Welcome to another installment of natural hair tips! Today we’ll cover a topic that every person with hair on their heads has faced: split ends.
What are split ends?
Your hair grows from the root, so the end is the oldest part of your hair. Depending on the length of your hair, the ends may have been with you for several years! Just imagine all the things the ends have seen and been with you through. How many times have they been washed, styled, or straightened? How many hats, scarves, and sweaters have they touched? How many cold, windy, dry, and humid days have they seen?
Not to mention, the end is the most exposed and vulnerable part of your hair. So is it any wonder that your ends can’t last forever? Over time, daily wear and tear on your hair will degrade and wear down the hair cuticle, exposing the inner cortex. The result is split or frayed ends of your hair.
Your ends can split in a variety of ways. You may notice the classic end split in two, or smaller, just barely split ends. You may notice ends that split into multiple pieces (like a tree or broom) or hairs that thin at the end as the cuticle disappears but the cortex remains intact. You may even notice hairs that split all the way up the shaft. The common denominator is, unless we trim our hair often, all of us will experience some split ends. They are part of the normal life cycle of hair.
What causes split ends?
While split ends can develop rapidly due to extreme damage, they usually develop slowly as the result of small damaging factors. Some of the most common processes that damage and degrade the end of your hair cuticle are…
Physical damage and manipulation. This includes styling, brushing, detangling, handling and touching your hair, all of which break down the cuticle little by little.
Heat. Heat tools are one of the fastest ways to cause split ends. Excessive heat causes extreme damage to the ends that are already stressed by other factors.
Friction. Some fabrics and materials cause more damage to your cuticle than others. Hats, scarves, and sweaters accelerate the develop of split ends, as do cotton pillowcases and towels. If your hair is long enough that it brushes the back of your shirt or jacket, this causes damage too.
Environment. Wind, cold, heat, sun, dry climates, humid climates… it seems like no matter what the weather, it takes a toll on your hair. And if you frequently style your hair in wash 'n gos, afros, puffs, or styles that expose your ends to the environment, this accelerates the damage.
Internal factors. Your diet, the water your drink, and the overall health of your body impact the strength of your hair. If your body is dehydrated, malnourished, or protein-deficient, your hair will be too, and thus more susceptible to split ends. (Learn about foods to eat for healthy hair.)
If split ends are so normal, why are they bad?
Here are a couple reasons why you do NOT want to see split ends in your hair:
- Once a hair strand splits at the end, the damage will only progress. Left untouched, a split end will continue to split all the way up the hair shaft, damaging the entire strand beyond repair.
- Split ends no longer have a smooth cuticle covering them, so they naturally catch and snag on each other and on healthy ends. This causes tangles and (you guessed it) more split ends.
- As you experience more tangles, you will in turn experience more breakage and shedding. This is what people mean when they say split ends keep your hair from growing- they prevent length retention.
- The split end might look small on its own, but split ends throughout your hair make your ends look frizzy, scraggly, and unhealthy.
- If you see a couple split ends, it means more are on the way (unless you are only exposing half of your hair to heat, wind, and damage, and we think that’s unlikely.) Split ends are a sign that your hair is damaged, and needs a trim.
Split ends in natural hair and curly hair
It may come as a surprise to learn that the curlier your hair, the more fragile it tends to be! This means people with curly hair, especially type 4 hair and 4C hair, may be extra vulnerable to split ends. Additionally, when you have curls, kinks, and coils, your split ends are more likely to cause tangles, since they can catch on other hairs coiling around them. So if your hair tends to get easily tangled, watch out for and prevent split ends. This will help prevent tangles and breakage down the road.
How do I get rid of split ends?
Here comes the tough love… there’s only one way. You need to cut them off. Your hair is not alive, so it can’t heal like a cut on your skin. Split ends are irreversible, and any product, salon, or treatment that tries to tell you otherwise is lying. Plus, even if split ends could be bound back together, split ends are a sign that the ends of your hair are unhealthy. If you were to “fix” your split ends, it would only be a matter of time before your other ends began splitting.
Okay… so what do I do about my split ends?
Simply trim off the ends! If you trim your hair regularly (every 4-6 months, or as soon as you start seeing split ends) you’ll catch the ends before they progress, and only need to take off ¼ - ½ inch with each trim. If you decide to trim them yourself, be sure to use sharp hair shears, leaving a clean cut that won’t immediately begin to fray again. You can learn how to trim your own natural hair!
We know, it isn’t fun to trim off the ends. However, there is some good news! You can prevent split ends (and even prolong the time you need to take between trims) if you take good care of your hair!
How to prevent split ends:
- Be gentle when you wash, brush, detangle, style, and touch your hair. Remember that split ends develop slowly as incremental damage builds up over time. If you are more gentle with your hair every day, you will slow the development of split ends.
- Avoid heat tools! If you use them, they are probably the number 1 factor causing your split ends.
- Drink more water. Hair that is hydrated from the inside out will last longer against environmental damage and won't develop split ends as quickly.
- Nourish and strengthen your hair with deep conditioning treatments every 1-2 weeks. NaturAll Club’s Fresh Frozé Treatment Deep Conditioners will prevent split ends by fortifying your ends and keeping your hair healthy!
- Avoid towel-drying your hair. Towels cause friction which can increase split ends. Instead, use a microfiber towel or let your hair hair dry.
- Protect your hair with satin or silk! This goes at night (use a satin pillowcase or bonnet to prevent split ends at night) and in the winter (line your hats and scarves with silk to prevent the rough material from snagging on your ends.)
- Use protective or low-maintenance styles, especially in the winter, to protect your ends.
- Use hair products that are free of toxic and drying chemicals. (Find out which ingredients to avoid in hair products.) These chemicals can damage and weaken your hair over time. We recommend NaturAll Club’s all-natural products, especially our Avocado Kiwi Line which comes with shampoo, conditioner, and everything you need for wash day!
We hope this guide was helpful! Let us know in the comments what step you will be taking to prevent split ends in the future!