Without warning, split ends can quickly be the downfall of an otherwise great hair style. Despite come products' claims to the contrary, there is no cure for these ragged hair strands, but knowing how they occur and how to prevent them is the key to a smooth, split-free style.
What Are Split Ends?
Trichoptlosis, or split ends, are unraveled hair strands that have been stripped of their protective cuticle, causing the inner cortex fibers to fray. Once the damage has been caused, the hair can unravel up to an inch or more from its end, causing frizzy, unmanageable hair. Individual hairs may split into 2, 3, or even more strands, and each split may take place at a different location, giving the hair an uneven, ragged appearance. A large concentration of splits will wreak havoc on even the most carefully styled hair, but knowing what causes this damage and how to avoid it can go a long way toward keeping each strand whole and healthy.
Split ends are caused by numerous factors; the more of these you can avoid, the healthier your hair will be. One of the most likely culprits for splits is excessive dryness - either from naturally dry, brittle hair or through extensive heat damage via curling irons, hair dryers, straightening irons, and other intensive heating tools. Very fine hair is particularly susceptible to this type of damage.
Another cause of split hairs is extensive chemical use, especially if protective measures are not taken. Chemical relaxers, straighteners, dyes, and other extreme products, when used frequently, strip hair of its natural moisturizers and protective coatings, increasing the chances for developing splits.
Vigorous brushing and other physical stress can also cause splits, particularly if hair is brushed toward the scalp (teased). Hair strands are covered with microscopic protective "scales," and once those scales are damaged, the hair can easily fray and unravel into unsightly splits. Tight braids and metal or rubber accessories can also cause severe damage.
The only way to effectively remove splits is through regular hair trims. While some conditioners and other products claim to cure split hairs, they actually only bind the hair together temporarily. While this may be suitable for a short-term fix, eliminating the damage is the only lasting solution. Dry or naturally brittle hair is more prone to developing splits, but once they are trimmed away the hair can continue to grow naturally. Trims should be done at least one-half inch above the split to reduce the chances of additional unraveling, and to keep splits from recurring, regular trims are recommended every 4-6 weeks.
Avoiding Split Ends
The best way to protect your hair from the damage of splits is to avoid getting them in the first place. To avoid frequent splits:
- Regularly condition your hair. This is especially important in winter when the air is dryer. Hot oil and other deep conditioning treatments are effective for especially dry hair, and leave-in conditioners should be applied to the ends of hair each day.
- Protect your hair from the sun. Wearing a hat, avoiding excessive direct sunlight, and using shampoo and other products with sunscreen properties will help keep your hair from drying out.
- Use softer styling tools and brushes. A natural bristle brush is the best choice, and all combs and brushes should be coated to avoid excessive tangles and other conditions that may lead to damage and splits.
- Use covered hair accessories. Gentle ponytail holders and other hair wraps will help prevent ripping the hair shaft and damaging the strands.
- Protect your hair from excessive chemicals. Avoid frequent contact with saltwater, chlorine, or other harsh chemicals, and whenever possible choose products with natural ingredients and gentle formulas.
- Lessen your use of heated appliances. Choosing natural methods of hair care and styling will decrease the heat damage your hair suffers.
- Use a silk or satin pillowcase. These fabrics are smoother and less likely to cause hair damage than cotton and other materials.
- Don't brush or strain hair when wet. Hair is most fragile when it is wet, and twisting, rubbing, or brushing it before it is dry will cause greater damage and increase the likelihood of split ends.
- Drink more water. The more water you drink, the more moisturized your hair will naturally become, increasing its resiliency and resisting splits.
- Consider hair vitamins. In extreme cases, hair may be lacking the nutrients it needs to produce protective proteins, and vitamin supplements may be able to correct those deficiencies.
While split ends may be unavoidable, caring for your hair and keeping it healthy, conditioned, and moisturized can go a long way toward minimizing split damage. Whether you have a few splits or concentrations of damage that interrupt your style, it is possible to rejuvenate your hair without drastic action.