If you’re tired of frizz, flyaway hairs and hairstyles that don’t last you probably can’t imagine there’s anything worse than split ends. Whether you’re trying to grow out your hair for a super long style or simply want a polished look, dead hair caused by split ends can really ruin your plans. And while split ends can result from a number of causes, there’s a chance you’ve developed certain hair habits that aren’t doing your ends any good — like washing with shampoo that strips hair or not always using protection (from hot tools of course).
In an effort to help your mane (and ours), we’re diving into all things split ends, including what causes split ends, how to get rid of and prevent split ends, the best split end repair tips (including for facial hair) and the best hair care products for split ends to help you in your process. So if you’re at a loss for how to stop hair breakage that leads to this pesky hair care concern, keep reading so you can start your journey to healthier, more lustrous hair.
What are Split Ends?
Before diving into the nitty-gritty of how to address split ends, it’s important to first know what you’re dealing with. Essentially, split ends occur when the outermost protective layer of your hair’s cuticle deteriorates over time due to environmental factors, as well as styling processes and normal wear and tear. Think: excess sun exposure, brushing, rough detangling, heat styling, and chemical treatments.
Split ends are sometimes dry and brittle, but they can also feel soft, so it’s not always easy to identify them. If you really want to know if your strands are splitting, take a look at an individual piece of hair. There will be small breaks toward the end of the strand. Severe split end hairs often look like little trees with branches shooting off in one direction or another.
5 Types of Split Ends You Should Know About
Split ends can take on several looks and some are more easily identifiable than others — none of them are desirable. That said, some types of split ends are easier to treat than others because the hair damage is not as far along. Check out these five common types of split ends
1. Traditional Split
This type of split end looks like a capital “Y” and is one of the more easily identifiable split ends, especially for straight hair. The hair is doing a pretty even split down the center of the hair shaft to create this shape.
2. Partial Split
When the hair is dry or dehydrated you may experience a partial or basic split on your hair’s ends. Luckily, this type of split end is more easily repaired than others, and can often be healed with the right hair mask or hydrating treatment.
3. Tree Split
This is the type of split end hair we mentioned earlier. It’s one of the most common types of split ends and easier to identify because, unfortunately, it has some of the most visible damage with split hairs going into different directions like branches on a tree. If you have a tree split your hair shaft is damaged, versus with a partial split which indicates lack of moisture.
4. Feather Split
A feather split end is similar to a tree split in that your hair ends have split several times. Your cuticle peels away and the hair begins to “feather” out in different directions. If you’re constantly perming your hair or getting keratin treatments you could see this type of split end happen.
5. Incomplete Split
An incomplete split end is exactly what it sounds like — a split end that’s not fully formed. It happens when the hair is weakened but the end doesn’t entirely split and instead causes a sort of loop or bubble in the hair that makes it sort of resemble a sewing needle. If not treated with the proper hair care products it can eventually turn into a deep split or even a tree or feather split.
What Causes Split Ends?
There are quite a few factors that contribute to split ends. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) states that many of the hair care myths you once thought to be beneficial to your hair can actually do more damage than good. Check out these common practices that could be the culprits for your split ends.
Remember that saying about brushing your hair for 100 strokes a day? Scratch that! The AAD states that brushing should be kept to a minimum, as excessive hair brushing can actually result in split ends.
2. Heat Styling
It’s no secret that hot styling tools can cause damage to your strands — and lead to split ends. The AAD recommends using flat irons on dry hair only, on a low or medium heat setting, no more often than every other day. Curling irons, according to the AAD, should only be left on the hair for a second or two.
3. Your Hairstyle
Not only can heat styling do damage, but certain hairstyles — even heat-free ones — can do harm. The AAD warns against continuously wearing different braided hairstyles, cornrows, ponytails, and hair extensions, as these styles pull on the hair and can cause tension that leads to breakage.
4. Your Hair Accessories
Rubber bands and snaggy clips should be avoided at all costs since these types of accessories can cause hair damage, including split ends. It may be tempting to use supplies other than hair ties meant to secure a ponytail when it seems like they do a better job or they’re cheaper, but you may pay in other ways if you go this route.
5. Hair Bleaching and Coloring
Constantly bleaching your hair can cause several types of hair damage, especially split ends. Lightening your hair can strip it of necessary oils, causing dryness, and if you don’t address dry strands they can eventually split. Since using permanent hair color (with or without bleaching first) can alter your hair cuticle, coloring can also lead to split ends.
6. Chemical Treatments
Chemical treatments such as perms, relaxers and keratin straighteners penetrate the hair shaft in order to change the pattern of the hair. Anything that actually gets into the hair’s cuticle can cause damage if done excessively or not followed up with proper hair care and hydration.
7. Aggressive Rubbing
We often recommend that people forgo their bath towel for a micro-fiber towel or cotton t-shirt when drying their hair. The main reason is that excessive rubbing and friction can lead to split ends and other types of hair breakage, whereas the latter hair drying options tend to be gentler on strands.
Do Split Ends Stop Hair Growth
Typically split ends won’t stop hair growth since this type of damage affects the ends of the hair, not the root (where hair growth begins). However, if you don’t address split ends by trimming or using a hair treatment that seals them, the damage can creep up to the roots. Once that happens you may see some issues with hair growth. If this happens you should make an appointment with a professional such as a dermatologist or trichologist to figure out the best course of action for you.
How to Get Rid of Split Ends
If you’re already noticing some trees and feathers at the ends of your strands, you may be wondering how you get rid of split ends. There are hair treatments, conditioners and shampoos for split ends that promise to help repair this type of damage, especially if it’s mild. Unfortunately, if your split ends are more severe and the nourishing ingredients in these products can’t reverse the damage, you may need to cut off your damaged ends.
If you’re heading to social media to find tutorials on how to trim split ends, we should warn you that it’s best to turn to a salon instead of DIY at home. The last thing you want is for your damaged hair fix to turn into a haircut nightmare.
Cutting your ends can be an excuse to embrace a new hairstyle, so losing a bit of length doesn’t have to feel so tragic. One beauty look we’re loving right now is the lob haircut (long bob) that’s longer in the front and shorter in the back. It’s the best of both styles, plus you get rid of that undesirable damaged hair.
How to Prevent Split Ends
The good news in all of this is that there are a variety of steps you can take to help prevent split ends from forming in the first place. Below are a few tips you should try to maintain your hair’s healthy look.
1. Use the Right Shampoo and Conditioner
Split ends can occur when you have dry, damaged hair, which can easily break. To avoid this, be sure to ditch overly harsh hair care systems and opt for a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner duo like the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Bond Repair Shampoo with Citric Acid and L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Bond Repair Conditioner with Citric Acid. This system also includes the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Bond Strengthening Pre-Shampoo Treatment, which works in conjunction with the shampoo and conditioner to reduce breakage and repair and prevent hair damage such as split ends.
We also recommend the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Repairing Shampoo and L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Repairing Conditioner which are designed to rebuild hair fibers and fight split ends.
2. Use a Hair Mask for Split Ends
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a hair mask that could help repair split ends, as well as other types of hair damage while providing your tresses with some much needed love? Lucky for those with damaged hair, there is. The L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Damage Erasing Balm rinse-out hair mask is formulated specifically to repair five different signs of hair damage: split ends, weakness, rough texture, dull appearance, and dehydration. This powerful treatment mask can repair up to one year’s worth of hair damage. Simply swap it into your routine a couple of times a week in place of your conditioner.
3. Add Additional Split Ends Treatments to Your Routine Each Week
While hair mousse and hair gel are fabulous for styling, if you have split ends you need a product that can style and also help protect your strands and reduce future damage. That’s exactly what the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths No Haircut Cream Leave In Conditioner does. This hydrator seals split ends and strengthens long hair while offering 450-degree heat protection. Apply it as a leave-in moisturizer, then style your hair as usual.
Alternatively, you can use the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Protein Recharge Treatment. This leave-in conditioner and heat protectant nourishes hair to protect against everyday damage, including the type that causes split ends.
4. Change the Way Your Detangle
It’s probably your first instinct to grab a brush and run it through your freshly-washed tresses. But hair is actually most susceptible to being damaged when it’s wet — which means when you’re brushing out tangles post-shower, you could actually cause breakage. Instead of using a brush to detangle knotty hair, opt for a wide-tooth comb to gently work out knots while your hair is still wet.
5. Wear Ponytails Wisely
It’s true that your tried-and-true ponytail could be causing split ends. When you’re constantly putting your hair up, you can cause stress on your hair, which can lead to breakage from the roots to the ends (especially if you’re not careful with the take down). If you want to reduce the appearance of split ends for as long as possible, decrease the frequency with which you sport a pony. When you do want to wear one, keep it loose (we see you messy bun) and don’t create too much tension on your strands. Additionally, be mindful of the accessories you use and always use a proper hair tie instead of reaching for destructive rubber bands and ponytail holders with metal that can snag on your hair.
6. Get Regular Trims
Getting routine trims helps you snip budding split ends and keep away other hair damage that can cause split ends. For anyone trying to preserve their length this may sound undesirable but it’s actually helpful if you want your long strands to be healthy and easy to style. If you’re worried about removing too many inches, try hair dusting, which is like a baby haircut meant to remove split ends and other unwanted damage.
7. Stay Away From Heat and Chemicals
You totally saw this coming — heat styling, chemical treatments and constant bleaching will put you on a fast track to split hair. Avoid chemicals in the hair and stay away from constant bleaching. If you do bleach or color your hair, make sure you’re waiting weeks between sessions so that you’re not causing unnecessary hair damage.
Similarly, try to stay away from the hot tools and sport low-tension, heatless hairstyles as much as possible. If you do need to pick up your blow dryer, flat iron or curling iron, always use heat protectant on your hair first.
How to Manage Facial Hair Split Ends
Most of us may only think of the hair on our heads having split ends, but beards can fall victim to split ends, too. Yup, fellas, you need to know this. The key to avoiding and managing beard split ends is similar to how you should take care of the rest of your mane — with regular trims and hydration. Here's the breakdown:
1. Trim RegularlyYou don’t necessarily have to keep your beard short (#longbearddontcare we see you), but you do have to keep it trimmed. An unruly beard that isn’t groomed can result in some unflattering split ends. So make time to regularly trim your beard and keep damaged hair off of your face.
2. Moisturize Daily
Hydration is key — we really can’t stress this enough when it comes to keeping any hair healthy. While you shouldn’t use a conditioner on your beard, you should use a moisturizer formulated specifically for facial hair. One infused with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and vitamin E will be beneficial in keeping your signature scruff in its best condition. Apply it as the last step in your skin care routine morning and evening.
No matter how much you want to avoid trimming your ends, even if you take the best care of your hair, eventually the day will come when you’ll need a haircut. If you plan to DIY, make sure you’re prepared.
Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn, Associate Creative Director: Melissa San Vicente-Landestoy, Art Director: Hannah Packer, Associate Creative Producer: Becca Solovay, Associate Content Director: Shalwah Evans, Makeup Artist: Jonet Williamson, Hair Stylist: Akihisa Yamaguchi, Wardrobe Stylist: Alexis Badiyi, Digital Tech: Erik Dalzen, Photo Assistant: Sam Kang, Model: Alexandra Van Zant
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