By Audrey Sivasothy, author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care
Split ends are weakened areas along the hair shaft where the cuticle is breaking apart and the cortex of the hair is exposed. When hair becomes dry, brittle and under-moisturized without relief, the cuticle naturally begins to crack, chip and unravel. If left uncorrected, the split will worsen and begin exposing the inner cortex of the hair.
Depending on how the split end is situated on the hair shaft, a single split can unravel and travel quite a ways up the hair shaft. But most split ends simply peel away or break off near their starting points. The best way to get rid of split ends is to prevent new ones from occurring. Here are some tips for preventing split ends:
1. Trim Hair with Sharp, Quality Hair Shears
Trimming your ends regularly with sharp shears before they break off is great split end preventive maintenance. Clean cutting is very important to prevent split ends, and only sharp shears can guarantee a clean break. Make sure that your hair shears are only used on the hair. Using your scissors to clip coupons or to perform other random tasks will dull your shears.
2. Cut Hair Ends Straight Across
In addition to using sharp shears to maintain your ends, the direction of your trim is also important. Always snip straight across the ends of your hair, never at an angle. Angled trims increase the surface area of the new end and introduce more opportunities for splitting and breakage.
3. Avoid Wet Trimming
Whenever possible, trim your hair while it is dry. Some people prefer wet trimming, but this can lead to split ends, especially if the shears are dull. Think about cutting paper. Cutting wet paper does not give you as clean a cut as cutting the same paper dry. The same principle applies to your hair.
4. Reduce Your Heat
Heat is often the main cause of split ends resulting from physical hair trauma, because heat quickly reduces the hair’s natural moisture balance. Heat also temporarily alters the hair’s protein structure, which would typically keep the hair’s moisture balance in check. Repeated use of heated styling tools like flat irons and blow dryers should be avoided. If heat styling is a must, only use heat on freshly conditioned, clean hair that has been sprayed with a thermal protectant to prevent split ends.
5. Cut Out the Chemicals
Chemical processes like color treatments, relaxers and perms add spice to any style, but they must get deep into the hair’s cuticle to work their magic. Unfortunately, to get inside, these chemicals must break down and degrade the cuticle. When the cuticle is weakened, split ends are bound to appear at all points along the hair shaft. For color, stick with deposit-only colors and rinses.
6. Increase Deep Conditioning
Deep conditioning weekly with quality moisturizing conditioners and protein reconstructors is great for split end prevention. Protein treatments reinforce the cuticle and hair shaft so that they can resist premature chipping, peeling and breaking, while moisturizing deep conditioners help restore the hair’s delicate moisture balance.
7. Create a Moisture Barrier
Daily moisturizing with water-based moisturizing products and oiling the hair as a seal will also help prevent split ends. These products lubricate the hair fiber and keep the hair soft and supple. They also shield the hair from the harsh sun and other environmental hair stressors, like wind and humidity. Focus daily moisturizers and oils near the ends of the hair shaft, which are more vulnerable to split ends than the roots.
Ladies, how do you deal with split ends?
Audrey Sivasothy is a Houston-based freelance writer, health scientist and author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care (available on Amazon.com & Barnes&Noble.com).