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By Jc of The Natural Haven

If you are unable to see split ends (or even if you are), your hair will still indicate to you whether it is damaged or not. As hair grows and gets older it has a tendency to taper due to loss of the cuticle. If you have split ends then logically as the hair splits the ends will get thinner over time. 

I have previously discussed the science of how hair wears over time and if you have not seen it, then here are the links:
1. Trimming for longer hair
2. Trimming how much and how often

Today I want to talk about one heat free method to ‘see’ split ends. This involves braiding hair in small-ishsections  (around a square inch or so) and then checking to see if the ends taper or not (See the image below).


Tips to using this method successfully:

1. Tension: You should braid with approximately the same tension. Don’t increase the tension as you go along or you may get a false result.
2. Sections: Small sections are necessary since hair does not grow at the same speed. It is very possible to have much longer hair at the back than the front or vice versa.
3. Styling:  If your hair has been cut into layers or weighted (thinned out in sections), this method is not useful for you unless you are growing out the layers and would be happy to loose the longer lengths.
4. Long hair:  Hair around the 12-18 inch mark and longer has a tendency to taper not because of split ends but rather because of normal wear. You can still use the method above but must make your own judgement call on how much you wish to cut

What is your method for trimming?

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45 Comments on "How to See (and Trim) Split Ends Without Heat"

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i forever have split ends and its really annoying. only at the front of my hair though.What should i do? I have trimmed maybe 4-6” of hair in the last two years and it’s really hurting my journey.

I find this article informative there I have seen others but this comes at the right time as I have noticed an increasing amount of straight strands which I finally realise are due to split ends (someone correct me if I’m wrong *crosses finger*) I have been trimming my ends admittedly with no regularity but have noticed that there are more straight strands poking through. After reading this article I think its looking likely that an inch or more will need to be taken off 🙁 My hair is fine and grows slowly I have made changes I now finger… Read more »
Patricia Shaw

Loved the method Thxs cuz I DIDNT kno how 2 tell split ends verse hair length Thxs GOD BLESS

Pearl S

I loved this

Mrs. e

I tried this,method and it is awesome! You will notice your cp instantly improve!!!

Lydia Young

What if you know that you have breakage or if your hair is but in a style? Will this affect the width of the braid towards the end? Will the braid tapering ONLY indicate split ends? I just don’t want to trim my hair if it’s not necessary.


I tried this method this afternoon and LOVED IT! I worked like a charm. My ends feel wonderful and healthy, AND I’m going to have a fierce braid out when I take the braids down. Before when I trimming my ends with my hair unbraided, I definitely wasn’t being aggressive enough. I was cutting as much as I WANTED rather than what I NEEDED to cut. Today, it was so obvious to see where to cut. I cut with confidence and probably took about an inch off the ends. But who wants ratty ends just to keep length?


I’m very happy to read this article! I didn’t want to go to the salon and get a ‘hatertrim’ and preferred to do it myslef no matter how long it’d take…thx again BGLH!


This seems to be a method for longer haired women. I have TWA and it’s EXTREMELY damaged! The only reason why I didn’t get it trimmed is because I don’t know who to go to without the stylist chopping off ALL my hair!


I’m trying to figure out if I have split ends, but my problem is the exact opposite. When I two-strand twist lately, the ends of some of my sections are thicker at the bottom than at the top. I don’t know what that’s about. So, I thought it was damaged hair. I’ve cut almost 2 inches of my hair off because of this, but I still have the problem, and don’t want to cut anymore, if that is really not what’s happening. 🙁


[…] Girl with Long Hair has a nice guide on how to see (and trim) split ends here:  I hope this […]

Natural Kinky Curly Marie

I’m 30+yrs Old and have been trimming my Split Ends using this method since I was 13years Old.

This advice seems to assume that your hair is at the same growth stages in same regions which mean they would have the same length and so if it doesn’t then it must be cut. That seem shady to me. Hair grows at different rates and at different stages (even when in the same location of scalp) hence why you can have tapering at the ends of braids some strands will be longer because they are not in the resting stage but growing stage while others will be shorter because resting and because they the old strand has been shedded.… Read more »

I’m kind of worried people are not reading the process of this type of trimming……


Jc answers your concerns in point 2 of the article, the part about Sections.

The Natural Haven

Thanks Beauty and Cygnet, I am also very concerned about people not reading the post in full. It would be a terrible decision to braid all your hair into one ponytail or two pig tails and then chop off the tapering part. This would lead to a lot of hair being chopped off unnecessarily

I can only hope that people will revisit the article, comments and read it in full before trimming……..sigh


Personally, I like my hair to taper a little at the bottom because it makes it so much easier when I install twist in my hair. When I first did my BC, it was almost impossible for me to achieve certain styles due to my ends being so “thick”. Although my ends do taper a little now, I have not noticed any split ends. So hopefully I am not doing myself a harm by not trimming at the first sign of tapering.


I wouldn’t use this method to trim my hair but it is definitely and indication whether my hair is healthy or not. Thank you for posting.


I’ve been doing this since my big chop and it has worked well for me. However, I do two strand twists as opposed to plaits because it easier/quicker. For those of you who are reluctant to trim. You’ll find that when you trim, your hair will grow stronger, faster and is much healthier.


I disagree with this article and I hope that people don’t start chopping off inches of their hair due to braid thickness. This method does not take into account hair that grows in layers or hair that is naturally thicker in certain areas.


Yes the article does mention this Tee – please read points 2 and 3


I’d have to cut off half my hair! 🙁 I hate all kinds of trimming. I HATE having short hair! I hated having my little ‘fro when I first went natural. I wish my hair grew faster and it didn’t break so easily.


Jack, sorry to say, but having this kind of attitude is really going to set you back. Holding on to hair just for the sake of length can possibly hinder your hair growth. Try embracing your hair no matter what length it is. I know having short hair can be very alien at first, but saying that you HATE your hair the way it is now is just going to make it a more difficult for you in the long run.

I don’t like how I look with short hair, I look better with long hair and I like the stylesi can do with long hair. Yeah my hair will grow, but slowly while I wait for it to grow back after the trim. If it grew back faster I wouldn’t care so much about length. I’ve slowed down on trimming ’cause I haven’t seen much growth. So I don’t think my hair responds to trimming like that. My hair hasn’t grown any faster, but has slowed down from some others factors I’m not able to pin point yet. My hair… Read more »

Jack I understand your woes, for a long time I also felt the same way about trimming. However since I became scissor happy several years back, I actually gained length. The key to having longer hair is learning how not to break your hair and part of this includes trimming when necessary. Splitting and breaking hair will never gain length.

All the best in your journey.


+ 1! Trimming has never stopped me from achieving length. Breakage has, however. I’m ALL ABOUT trimming.

Ditto everything after the first sentence :-)! I remember when I made the decision to transition to unprocessed hair. I knew that it was going to be the shortest it had been since infancy, and I was unhappy about that. I thought that my hair grew more slowly than I’ve since discovered that it grows, and I was expecting a long, drawn-out process. I have an underactive thyroid, which, for me, results in hair that is brittle and dry, and that’s on top of my strands already being fine. And nothing has so far cured me of my extreme dislike… Read more »

Oh, and in case it wasn’t clear, that was @Jack.


yea i really don’t think this is good advice, you would be trimming off alot for no reason. i think it would be better to go youtube to learn how to trim


Well here are some youtube videos that demonstrate the very same technique – i.e section and trim.








It works if you only paste what comes after the slashes….also I think the video from Naptural85 is the most helpful…..(its the third from the top)


I appreciate reading about new techniques, so thanks for that. I’m going to try this on my ends in the back of my hair, as it sounds like this might make it easier to trim it evenly. My hair is on the fine side, and ‘search and destroy’ is what I normally do.


I think this is only useful if the tapering is very dramatic. If like me you have thin and fine hair, search and destroy is not that tasking.

Le Le

I tried this method, and I’m not sure how much it really works for me. My hair, even when it has no split ends, tends to taper a bit when in small braids. I don’t know why, but it could be because my hair is not even in length, even in a square inch (I haven’t had it professionally trimmed in a while). I think this method will only work if your hair is even all over.


I don’t agree with this statement. hair cannot have the same thickness from roots to tips. For me, it is unnecessary trimming…

I’ve seen hair with the same thickness from top to bottom, although very rarely. Man that girl had one set of hair on her head, I went right up to her and complimented her on it- she told me what she used on it too. It was one big fat braid evenly from top to bottom, and it had a blunt cut with a rubber band on the end of it, so yes it’s possible. I don’t know if trimming hair that’s not thick from root to tip is unnecessary trimming, but I’ve definitely seen hair that’s evenly thick all… Read more »
HBP – Can I ask, why should your hair not have the same thickness from the root to the tip? There are only two reasons that I can think of why this should not be the case 1. The hair cuticle has worn down creating a thinner tip than root 2. Hair has intentionally been styled with a thinning cut (i.e layering) Please note that in the article I did not say that you should tie all your hair into one ponytail, this will normally taper unless you have exceptionally long hair. I am talking about braiding your hair into… Read more »
Ameerah Pearman

I’mma do it, but I’ll letchu know now that I’m scared to.


woo! I’m so glad BGLH posted this because I really want to trim my hair myself, rather than going to some random salon hoping for the best.

Just wondering, is it better to trim your hair using braids or twists? Because I prefer to do twists. But anyways I’ll try the braids, lol. 😀

Having worn both plaits and twists, as well as trimming my hair loose—usually as I’m undoing it—I find that it works about the same. My big issue is making sure I trim the same amount from each one, especially since I’m visually impaired anyway and my hair isn’t yet long enough in the back for me to pull the ends around to the front. I do everything by feel. But I’ve done it enough that I have a system down, and it works pretty for me. And even if it didn’t, I’d sooner do it myself than let someone else… Read more »

I meant to say it works pretty well for me :-).


Yes! This method works best, it’s easy and a lot quicker then what I had been doing. I use to trim and chop my hair like I would if it were relaxed, wet….very bad idea. I would make so many mistakes and I would cut off too much hair if I wasn’t careful.


When I saw this post I felt a little scared that my braid would become thinner way sooner than I’d expect, and this would showcase that it’s actually not as healthy as I had imagined. But alas, it’s the same thickness all throughout! Of course, my very ends need trimming, but I’ve been knowing that. It’s good to know that it’s not more than that though!


Looks good to me. Though I don’t like to put my hair in small braids because they can be hell to take down.