to splitting. Keep hair moisturized by maintaining a humid environment. Run a humidifier, take steamy showers, or mist hair with water.

Home Remedies for Split Ends

Split ends can often be treated at home using natural ingredients that nourish and strengthen hair. Here are some of the most effective home remedies for split ends:

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is rich in fatty acids that help moisturize and repair damaged hair. Massage a small amount of coconut oil into the ends of your hair and leave it on for at least 30 minutes before washing out. The coconut oil will help mend split ends and smooth the hair cuticle.

Avocado Hair Mask

Mashed avocado makes an ultra-hydrating hair mask that can help treat split ends. Mix 1 ripe avocado with 1 tablespoon olive oil and apply it to the ends of your hair. Cover with a shower cap and let sit for 20-30 minutes before rinsing thoroughly. Avocados provide vitamins and minerals that will strengthen and protect hair.

Aloe Vera Gel

Pure aloe vera gel is a natural conditioner that can be used to treat split ends. Apply a quarter-sized amount to damp hair after shampooing, focusing on the ends. Let it soak in for a few minutes before rinsing out. The moisturizing properties of aloe vera will help heal split ends.

Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse

Create a nourishing rinse by mixing 1 cup apple cider vinegar with 1 cup water. After shampooing, pour the rinse over your hair and massage it into your ends. Let it sit for 1-2 minutes before rinsing out. The apple cider vinegar will help close up split ends and restore hair’s pH balance.

Honey Hair Treatment

Honey is a humectant that helps hair retain moisture to combat split ends. Make a nourishing hair mask by mixing 2 tablespoons honey with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Coat the ends of your hair and leave on for 20-30 minutes before washing out. The honey will help smooth and mend rough split ends.

These natural ingredients can provide intensive conditioning to help treat split ends at home between salon trims. Using these remedies 1-2 times per week will help keep your ends healthy and smooth.

When to See a Professional

Many people can manage split ends at home with trims and conditioning treatments. However, you may want to see a professional hair stylist if you have severe splitting and breakage that home remedies cannot fix. Signs it’s time to see an expert include:

  • Your hair is breaking off in large chunks, not just splitting at the very ends. Small trims are not stopping the damage.
  • Your hair feels extremely coarse, dry, and brittle no matter what products you use.
  • Split ends seem to reappear immediately after trimming. Your hair shows extreme damage.
  • You want to make a major change in hair length or style that requires professional expertise.
  • Daily brushing and washing causes many broken hairs to accumulate. Your hair seems to be deteriorating.
  • You feel your hair has become unmanageable due to the amount of splitting.
  • Your hair is so damaged that you are considering cutting it very short just to get rid of the splits.

In these cases, see a professional stylist who can examine your hair, diagnose the causes of damage, and determine the best solutions. They may recommend intensive conditioning treatments, specialized products, changing hair care habits, or a major cut to remove severely damaged sections. With professional help, you can get your hair back to a healthy condition.

Professional Treatments

Salon treatments can help manage and repair split ends. Some of the most common professional treatments include:

Haircut and Trim

Getting regular trims is one of the best ways to prevent and treat split ends. Trimming split or damaged ends helps prevent further splitting and breakage. Most experts recommend getting a trim every 6-8 weeks to maintain healthy hair ends. Ask your stylist to carefully inspect and trim any split or ragged ends. A dusting of just 1/4 inch can help remove splits while still maintaining length.

Deep Conditioning

Deep conditioning treatments are an intensive way to strengthen and repair hair. These heavy-duty conditioners contain ingredients like keratin, collagen, and oils to deeply penetrate and mend damage. Getting a salon deep conditioning treatment can help restore moisture and protein to dry, brittle ends. For best results, apply heat to allow the conditioner to thoroughly soak in. Deep conditioning 1-2 times per month can dramatically improve the health of split ends.

Keratin Treatment

Keratin treatments, also called Brazilian blowouts, use a keratin protein solution to smooth and strengthen hair. The solution is applied and sealed in with high heat from a flat iron. Keratin treatments can help mend split ends by filling in cracks and bonds. However, these treatments can be damaging if not done properly or overdone. Make sure to go to a reputable salon and avoid over-treating.

Hair Strengthening Products

Salon-quality strengthening treatments and products can also help reverse split ends. Look for products containing proteins like keratin and collagen to structurally reinforce damaged cuticles. Silicones can temporarily seal in moisture and fill in cracks. Oils like argan, coconut, and olive contain fatty acids that improve elasticity. Ask your stylist for personalized product recommendations based on your hair’s needs. With consistent use, these products can lead to noticeable improvement in split ends.

Getting professional salon treatments can help manage and improve the appearance of split ends in the short-term. However, preventing further damage through proper daily hair care is critical for long-term split end treatment.

Caring for Hair Long-Term

To keep hair healthy and prevent split ends in the long run, it’s important to establish healthy hair care habits. Here are some tips:

  • Reduce heat styling – Heat tools like blowdryers, straighteners and curling irons can really damage hair over time. Let hair air dry when possible, and use heat tools sparingly at lower temperatures.

  • Use gentle styling – Avoid tight hairstyles like ponytails and buns that pull and stress the hair. Opt for loose braids, clips or soft scrunchies. Be gentle when brushing, and use a wide-tooth comb.

  • Deep condition regularly – Use a hydrating hair mask or deep conditioner once a week to nourish hair and replenish moisture. Focus on the ends which are the oldest and most fragile part.

  • Oil treatments – Natural oils like coconut, olive and argan oil can penetrate the hair shaft to soften and protect it. Massage a few drops into damp hair before washing.

  • Protect hair from sun – UV rays can dry out and damage hair just like skin. Wear a hat outside, and use a UV protecting spray.

  • Eat a healthy diet – Hair is made of protein, so make sure to get enough protein from foods like eggs, fish, beans and nuts. Also eat fruits and veggies for vitamins.

  • Take hair supplements – Biotin, vitamin E, zinc and omega fatty acids support healthy hair growth and strength. Ask your doctor about supplements if needed.

  • Get regular trims – Schedule trims every 6-8 weeks to snip off any split ends before they travel up the hair shaft. Take off just 1/4 to 1/2 inch.

Establishing healthy hair habits, minimizing damage from styling, nourishing hair inside and out, and getting regular trims can help keep hair strong and prevent split ends in the long run. With some TLC, your hair will look and feel its best!

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