Nothing ruins a cute new hairstyle quite like seeing a ton of split ends. This pesky type of hair damage “is the result of environmental or physical damage to the end of a hair strand,” says Erinn Courtney, StyleSeat hairstylist. “This causes the end of the hair strand to split from one whole strand to two or more.” Meaning, individual strands of the hair have cracked or weakened at the tip, causing them to separate. Sadly, unless you keep up on trims and use moisture treatments regularly, split ends are inevitable due to things like heat damage, color, over-combing, and excess washing. But all hope is not lost. “With a regular [hair] care routine specifically tailored to your hair's type, texture, and needs, and some simple lifestyle changes you can prevent most damage,” says Gerard Caruso, salon owner and creative director of milk_shake.
Although trimming your hair is the fastest solution for avoiding split ends, there are also a variety of healthy habits you could be following that can prevent hair damage in the first place. From minimizing sun exposure to your approach to hair drying, there’s a variety of ways you can prevent many types of split ends from happening (yes, there’s more than one).
Ahead, TZR spoke to five celebrity hairstylists to gather insights on how split ends form, the causes, and eight things you’re doing that are leading to more split ends. The experts even share hair care products and tools that will help prevent and treat unwanted frayed ends, no matter how severe.
What Are The Different Types Of Split Ends?
Although split ends may have some of the same causes (more on that later), there are actually six types of split ends.
1. Classic Split Ends
Also known as a baby split, classic split ends are quite small and form at the end of the hair shaft.
2. Y Split Ends
One of the most common types of split ends where hair splits evenly into two parts, forming a Y-shape.
3. Knotted Split Ends
More commonly seen in curly hair, knotted split ends occur when single strands curl backwards and create small knots.
4. Tapered Split Ends
Occurring when the outer cuticle breaks down to reveal the cortex, displaying thinner ends as you go down the hair shaft.
5. Incomplete Split Ends
Resembling a needle, incomplete split ends happen when the hair strands start to weaken, splitting in the middle of the hair shaft and forming a hole.
6. Tree Split Ends
Like branches on a tree, here ends have split in multiple directions and are not only at the ends, but throughout the strand. If you see these splits, it would be high time to go in for a haircut.
What Causes Split Ends?
Split End Cause #1: Rubber Band Ponytails
PSA: Your hair accessories can contribute to damage. “Consistently pulling the hair up in a bun or ponytail, in addition to how you remove the band could cause damage and splits,” Nadia Vassell, a celebrity hair stylist and owner of Nadia Vassell Salon, tells TZR. If you tie your hair up regularly, be wary that the rubber band could be damaging your hair. Essentially, rubber bands place too much friction and tension on the hair, much more so than gentler options like scrunchies and softer elastic.
Split End Cause #2: You’re Using Too Much Heat
“Split ends occur when your hair gets extremely dry and brittle,” shares Caruso. The overexposure to heat dries out the hair — a great environment for split ends to prosper. Translation: the more heat you put on your ends, the more they’ll be exposed to damage. According to Caruso, hair reaches ideal moldability at 180 degrees, so anything that surpasses that could damage the hair. High temperatures jeopardize the keratin in your hair, affecting strength, shine, and texture. To keep your hair safe, it’s best to keep heat styling at 180 degrees or below. Opt for a hot tool with multiple heat settings, like Kosa Elite Styler which has a variety of heat settings for every hair type and texture. And don’t forget to work in a heat protectant like Garnier Fructis Style Flat Iron Perfector before styling.
Split End Cause #3: You’re Not Using A Microfibre Towel
In case you didn’t already know, cotton zaps all the moisture from your hair due to the tiny loops in the fabric that rip open the hair cuticle. To prevent damage, when you finish washing your hair use your hands to press out excess water and then wrap hair with a microfibre towel. These are made of cotton but have a polyester coating over them to soften the loops. And because the towel fibers are so much smaller, it doesn’t compromise the cuticle and cause breakage.
Split End Cause #4: You Are Chemically Or Color Treating Your Hair Too Often
Although experimenting with color, perms, or straightening treatments can be fun, it can come with a cost. Color and chemical treatments use a lot of, well, chemicals that deplete and strip hair of natural oils — resulting in dryness and a weaker cuticle, meaning it’s more prone to split ends. “Using too many chemicals and dyes will cause buildup on the scalp and strands,” shares Helen Reavey, celebrity stylists and founder of Act+Acre. “Buildup of dead skin, pollution, and sweat on the scalp can all contribute to the hair shaft weakening, causing unhealthy hair growth and an increased chance of split ends.” To combat, make sure your stylist prioritizes hair health by using pre-treatments, spread out your appointments, and opt for hair care products that restore the moisture in your hair while holding onto the color.
Split End Cause #5: Over-Washing
Cleansing and conditioning your hair is essential but excessive washing could result in a loss of natural oils and dryer ends. “The ends of the hair split quite literally from dryness,” says Shelly Aguirre, stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. “Hair washing won’t directly affect the split ends. But, if your hair is on the drier side, less washing is better for the hair strand scalp to the ends.” Adds Ashley Streicher, celebrity stylist for Garnier and owner of STRIIIKE Salon, “The natural oils your hair and scalp create help keep strands healthy and hydrated. So if you can go a few days in between washes it gives your hair and scalp a chance to regulate sebum production.”
And when you do wash your hair, Reavey likes to remind her clients that both temperature extremes (hot and cold) can cause dehydration and constriction of nutrients to the scalp, resulting in weakness and breakage in the hair strands. It is always best to use lukewarm water on your scalp and strands and shampoo twice a week or less to bypass split ends.
Split End Cause #6: You’re Detangling Wrong
As a reminder, hair is at its most fragile state when wet. The experts all recommend detangling from the ends to roots, to prevent tangles or pulling out hair after you’ve showered. The detangling tool also matters as using a brush with rough bristles right out the shower will break your hair. Instead use a wide-tooth comb or wet brush. “Brushing your hair with a brush with nylon and boar bristles can help the health of your hair as well,” Aguirre tells TZR. “The nylon will help break up any scalp dryness and the boar bristle will assist in working your natural oil from the scalp to the ends.”
Split End Cause #7: You Pick Your Split Ends
Although it can be tempting, according to Courtney, picking at ends leaves your hair more fragile because you’re pulling them apart even more and making the split wider. Get ahead of picking by trimming your hair regularly.
Split Ends Cause #8: You Wait Too Long To Get Trims
“When split ends are left untouched, a small split can travel up the hair shaft and cause even more damage to your strands,” says Whitney Eaddy, celebrity stylist and founder of Juices & Botanics. All experts recommend getting trims once every three months. “Even if you’re growing your hair out, a trim every three months is suggested,” says Aguirre. “Split ends keep splitting, so getting a dusting on the ends will actually make your hair grow faster.”
Ready to live a life free of split ends? Incorporate the below expert-approved hair care products into your routine to be rid of pesky frayed ends for good.
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